Retirement Age Stories

Vinegar and Stone Mountain?

Vinegar and Stone Mountain?        By Octo G. Enario

“When I was courting my wife back in high school, I was a basketball hero. It didn’t take long after we were married for her to discover I had feet of clay,” said a senior, resting between sets on the ab machine. This evoked knowing nods and a lot of laughter. My second wife, Septa, did not have to wait until after marriage to notice my little foibles. Two particular incidents came to mind.  

It was in the mid-1990s, and Septa and I were in the beginning and delicate stages of our relationship. Both our hearts were aflutter, and diplomacy and tact were the watchwords as we were getting to know each other.

Septa had invited me for dinner at her home one Saturday evening. It was an informal affair, which included a nice big salad. To know me is to know that when I eat a salad, I use red wine vinegar liberally. Many would say excessively. I just love it.

Septa had put the exotic red vinegar bottle on the table in case I would care for a little extra. A little extra is an understatement. She was unaware that her guest was known as the Great Splasher. Even Noah had not seen a deluge as big as I could create.

After tasting the salad as served, with its original light oil and vinegar topping, I found the taste of the vinegar to be superb. Accordingly, I reached for the almost full bottle and gradually drained it of most of its contents as I ate the salad. It was a little bold of me to show such non-traditional behavior so early in the relationship, but what the heck. Of course, I assumed this was not such a bizarre quirk, and after all how much could a bottle of red vinegar cost — maybe three or four bucks? Septa watched this behavior politely and without comment as I munched and continually raved about the salad. I really liked that salad. She showed no sign of observing anything out of the ordinary. My little quirky behavior seemed to go without notice.

The next week we were out browsing at an upscale gourmet shop. As we poked through the wares, I noticed a bottle of Bella Cucina red wine vinegar. Hey, that’s the same brand that Septa had, only a much smaller bottle! Wow, was I excited. I really liked that vinegar. I called Septa over to share my discovery.

When I asked the shop owner the price of the vinegar, he answered that the bottle cost $26. I was stunned. Whoever heard of vinegar costing more per ounce than the finest 40-year-old single malt scotch? I then realized what the value of Septa’s large bottle must have been and was struck by her politeness at my behavior the week before. If our roles had been reversed at that dinner, I could not have contained a gasp if Septa had been the splasher of my Bella Cucina.

As we left the store, I apologized for my boorish behavior last week. I asked her how she was able to contain her emotions as I emptied her liquid treasure. She admitted that it took a lot of discipline and control as she observed me bleeding her valued cache. Septa was being Septa — that is, wonderful, a description even more appropriate after more than a quarter century together.

Oh, I thought everyone would forget about that second incident I mentioned at the beginning. I’ll fess up.

Septa lived in the town of Stone Mountain, which included the actual mountain nearby. Having flown over the giant bald rock many times over the years, I easily recognized the massive granite structure. As Septa and I walked around the town, starry-eyed and holding hands one day, an unfiltered, errant thought popped into my mind and unfortunately, out of my mouth. Acting impulsively and without thinking, I asked Septa, “Is Stone Mountain man made?” Before seeing her quizzical expression, as a matter of fact, even before inhaling as if trying to breath back the question, I realized how naïve I must sound.

Septa turned to me with a tilt of her head and like a school teacher said, “No, it was made by God many, many years ago.”

I nodded my head, curled my shoulders into submission, smiled and said the only word I could think of: Oops.