Drunk Grapes

One of my favorite people wrote this story…

Hello Americans!

If you listened to the radio much between 1976 and 2009, at some point, you no doubt heard Paul Harvey’s distinct voice say those words. It was his way of kicking off his segment covering news of the day, personal commentary, and possibly a tidbit of some sort to make your life easier. His syndicated program was heard by millions of Americans every weekday for decades, and he had credibility and influence with his listeners.

How much credibility and influence he had became apparent when I saw him get three teetotalers to consume what I’ll call drunk grapes. To be clear, these folks believed—hands down without a doubt—alcohol is not to be consumed in any form unless you’re taking communion at church. No sip of wine with dinner; no beer while watching a ballgame. One tiny sip of inexpensive communion wine once a month was the only allowable type and amount of alcohol.

On a trip to my hometown in the mid-90s,I pulled into the driveway at my parents’ house one Sunday—-late morning. The folks were still at church, so I headed next door to my grandma’s house.

There I noticed but didn’t think much about, a mason jar on her kitchen table filled with clear liquid and globs of shriveled golden raisins.

Later, in my parents’ home, the same type of jar filled with clear liquid and raisins sat perched on top of the refrigerator. Neither of these jars had been in place the month before during my visit, so I had to ask.

Turns out, that week on his radio show, Mr. Harvey had touted a new remedy for relieving the pain of arthritis. In fact, the recipe might even be the answer to several ailments.

The recipe was simple: Pour a box of golden raisins into a large glass jar and fill it with gin. Let the raisins soak in the gin at room temperature for a week. After that, eat ten raisins each day. In about two weeks, your various pains should be significantly relieved – if not completely cured.

While it sounded a bit odd to me, stranger miracles have happened, so I made a mental note to check back during the next visit home.

First, though, I had to ask how this all came together…

Getting raisins was easy enough; Mom simply added them to that week’s grocery list. But how on earth did these three non-drinkers get the gin?! Mamma didn’t drive, so that option was out. Dad himself wasn’t an option because he wasn’t a fan of the unknown and going into a liquor store alone was far beyond the boundaries of the comfort zone he liked to inhabit. It was, as usual, up to Mom to do the heavy lifting or, in this oddest of cases, picking up the spirits.

One of the small town’s numerous liquor stores was situated on the route my mother took to and from work daily, so it seemed the logical choice. But my mother did not relish the possibility of being seen parking at and walking into such an establishment. A plan eventually was finalized. Mom would watch the pattern of occupancy at the package store, and Dad would drive her there during a day in the week with less auto and foot traffic. He would park at the side of the store in hopes they were less likely to be seen by people they knew (even though the side parking offered two directions from which to be seen just as the front did). Mom would go in to purchase the gin.

The chosen day came, and nerves tingled as Dad eased the large, white car alongside the building being careful not to block the drive-up window.

Mom gets out and purposefully, but quickly, marches to the door. An old-fashioned bell clangs as she pushes the wooden door open and steps inside to an expanse of potent potables.

The clerk behind the well-worn counter looks up to see an unfamiliar face and asks if he can help her find something.

She hesitates briefly but knows it is useless to look for it herself – she will never find what they need if she doesn’t have help. Yes, she says in a voice that fakes confidence in what she is doing. Yes, I need some gin.

Stepping around the end of the counter, the clerk throws a wrench in her business. What kind of gin, he asks. Kind? Her mind freezes for a second. There are different kinds of gin? She throws the wrench back. The kind that’s good for soaking raisins. Her firm answer implies “of course” at the end of her sentence, but she knows as the last word comes out how ridiculous it sounds. It is the clerk’s turn to be surprised. Mom can’t help but smile a half-smile at the situation. The clerk laughs and says “Well, let’s see what we have. You say it’s for soakin’ raisins, right?” Mom laughs and answers “That’s right!” before she adds that Paul Harvey said gin-soaked raisins are a cure—or at least a help—for arthritis pain and several other ailments, and they think it’s worth a try.

By now, they are standing before a selection of gins with a variety of prices. As with many things in life, Mom figures you get what you pay for, so she skips the cheapest and the clerk helps her pick a middle of the road gin. They return to the counter where the clerk totals the purchase, bags the gin, and accepts the cash Mom slides across the counter. Mom thanks him and turns to leave as he waves and wishes her luck with her raisins.

She closes the door behind her and notices the bell’s muffled jangle. She thinks that wasn’t so bad. She rounds the corner and notices Dad scrunching low in the seat looking furtively in every direction.

She marches to the car clutching her once in a lifetime purchase, grabs the handle, and hops into the passenger seat. Simultaneously, she says that didn’t take too long as Dad grumbles what took so long; he thinks someone they know saw him.

The engine roars to life, and Dad pulls as quickly as possible onto the street and drives home the back way.

And now the gin and golden raisins are hanging out together in glass jars waiting to be medical miracles.

A month later, I arrive home for another visit. The mason jar at my grandmother’s is gone. I ask if the raisin and gin “medicine” had worked to banish her aches and pains.

“Not sure bout that,” she said, “but it was really a dose!” The emphasis on “dose” was so heavy, I couldn’t help but laugh before saying it was too bad the taste wasn’t what she had hoped for.

At that point, I decided not to even ask my parents about their treatment as I could already imagine their reactions. The thought of the entire situation, all these years later, still makes me laugh and the line “it was really a dose” has become a fun and regular phrase in my vocabulary.

It’s apparently true after all. Sometimes, the cure really is worse than what ails you.

And, in the words of Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story… good day!”

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