July 23 2011
My Dad, Lawrence F. Lefevere, died on Saturday, July 9th and was laid to rest on Wednesday, July 13th.
He was young, just 64 years old.
The last 10 months (to say nothing of the last couple of years), have been hard. My brother, sister and I carried principal responsibility for ensuring appropriate care for my Dad as he slid into full vascular dementia, the accumulation of brain damage in stroke patients, with the same needs as those with Alzheimer’s.
Accordingly, regular readers of this site have probably noticed that my writing output has dropped off precipitously this year; the result of the increased responsibility with my Dad’s care, which itself coincided with new and demanding responsibilities at work. I prioritized appropriately, and in so doing my creativity and inveterate curiosity in wine slowed to, if not idle, at least first gear, as did my available time.
This public acknowledgement of the private challenges I’ve been experiencing should not be mistaken for a eulogy to my father. I’m not able to quantify in mere words what the loss of my Dad means to me. In fact, I haven’t come to grips with his mortality yet, still dealing with an open wound and flowers hither and yon around the house.
No, instead, this is a brief rumination on wine and, more specifically, what I’ve recently come to understand about wine and the importance of place.
Over the last week or so more than a few people said to me, “Your Dad was ‘Old School’” and “They don’t make them like Larry anymore.” Or, “He was definitely his own man.”
They’re right. He was “Old School” and damn proud of it thankyouverymuch; he was very much a throwback to a different era, a product of where he came from, the kind of guy that can’t be popped out of a cookie cutter mold and dropped into the suburbs. My Dad grew up in a place that scarcely exists anymore – a Midwestern post-World War II middle-class clapboard neighborhood with both a tavern and a Catholic church within a stone’s throw of the front stoop. He was raised by two working parents, one a laborer and the other clerical, neither of whom was educated beyond high school. He was a Baby Boomer who went to Vietnam raised his family and worked 60 hour weeks for nearly my entire life.
My Dad smoked and drank and cursed; he was stubborn, principled, self-possessed, he spent little, saved a lot, paid tuition for all 16 years of his kids education (Catholic schools through high school and then college), was funny, loyal, loved Notre Dame football and was a complete and utter technophobe, never advancing beyond hunting and pecking on a typewriter.
And, to my knowledge, he never saw anything I’ve written about wine, much less understood my interest in something that didn’t come from Stroh’s brewery. I am a “New World,” contemporary counterpoint to my Dad’s traditional ways.
Yet, my Dad has helped me come to a new appreciation about wine, at least wine that speaks of where it comes from—in sensibility and stridency.
Over the last several years, The Office of Champagne in the US has been on something of a long-term sustained warpath(Center for Wine Origins) in protecting the value of origins in naming i.e. Champagne comes from Champagne, France and nowhere else. Likewise, in this sensibility, Port wine can only come from Portugal.
When it comes to this Champagne “Location Matters” campaign, I’ve always played both sides of the fence; never too with the Champagne and Port campaigns nor too against. Kind of right down the middle, but leaning towards an arched eyebrow and the notion that there are more important things to do and spend money on then marketing and bleating about how, “Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.” Especially when trying to undo 30 years of ingrained consumer habit.
As I celebrate my Dad’s life and fondly recall what a unique person he was, where he came from, what he lived through, how he was a distinct product of his time, place and environment—unmistakably unique in personality and ethos based on his roots and his life experiences, and ultimately buried just miles from where he was born, I’ve come to realize that location does matter.
I realize that he is the result of a confluence of circumstances that are unique to him, and not able to be duplicated.
As I’ve thought about my Dad’s life, as unique as he was, indeed, he couldn’t have come from any other place than South Bend, IN, just as I now see that dammit, yes, Champagne comes only from Champagne, France.
I get it.
My dad may have been an “Old School” guy that didn’t know anything about wine, but he posthumously taught me to appreciate the, “Old World,” as well.