Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Milk shakes and red wine as tender loving care
As a youngster, my siblings and I lived in a small town in the coal mining region of southeastern Utah. Our nightly entertainment was radio programs like The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid. We also read books, solved 500 piece jigsaw puzzles, and played Gin Rummy. On Saturday afternoon, we wolfed down freshly, buttered popcorn while transfixed by movie westerns with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and, for the real old time trivia buff, Gabby Hayes and Wallace Beery.
Outside, in good weather, we explored the surrounding semi-desert countryside, or played “Cowboys and Indians,” “Marbles,” or "Mumbly Peg." At nightfall, nothing created more shrieking and mock trauma than “Hide and Seek.” When it snowed, we built bulbous snowmen, pummeled each other with snowballs, and took eye popping belly sleigh rides down the nearby, not so gentle slopes. It was pure Norman Rockwell stuff.
And, of course, all those stressing activities brought with them the inevitable sore throat, high temperatures, or some other bed-confining ailment that required aspirins, mentholated chest rubs, and a little TLC. Tender Loving Care came in different forms—a steaming bowl of homemade chicken broth, a long tender embrace on Mama’s lap or another therapy that lingers most vividly in my emotional hard drives.
I recently spoke on the phone with my brother Stan, who, with his wife Lee, provided our aged mother a first class, heroic version of 24-hour care-giving for the last six years of her life. What brought the above Utah recollections to mind was my conversation with Stan about their dinner nights with Mama. Each night they served her a little wine with dinner—not much, maybe an ounce or two, but just enough to make dinnertime a little special. And just as chocolate, rather than vanilla, was my therapy of preference, red wine—not white—seemed to deliver the requisite impact for her. Pretty good palate I’d say.
In any case, that dinner ritual was Tender Loving Care at its finest, and those few ounces effectively delivered much more than their basic purpose. They lifted her spirits, ensured that she would eat, reminded her of the sacramental aspects of wine, and overall, including aiding digestion, probably did more good than many medications.
It’s interesting how a few of life’s necessities like food and drink can occasionally create a mindset and reaction that exceeds the properties of the underlying ingredients. That milk shake was far more than liquefied ice cream—it had magical, restorative powers. So too with those few ounces of red wine for my Mother. Both became, in a very real sense, far more than mere beverages. Special moments like that can happen—not very often—but they can happen. Here's hoping you have a few of them in the coming New Year.