My Dad’s Martini Glass

It sits on the top shelf in the china cabinet. There’s nothing special about it. No distinguishing characteristics. It’s the most plain-looking martini glass you could have. That’s the glass he chose to use every Saturday night when he had his martinis. He rarely drank during the week. Friday and Sunday nights were for beer or wine, but Saturday was martini time. Gin, splash of vermouth. Extra olives. I would make most of them. Thankfully, he was always down for something new. We experimented a lot. He loved when I added elderflower from time to time. Then there was the exceptionally rare instance when I would swap vodka for the gin. Our “house” gin was Gilbey’s. It’s a good, cheap gin. I like it too. His favorite, I think, was Bluecoat. It’s a higher proof American-made gin that my mom got him for his birthday last year. A little more expensive, that became what we would get him for the holidays.

It’s very similar to this one, from Bella Vita, one of our favorite restaurants (Staten Island).

All of these martinis in that same boring glass. We had gotten him a really nice one during a family vacation in San Antonio back in 2007. A beautiful, crystal martini glass with the word “Alamo” engraved on it. We had purchased it at the gift shop of the historic shrine. He used it a few times immediately after, and then into the china cabinet it went, never to emerge again. We would bust his chops about it. “I’m saving it”, he would say. He probably just did not want to break it accidentally. He valued it so much because we had gotten it for him.

I’m not going to rehash the same stories of family and food from my initial post about him. The night he died was like any other Saturday night. The one exception is that I was away on vacation. My mom did not cook because they had a ton of leftover pizza from the previous night. They ate that. He had his usual two martinis…before bringing up a third one when he would watch TV in the den. This was the routine when we were finished. Every Saturday night. Also part of the routine was him never finishing that third one. Usually after a few sips, he would doze off before going to bed.

The next day when I arrived back home after hearing of his sudden passing, I sat down in the den to use the computer. I turned around to see his martini glass on the table where he had left it the night before. He had actually finished it. I picked it up to smell the gentle fragrance of the gin and vermouth. I brought it into the bathroom but could not wash it. I set it back down on the table in the den where it remained for three days as if he was coming back to take it away.

Finally, I brought it downstairs, still unable to wash it. You could still smell the vermouth a week later. After a few days on my bar as a kind of simple memorial, it went into the china cabinet to take its place. The other day, I wanted to see if there was still an aroma, but it’s gone now. I don’t think I’ll ever wash it because there is no need to.

It was into the early hours of Sunday morning—Father’s Day—that he passed. A brain aneurysm the doctors said. Instant and painless. The man of perfect health, whose doctor told him at his last checkup was a “boring patient” who had a blood pressure of 120/70 and no other health problems had died. The quickness of it all is what he would have wanted. He would not have wanted to get sick and linger in pain. Knowing him, and I know this for a fact, he wanted to drop dead. Therefore, I can look at this in one of two ways: 1) That I should take comfort in the fact that he did not suffer. I cannot tell you how many people in their condolences said how they had a relative or parent go through some elongated, horrific disease and that it would have been a blessing to go out in such a way. Or 2) That the shock of the suddenness is not something I will ever get over, because even though I would have never wanted him to suffer, I was robbed of the chance to say goodbye.

After making the arrangements at the funeral home, I was asked by the director if I wanted to view his body before the cremation. I said no, because I did not want to remember him that way. I wanted my last ever image of him to be saying “See you later” and giving him a hug in the driveway before I left for Connecticut two days prior.

I was never even a fan of martinis until the last couple of years. Seeing him drink them my whole life and eating some of his olives finally prompted me to start trying them. It quickly became my favorite cocktail. We would often drink them together. The night before he died, I had one in Glastonbury. I texted my mom to tell him (he did not own a cell phone), “Great martini at Maggie McFly’s. Hendrick’s Gin. Dad would love it”. That was the last martini I’ve had to date. I have not had the stomach for it. The mere thought of drinking one right now makes me uneasy. It was our drink. Since his death, we have faced the trials and tribulations that many families do. Some financial/estate matters to take care of. That lingering, seemingly unwavering stress makes enjoying a martini out of the question for me.

After all of this, I don’t want you to just remember him for martinis. He was an avid sports fan, following the San Francisco Giants and New York Rangers for life. That’s also something I am not prepared for—the upcoming season. Mentally, I think I am more ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas without him than I am for Rangers’ hockey. We would watch at least 70 games a year together, and that does not even include the playoffs. After a win, sometimes, we’d cling glasses with some scotch or a brandy. It’s going to be strange not to have that action following a win. The funny thing is, we never ate or drank during a game. Many people snack or pound beers during a sporting event, but not us. The game was always front and center. When the game was over, that was a different story.

When will the next martini be for me? I don’t know. As I grieve and slowly try to move on, maybe the occasion will arise. I can definitely see myself, following the finalization of some issues we are dealing with, sitting down with a gin martini, straight up, extra olives. But only after I am able to relax will that happen. When everything is settled, I will celebrate with one. I may even use my dad’s martini glass.

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