Not the End of the Road
© by Linwood Slayton

One of my passions in life is wine. I have had the pleasure and privilege of writing Wood on Wine columns for the past five years or so, and each one has been a labor of love as I recount what I affectionately refer to as "my wine journey". This has been a saga that goes back close to 40 years when I first began drinking wine in my college days.

I thought that my wine journey was over this summer when I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and faced a long and arduous path to recovery and wellness. I was unable to drink a drop of wine for well over two months. Truth be told - I did not want any. A few weeks ago when I was talking with one of my several doctors, I asked him whether it would be okay for me to drink since my condition had stabilized and my kidneys were close to functioning at a normal level once again.

I asked the question fully expecting him to say "no." To my surprise, he answered "yes." He advised me to drink in moderation and to limit myself to no more than two glasses of wine a day. Boy, was I elated to get this bit of news.

The truth is, however, that I really did not miss drinking wine in the sense that I felt any urges to have some. Rather, what bothered me most was the fact that I knew I could not drink for health reasons and this was not a personal choice but one that had been forced upon me. I hate to not be able to do anything that I think I might want to do. Always have and probably always will.

So, I savored the opportunity to be able to resume one more thing that I truly enjoyed in life - having a good glass or two ( or three or four) of wine especially with my friends and fellow wine enthusiasts. As I have related many times, much of the pleasure I get from wine emanates from the social aspects of drinking with people with whom I share the passion.

During my forced hiatus, I still enjoyed entertaining my friends in my home and pulling out bottles of special wine that I had been saving for special people at special times. I still enjoyed the ritual of showing them the bottle and talking a bit about the selection, uncorking it and puring it into my special glassware that I only serve to special friends. I still enjoyed their facial and verbal reactions as they savored their first sips of what I thought was a "good" wine. I loved the wine talk that followed as we/they shared their opinions about the wine of the hour. As is often the case, not everyone agreed all of the time and that's what makes the process interesting and exciting. (Thanks James and Kamau.)

So, you can imagine my level of excitement when I found out that I could once again partake of the nectar of the Gods. I did not rush right home from my doctor's office and open a bottle. No, I waited until I had a chance to share another special bottle with my usual friends. Fortunately, I did not have to wait too long.

I discovered that I was blessed to have the second chance to enjoy a passion that I thought might have been lost forever. What a sobering (no pun intended) realization. As I took that first sip and this new leg of my wine journey began, I probably rolled it around in my mouth a lot longer than I used to and tried to allow every one of my newly rediscovered taste buds to get a feel for the wine. My thoughts and impressions were many and mixed. As I consumed that first glass, I found myself truly appreciating this moment a whole lot more that I used to.

I think that my friends also sensed that this was a small epiphany of sorts for me and the moment took on even greater significance. I did not have to tell them how much I appreciated again being able to partake with them - they could see this written all over my face.

Now that that moment is a part of my continuing wine history, I can honestly tell you that I approach drinking wine a lot differently these days. I seldom drink what I feel to be sub par wine. What's the point? If I am going to be limited to a moderate amount of wine, why not have the best available each and every time? If that makes me an even bigger wine snob - color me guilty! The fact of the matter is that as I approach my life these days, I have adopted the same philosophy. I avoid doing anything that is mundane and unnecessary that will not afford me maximum pleasure and benefit whenever I have that choice. One thing is definite: I do have the choice when it comes to drinking what I want. As I have said before, I choose to eat my grapes from the top of the vine these days.

Life is short, and my wine journey is far from over. Rather than my health challenge marking the end of my journey, I am blessed to be able to take a new path and seek higher ground. I see no reason why I should not make it my business to taste what is deemed the very best wine out there. If not me, then who? If not now, when? So it is as I approach each and every day of my life. I am going for the gusto!


Oct. 14, 2005

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