Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"That's Not a Drive, That's a Putt"

In southeastern North Carolina where I grew up, one might be asked upon visiting another's home, "Would you like something to drink?" Now this meant any number of beverages, from a Pepsi or Coke to lemonade to iced tea or even just a glass of water would be nice, thank you very much.  

On TV shows, things were a bit different. A visitor to someone's home or even an office would be greeted with the question of "Would you like something to drink?" which would be followed by someone making their way behind a bar.  Ice would clink in glasses as a drink would be concocted from various bottles of bourbon, scotch, gin, etc, etc.  

I was always fascinated by this disconnect between the real world offering up a Pepsi and the fake TV world proffering something called a gin and tonic. 

So imagine my surprise when I found out that stuff on TV really did happen in the real world.  

My wife's grandparents were the type of people who when that asked if you wanted to something to drink would head behind the bar to make something.  As seen on TV! 

Eddie and Helen were most certainly urbane in many ways with their mixed drinks, country club membership, season tickets to the theater and more. But they were nice people, caring and humble, who made me feel welcome in their family. 

I'm thinking of them now because Helen passed away this weekend at the age of 92. Eddie preceded her into death a few years ago. Both were diagnosed with varying degrees of Alzheimer's. Eddie descent into this lost world of confusion and degradation was more precipitous than Helen's. Eddie was twice my age but in so many ways healthier and sharper than I was so it was hard to watch his fall from a robust and happy individual to a callow and confused shell of himself. Before he forgot who I was, Eddie always addressed me as "Young David". He may have been physically older than me but that twinkle in his eye made him seem so much younger. 

Helen held on longer. As recently as last year, she was able to attend a family dinner. But it was clear she was not getting better. She spoke only in whispers and it wasn't always clear if she even knew where she was. 

Among the many frustrating things about Alzheimer's is that it doesn't do its damage in a neat straight downward line. There are times when someone afflicted with this disease will seems to recover a bit, seem almost like their old selves.  My wife's last visit with her grandmother was a positive one; Helen was more alert than she had been the last time she saw her. It gave my wife that little bit of hope for her grandmother. But that's just one of the many ways Alzheimer's is so cruel to those afflicted and those who love them.  

At this point, I should probably address the title of this post. It's a punchline to a joke that I've heard and used in a variety of circumstances for many, many years. But the best laugh I ever got from that punchline was when I heard Helen deliver it. I had to drop off a package at Eddie and Helen's house and while I was there, Helen offered me a drink. A "like they do on TV" drink. 

I replied, "You guys are driving me to drink." 

She quipped, "That's not a drive, that's a putt." 

An old punchline, yeah, but she made it sound new. I still laugh when I remember that moment. 

God speed and God bless, Helen. You and Eddie are together again. We should all be so young as we grow older. 

Helen and Eddie
with their great-granddaughter Miranda (2005) 

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