A Tale of Mothers and Pinot Noir
For quite some time I’ve wanted to sample the Pinot Noirs of Oregon’s Evening Lands. I’ve read about these wines and received positive feedback on them from people with tastes similar to mine. I just hadn’t gotten around to buying any. A few weeks back I shared two bottles of 2012 Evening Lands Seven Springs Pinot Noir under some of the most remarkable circumstances of my life. Here’s the story. It’s a good one.
It started a few years ago when my ex-wife insisted I do the DNA analysis offered by 23 & Me. I was adopted so I didn’t know much about my ethnic background and the Ex had always been fascinated. She had done the test and found her own results fascinating. I did the test and it proved interesting.
My wife, Kathy, is Jewish. She always insisted I too was Jewish despite the only evidence being her instincts. She “just knew”. So, I took the test. The results came back showing that in fact, I WAS 50% Ashkenazi Jew with the rest of my ethnic heritage being a collection of northern European, the British Isles and a sprinkling of DNA from southern Europe. I got a “told ya so” from Kathy.
Along the way, weekly in fact, I receive emails from 23 & Me announcing they’d found DNA relatives. They turned out to be 2nd, 3rd and 5th cousins. I can’t even calculate what a 5th cousin is, don’t really care what it is, plus I never had much interest in my biological family. My adopted family, Geroge, Alverna and sister Karen, was a gift, a group I’d been with from birth, and my people.
In January I got another of those weekly emails telling me another DNA relative had been discovered. The message read:
“48.7% shared DNA suggests the following estimated relationship: Mother.”
Veronica “Ronni” Bennett is my mother. She gave birth to me in Marin County, California in 1963 when she was 21. At the time, being unwed and pregnant didn’t endear you to the community and she took the brunt of that standard. Her choice to give me up for adoption was not easy. But she chose George and Alverna for me, handed me off a day after birth, and it was one of the best decisions anyone has ever made on my behalf.
Ronnie spent her career in the media, first as a producer for her future husband. Together they created one of the most important radio shows in New York City in the late 60s and early 70s; one that every important rock star and politician coming through town had to be a guest on. After her divorce, Ronni went on to be a producer for The Dick Cavett Show, for the Barbara Walters Special, for John Tesh, Whoopi Goldberg and Matt Lauer. Today, Ronni lives outside Portland, Oregon. She never had any other children. She is also currently dying of cancer.
For the next 10 months or so after I first received the email announcing Ronni, we have corresponded by email, then moved on to talking on the phone, and finally, a couple of weeks ago, meeting in person at her home in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Genetics is remarkable and somewhat opaque science. I have always understood my height, hair, ears, skin pigment, and other outward appearances are a direct result of genes I’d inherited from my birth parents. It was never a mystery to me why I didn’t look much like George or Alverna. What I’ve learned since meeting Ronni is that what we inherit goes beyond appearance.
Both Ronni and I began blogging in 2004 and still do. She is perhaps the foremost “Elder Blogger” in America at TimeGoesBy.Net. I am the foremost nothing. However, I do have a certain standing in the realm of wine industry blogs.
Ronni and I have both made careers primarily working in the realm of media and in doing lots of writing.
Ronni and I both share a remarkable similarity in our tastes in literature, all the way down to adoring the same writers.
Ronni and I both have a lifelong fascination with Time Travel stories.
Ronni and I both access our emotions and empathy by taking an analytical path.
Ronni and I both have an interest in religion and spirituality, but very little interest in faith or practising any particular religion.
Ronni and I both tend to be introverted.
Of course, there are many things that she and I don’t have in common. She is a beautiful woman. I would have appreciated her passing a little of that on to me.
As I mentioned, I’d never had much interest at all in my biological parents. I was adopted at birth because Alverna could not have children. I was told at a relatively young age that I was adopted. This fact interested me insofar as it made me stand out from the crowd just a little and made me just a little unique while not making me alien to my peers. As a teen, I, like most, wanted to fit in while also possessing a uniqueness. That I was adopted was one way I accomplished this.
The events of the past year, my introduction to Ronni and getting to know her has changed this view. It’s not that I’m terribly interested in my biological parents. But I’m very interested in Ronni Bennett. She is as likeable and lovable as they come. We have an intimate connection that goes beyond her having birthed me and more toward a similarity of person and spirit that I’ve experienced only with Kathy, Henry and a few others.
I’ve often reminded people that you can’t pick your family. But it turns out that Ronni could pick mine. How she did such a wonderful job at choosing George and Alverna to be my mother and father I can’t fathom, but I know it is probably the most important gift I’ve ever received. For this, I’ll always be grateful.
There is another interesting note to this story. For quite some time now Kathy and I have been looking to move in order to purchase a home for ourselves and Henry. We love Napa immensely. But the down payment on the kind of home we desire is simply out of our range here. What are the odds and what does it mean that the place we have decided to find a new home and where we have been searching for many months is no more than a half hour from Ronni’s home?
This whole episode is, of course, bittersweet. I’ve discovered my birth mother, she is smart, wonderful and loving, and she possesses a terminal illness that will take her from us. It’s hard for me to express the kind of anger that boils up in me when I am reminded of what Ronni calls her “predicament”. It is cosmically unfair. My response has been to embrace this predicament while focusing on the delight of the moment and the wonderful happenstance that brought it on.
The 2012 Evening Lands Seven Springs Pinot Noir is a profound wine. Its rich depth and elegant structure commands attention and makes it easy to drink. Together, Kathy, Ronni and I drank two bottles when we finally met and came together earlier this month. Ronni had the wines and offered them up. We drank the wine as we told stories of our lives, compared ourselves, became more deeply connected and as Ronni got to know her grandson. This wine and this winery will always remind me of one of the most extraordinary days of my life.