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Teach me

Being asked to interview someone for an article is a daunting task.

It’s daunting not because you might misquote them or that the interviewee might not cooperate, but rather, because you’re asking the person to tell you their story. How comfortable will that make them or make you?

Maybe that story will be about their work life, their hobbies, family or their thoughts about their legacy. What parts of their story don’t they want to tell you — aren’t we all a bit hesitant to share our foibles? One must not forget you are verbally walking on “sacred” ground so you must search for a piece of commonality.

Recently I was asked to write a story about an elderly gentleman who is a retired minister. During our initial introductory meeting, he focused on his service to the church and he had many fantastic stories. Then he said something that caught my visceral attention and it was that he and his late wife used to make wine.

There was the piece of commonality that would comfortably bind us together.

When I met this over nine decades mature fellow for the second time, I brought a bottle of Gazelka Vinho Verde with me. He had set out our wine glasses, wine was poured and we toasted each other to a new and long lasting relationship. A smile was on his face as he sipped the wine and the freshness of the wine matched the freshness of our friendship.

We began to converse and over a period of two hours, he told me his history including his early life as the son of two Swedish parents, growing up between the Twin Cities and Duluth, his academic achievements, why he decided to enter the ministry, his marriage and eventual retirement from the ministry after over 50 years of service.

The time passed quickly and crisply — just like the crisp and lively taste of the wine passed quickly over our tongues.

Believe it or not but the subject of wine raised its head many times — figure that one out! He and his wife made a lot of wine — mostly strawberry and elderberry wines and he still loves the sweetness of those wines. They tried some watermelon wine once but that, shall we say, fizzled and it was never tried again.

I asked if he still had any of his homemade wine but, like so many things he discussed with me, it’s now history. Darn! I would’ve loved to taste his wine.

We paused our conversation as I poured us another glass of the wine. Vino Verde means green grapes and therefore, the wine is made from very green grapes, produced immediately and consumed as fast as possible — usually within six to eight months of harvest. The process produces a wine that is a bit fizzy, has nice citrus flavor and, although, is technically sweet, its finish is crisp and dry.

As I poured the wine, he offered a toast to a long lasting friendship with the hope of many more times of talking and sipping wine.

Then I asked him the $64,000 question: “For what, do you want people to remember about you?”

I’ll never forget his reaction. He leaned back in his chair, thought for awhile, drew in a deep breath, looked me straight in my eyes and said: “I want them to remember me as a man who believed in love, who was a generous man and felt for people.”

Ah, my dear new friend, please teach me to be more loving, generous and caring.

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