When they declare you cancer free you don’t really celebrate. The weight lifted from your weary shoulders lets you stand a bit taller, but the specter of the next scan remains always in the room, like the echo of war drums just beyond the horizon. I am glad, but it is a cautiously optimistic glad. At one week, I was still in shock.
So when I returned home to Cleveland after work in Chicago my wife setup a small dinner with my sister Nancy and our friend Nate. My wife loves to cook, and tries to use local suppliers whenever possible.
We opened a chardonnay from Maple Ridge Winery in Thompson, Ohio, one of our favorite vintners for whites. We sipped our wine as we enjoyed goat cheese from Mackenzie Creamery, sesame wasabi or aged chevre on whole wheat crackers with organic carrot slices and kalamata olives. A bite of goat cheese where the roasted sesame flavor rolls over your tongue, and then the wasabi kicks in. Follow that with a sip of clean crisp chardonnay, then an olive and carrot to cleanse the palate and repeat.
Too soon the chardonnay is gone, and we move to the table for pasta served with a nice Quinta Do Castro. This rich velvety Portuguese blend has become our special occasion wine and this doesn’t disappoint. The 2003 has aged past the tannins and has a complex bouquet and a rich flavor. Jan my wife earlier at the Shaker Square Market has stopped by the Ohio City Pasta vendor and brought back fresh handmade pasta from them. Now prepared with fresh parsley, asparagus, garlic, lemon and bread crumbs instead of cheese, it comes to the table in a big bowl ready to be served family style.
I drain the last of the 2003 into Janet’s glass and head back downstairs and return with a 2006. Let’s compare and share thoughts between years. The 2006 is early, and although it opens up as I pour it through our aerator, it is not the match of the 2003. It is still a fine wine, and I am encouraged for my remaining bottles silently waiting for their chance to stand and deliver. We sit around the table, plates empty thoughts flowing, and I think how fine it is to be free of cancer’s burden.
The world’s woes are destined to fall before us as elbows on the table we laugh and plan. Out comes dessert ( that wonderful desert with the extra “s” ), fresh strawberries on an Oreo crust and double dark chocolate. We finish the Quinta, and surprisingly it stands up to the sweet very well. This will be a wine to be reckoned with I think and it too is gone.
The plates are cleared, and we gravitate back to the table, and Nate produces a small bottle of Woodford Reserve, a fine Kentucky Bourbon. We bring out the snifters, and the toasts come out. “Here’s to life and love”, “Good Friends”… fine meaningful toasts, with a few silly ones poured in, “Ridgeback puppies”, and “Rescue Pittbulls” and slowly but surely the bourbon yields to our good spirits.
Janet has gone off to bed, and still we sip and pour. Then Nate is off to sleep it off on the couch and Nancy and I laugh, we drank the youngster under the table.
Only a few more remain, and now Nancy pours and we sit and share, hope fear, how did we ever get this old? How can I still be that young man, trapped in this shell? But mostly we share that only siblings know, honest truth between us.
It’s four-thirty and the bottle is empty. Nancy has left, into the kitchen I carefully tread, and there attack the dishes as a surprise for my wife in the morning. Humming softly, that old Cat Stephens song “Peace Train”, I remove all the dirt and stains, so like forgiveness all shiny and clean. Then it is off to bed for a few hours sleep, and 9:00 I drive for Chicago again. As I move into bed, I put my hand on my sleeping wife, and think to myself it is time to live again.
Links to local providers of high quality in the Cleveland area
Links to Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies