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Goodbye, Frank and Gretchen

Posted by perle0 on 2005-12-16 10:05:57 (5995 views)

[New Orleans]
This is kind of a long and wandering story, but please, bear with me.

As some of you may remember, LaWineClub held its first-ever Tasting Note Competition, a New-Orleans-only event, during July and August of 2005. We had not yet announced the winner, because the prize--a truly fine bottle of wine--had not yet been awarded.

Oh, don't get me wrong. We had selected a winner. In a random drawing of all the tasting notes submitted between July 1st and August 15th, the winner was Frank Andrew, a friend of LaWineClub's creators who had moved to the New Orleans area a couple of years ago to accomodate his wife Gretchen's internship at Children's Hospital. You can check out his winning tasting note.

We informed Frank of his triumph by e-mail, but never received a reply. We were probably using an old address, or one that he didn't check very often. Then Katrina struck, and Frank and Gretchen took the opportunity to make a long, unscheduled trip to visit relatives in Colorado. On the way to Colorado, they rescued two kittens they found on a highway in Texas. That was just like them.

After a few weeks they returned to check out the damage. They were lucky. Unlike so many, their house was in an area that was not flooded, and wind damage was minimal. Even the small sailboat that Frank had been building himself in the back yard, almost completed, had survived being staked down securely with only a single easily-repaired scratch, from a falling tree limb. The kittens settled in, Gretchen returned to work, and Frank devoted himself to finishing the boat and revising his latest novel.

Somewhere in there we ran into Frank and told him that he'd won the contest. But he didn't demand that we hand over his rightful prize immediately, the subject changed, and we forgot to give it to him. No problem. We'd see him again, and he'd get his wine, once things got back to normal and everyone was less distracted.

Except for one thing--Frank and Gretchen took their sturdy little sailboat out on Lake Pontchartrain for its maiden voyage on December 3, a lovely Saturday with beautiful weather. They had been looking forward to this day. They'd already had to postpone it a week due to Gretchen's busy schedule.

Sunday night, the neighbors wondered why they hadn't returned with the boat yet. But they weren't sure what the plans had been. Maybe they were taking a long weekend somewhere.

Monday night, the Coast Guard found their boat capsized, nudging up against the Causeway pilings. But since there were no distress signals, no reports of missing boaters, they simply recorded the registration number for further investigation. Tuesday, the neighbors confirmed that they hadn't made the usual arrangements for time away from home, such as getting a neighbor to take care of the kittens. The search began. Their truck was found still parked near the boat launch.

On Thursday, they found them, not far from shore. No one really knows what happened, though there seemed to be no visible damage to the boat. Most likely, a sudden gust of wind blew the boat over, and there were no other boaters around to help. Cold water works fast.

Now, you could take all kinds of lessons away from this story. The most obvious is carpe diem--seize the day, enjoy every moment as if it's your last, for someday it will be. Don't put off the good things. We certainly wish that their picnic basket, which washed up onto shore, had held the great bottle of wine that we had for Frank, instead of a bottle of champagne. Or even better, that Frank and Gretchen had enjoyed it days or weeks before. You could draw out morals like, let people know when you're going boating, and when you expect to return. You could vow never to get onto a sailboat in winter. You could wish that perhaps the young couple had been less lucky, and their boat had blown away in the hurricane, or been dashed to bits, or their house had flooded so that they would have had other things to do besides finish the boat and take it for a sail.

You could draw these lessons, and you can if you want to. We'd rather think that these deaths were as unnecessary and random as most that come before their time. One day the luck was good; another day it was very bad. And nobody should have to die to give anyone a lesson. We try to find the moral of the story, as if it were a Victorian fairy tale, but some stories have no moral.

Still, we'll open that wine, and drink it in memory of their lives and their vitality. And pour a bit onto the ground, like the ancient Greeks, to give them a taste. After all, it was, and still is, theirs.

The Times-Picayune article on the tragedy--morals and all.


Miss you
Posted by Brian Hopkins on 2006-06-05 16:59:19
Life will never be the same with out you both in our lives!

Miss you both always!

Brian Hopkins
Silver Spring, md

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