Wine: A Family’s Understanding

By: Patrick Gill


I drink whiskey, my family drinks wine.  We’re from California.  California, where the legend of the wino is buried deep in the Napa Valley; California, where people guzzle down merlot like it’s gas poured into the belly of an SVU.  California, birthplace of “Doctor said a glass at dinner is good for you” but they never tell you the size of the glass.  They live there, I don’t anymore.

My family, is in its ways, a part of this.  My mother and father go to tastings at the multiple vineyards in our town, in fact that was my sisterinlaws bachelorette party. My dad has a friend who just happens to have the time and ability to grow, ferment, and bottle his own small batch, for friends.  In my childhood home they cleared out a closet and fill it floor to ceiling with their favorite wines, because they don’t need coats. 

And I drink whiskey, because it comes in a glass that I am less likely to knock over.  Because its blunt and easy to choose. Whiskey fills my chest, it has personality; wine just has legs.

Now I am being a bit unfair.  I understand that there is a vitner’s culture, tradition.  There is a taste to acquire and refine, I’ve never been good with subtlety or taste, so please give me a cocktail, we can move on.

When we go out to dinner as a family, I used to hesitate, dance around ordering my own drink or not. Its gotten easier now that I know how little gin and how much bourbon I can have.   I sometimes get a stare, a raised brow.  Nothing too questioning.  If I don’t want to draw attention, I fall into file and just let the wine pour.

You see I used to have nightmares of my coming back to California, for a wedding or a funeral, some catholic occasion, and maybe I just read August: Osage County before bed too much, but there’s this, there is this pivotal scene where the family has ruptured, loudly, and I’ve cracked off into some sulking archipelago of furniture and they are all standing, while they wail; I have abandoned them, I have shirked my birthright and ran away to the middle of the country, I holed myself up in rented apartments while they all bought homes, raised families, had careers you can quantify and explain to strangers.  And what have you done, what have you done, and what have we done to not make you want this.

I used to be overcome with fear that I no matter how much we could care for each other, my family and I would never be able to understand or love.

My sister saves children’s lives, my brother is a naval rescue diver, my mother is a social worker, my father runs a global IT department.  I chop vegetables and tell people about my feelings.  Hyperbole is also a skill of mine, but still, it’s hard to feel like you measure up.


My father has this adorable habit of testing me.  It’s done in a loving way but I didn’t always get that.  He like to challenge any trivia knowledge I have, or always provide the counter to my argument or goad me into a verbal skirmishes about movies, TV, or politics—things he’s on the left of and I’m off the deep left of. He walks close to people in big cities and sings in public and he refers to my mother as a “hot chick”—it’s cute but you can see how it wears on you.

The last time they were in the city, he was saying something at dinner, just something I was too tired to deal with, so the silence prompted him to follow with “What, I just push Patrick’s button’s because he pushes right back, he does it too, it’s a thing.  It’s our thing.”

It was my brother actually answered him “No dad, I don’t think Patrick has to try, he just is different, and that pushes your buttons.  Patrick just is.”

My family drinks wine, I drink whiskey.  We just are, I just am.

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