I pulled a large mixing bowl from the lower reaches of our kitchen shelving and tossed in three pounds of raw hamburger, Gates BBQ sauce, onion powder, garlic salt, Sandhills seasoning, and some blood orange bitters. I removed my wedding ring, rolled up the pretty white sleeves of my long-sleeved Harvard tee shirt, and began massaging the concoction into submission. A few inches away and at the ready, a bottle of Madelynne, one of my favorite red blends, sat erect, uncorked and at attention, ready whenever I was. I didn’t make her wait long.
My dad used to mock golf as a “lazy man’s sport,” which no doubt explains why I never learned to play it. His disdain for organized religion, almost palpable, still lingers in my subconscious. The dishonest and lazy could all go to hell — except he didn’t believe in it. He had ineffably strong opinions about things that at times seemed all but superfluous, and for better or worse many of those transferred over to me. So this Labor Day, I thought I’d do a tiny bit of labor in his honor. Always in a hurry, I tend to buy pre-made burgers, something I never saw him do. He’d never let anyone do anything for him that he could do himself. I admire that, though I’ve never sought to emulate it. So this Labor Day, in part because we had hamburger but no premade patties, I set to work seasoning and shaping until I had what passed for hamburgers, ready to grill.
Another thing my father doesn’t put much stock in is good wine. Most of the time, no matter what I open, he claims not to be able to tell the difference. The Madelynne, by master winemaker and Napa legend Michael Trujillo, punches way above her weight class. A cuvée of carefully sourced Napa fruit, it is smooth and elegant without sacrificing girth, with an enticing flavor profile headlined by black fruits and reinforced by oak imparted flavors ranging from hints of vanilla to a touch of earthy essence. It is a beautiful wine, good for pairing with burgers or contemplating one’s baggage. I held the bowl of my glass down for Titus to sniff. “Smells like wine, daddy,” he informed me.
These days, when I think about my dad, I am also thinking about my son. None of the things I wrote about my father earlier are insults, at least they aren’t intended to be; they are merely observations– ones that before I was too close to make but with the benefit of time have begun to understand. With my son, I am too close to make these observations right now, and likely will be for years to come. Do I care if he makes his own burgers? I’m honestly not sure. Should he adore wine as I do? There are no doubt healthier hobbies. I hope he runs. I hope he doesn’t want to play football, as much as I love to watch it. I hope he has musical talent that his mother and I do not. And I hope he’s as hard of a worker as his grandfather.
In some ways, I am the sort of man that my father didn’t like. And in other ways I’m just like him. As I finish this up, I’m sitting in the lobby of a hair salon that charges twice what a haircut should cost, drinking a complimentary can of sparkling mineral water from France, and wondering where I took that hard left turn. And I’m remembering an email exchange tonight in which I essentially told a lazy smart ass that he could go to hell. I am my father’s son, and we aren’t the types to suffer fools. Maybe I’ll contemplate this further over yet another glass of Madelynne tonight. Or perhaps a round of golf.
Cheers to being our father’s sons,