My grandpa’s drink of choice was Scotch on the rocks. It went with the smell of his pipe smoke, the soft, but scratchy feel of his Pendleton shirts, and the look of his cowboy boots, the only shoes he wore out of the house. It was an easy drink to order at the Elk’s lodge, an easy drink for a child granddaughter to make. It fit well in a flask that may or may not be hiding in his cane or boot. And it was conveniently the same color as apple juice just in case he needed to play a trick on his grandsons. Scotch was necessary gear for hunting trips – where as far as we could tell, not much got killed except quite a few bottles of alcohol. I know he must have longed for a drink while spending WWII in a Japanese prison camp.
He drank other things – beer and white Russians and he even made his own wine and Kahlua. But I only remember him ordering one drink, whether from a bartender in the “smoking and swearing” section or from “squaw” – that was Grandma.
“Scotch on the rocks.”
I liked the clink of the ice against the glass, the pale color, the pungent and sweet smell. He liked a kind called Sheep Dip – more for the creative packaging that originated to get the alcohol bottles past the prohibition censors. Grandpa liked to feel he was doing something wrong, that he was a rebel, even though as long as I knew him he could pretty much do as he damn well pleased.
At his funeral party out on his lawn, the family stood in a circle and passed around one of his whiskey bottles. Cousins, aunts, maybe even Grandma took a swig from the bottle. My uncle put Grandpa’s picture in the cast on his hand so he could join us – he would not have wanted to miss it.
I guess in a way, even before I tasted a drop, the whiskey was already in my veins, already a presence in my memories of time spent with Grandpa in his gun room or relaxing out on the deck in the rare moments when the Portland weather was nice. It was only fitting that the first time I was ever drunk was on whiskey – in Dublin, Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. Me and whiskey, we’ve been friends ever since. But we knew each other even before we were properly introduced.