Yesterday, Doug took his mother and me to dinner at the Briarhurst. This is one of the most expensive restaurants in our little world. It’s in Manitou Springs, not really up in the mountains. This place is so oddly beyond our family’s normal range that if we were to go to another special and expensive restaurant for something totally special, like maybe Valentine’s Day or to celebrate a special event, we would go to different restaurants. Not the Briarhurst. And the Whites (and Lindholms) have been in this valley for four generations.
I had to ask Doug and Marge for directions to this mansion. Though I’ve seen the huge sandstone stone estate in the woods when I drove by, I did not know how to access the estate. Doug went to high school across the street. Marge has worked in Salons within blocks of this place. They were as mystified as I was about finding the entrance and I overshot it at first. Once we made our way into the parking lot, we had no idea where the entranceway to the building was. We walked on a dirt path in the dark and found a sign with an arrow directing us to the main door. The estate was built in 1875 as a second home to an affluent Colorado business man. They never lived in it, but the architects used their abundant resources to create a monument to masonry. The stonework is as beautiful as wood carvings. The great door in front of us was ensconced in an archway of sandstone and massive timbers. Doug opened the huge door like we were entering the Kingdom of Narnia.
Marge had been here one time maybe twenty years ago. Doug had been on the premises for an October Fest. This was our first time as dining patrons. Of course, the interior was mostly a cave with vaulted ceiling of timbers and carved woodwork, antiques – the kind of foyer one would expect in an ancient museum quality estate. A gal greeted us and took out coats. When she got to mine, she gasped.
“Wow, this is really heavy!” I was wearing a brown leather hip coat. The leather was very thick and rather worn, kind of like a bomber pilot’s waist jacket back in WWII. The cut and style was also slightly like a bombers jacket, but the length and tailoring were very chic, almost European. It is both tough-looking and sophisticated at the same time. Doug bought the coat for me because when we saw it, we both were drawn to it. This coat commonly draws remarks from people, which always pleases me.
“It has a heavy lining, see?” I showed her the removable padded lining. “
Leather is usually really cold in the winter, so it comes with this heavy lining.”
We were led to our table.
Dining was as to be expected. The dining was very formal. The staff very professional. The food very small and presented in an array of colors and sauces with vegetables used as structures to hold the main courses up. They were two wines on the menu that I did not order due to their cost: any red blends from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France; and, my all-time favorite, a Travaglini Gattinara made from Nebbiolo grapes. I didn’t order these because they were nearing a hundred dollar a bottle. Doug told me, ‘Go ahead,’ but I didn’t. Couldn’t. If I was paying the tab, I might have but I was in a state of spending hiatus due to not having any consulting jobs in a while.
Chat was about Marge growing up, mostly, and we heard stories we had not heard before. The waitress made us laugh. We shared samples of each other’s food. The bill knocked me out. Though Doug paid for it, I am still digesting that last morsel. I go over the evening and the food over and over again in my head, which is still reeling this morning.
That said, I remembered a eulogy a few years ago. This was a mutual friend of many years, though, during the eulogy, I realized that I really did not know this man very well. I had no idea about his gusto for living his life for the day. I did not know about his enthusiasm for a passionate job well done. He was a man who valued personal integrity and love for his family above all the treasures of the world. I did not know that about Dave Tolhurst until I heard witnesses to his life through stories shared by his family and closest friends.
One story told at Dave’s service was by his daughter. Apparently, every once in a while — (not just for a holiday like Christmas, but in this particular case, his daughter simple said one day that she really wanted to see a particular musical) – Dave would take his family for a night on the town.
A night on the town meant new dresses, shoes and even purses for his women – wife and daughter. When the musical his daughter had mentioned came to Denver, Dave took a long weekend. He took his girls shopping – actually accompanied them, not just handed over a credit card. He spent time with them. They drove to Denver in a rented limousine and checked into a really nice hotel – a suite. He always booked a suite bear the performing art center and when they arrived at the hotel, the limo drove them to the entrance and the Tolhurst were greeted like movie stars – and they felt like movie stars. Their dad’s generosity made them feel like they were something special beyond the common daily life. For a night, they lived like royalty, like in a fantasy dream. Their dad took them to dinner at fine restaurants, and then they all went to the show like they were celebrities.
I could hardly believe what this woman was telling us. I imagined Dave. I knew him as a supervisor in the mine. He was in charge of the people and machines operating in the pit. I knew he was a serious manager and that he really understood the lines between safety, health, and potential for disaster. When I worked at the mine as a new exploration geologist, I was a bit intimidated by Dave. He was a serious dude and with stern demeanor about the way people conducted their business in the pit. He had to be this way – an operating open pit mine is a dangerous place. Huge haul trucks mix with small personnel vehicles, graders come around the corner with limited site. Trucks with explosives drive by people working on the ground on their way to pads that are going to be blasted. Drill rigs are turning steel into the ground. A pit is a hub of activity that can in an instant result in a catastrophic disaster. Dave was in charge of this scene, in charge of making sure the operation ran efficiently and safely. Most importantly, he was in charge of many people’s lives and his responsibility became all the more serious when a new person, inexperienced such as myself, entered his realm.
I tried to imagine Dave all cleaned up wearing a suit. I tried to imagine him surrounded by plush, lovely ladies, his wife and daughters arriving at a hotel disembarking from a limo. Mostly, though, I tried to imagine how much a weekend like this cost him? Dave was a supervisor and he made a better salary than most of the 400 other people working at the mine but he was not I upper management and he did not make the big salaries that some of the top guys made. I did not know of any of the higher-paid guys ever treating their families to such extravagant treats, though I know they might own a vacation cabin or have a large stash in investments or even stock options for the future. Dave owned motor boats, fifth-wheel trailers and other magnificent recreational toys for diversion. In addition to his regular fishing and boating outings with his family, he also indulged in this amazing personal fantasy time in the city. He lavished his time and his money on a special weekend for his family and now they were here, honoring his memory and thanking him for being such a world class father, husband, and family man. I did not know that about Dave. There was no one like him in that moment. No one came even came close.
So it was that I found myself wrapped up into the evaluation of the previous evening. The cost of the dining experience was weighing heavily on my mind and sucking the joy out of my morning. I remembered Dave’s eulogy form his wife and daughter, then, I put my life experience into perspective with Dave Tolhurst and his passion to create quality time with his family and treating them to an occasional flagrant expense. That helped me digest the dinner at last.
When we were leaving the restaurant and retrieving our coats, the coat check gal said, “Oh, I remember you – you have the lovely leather jacket.” As she took it off the hangar and handed it to me, she added, “I love this jacket. How can I ever get one?” and I told her,
“First, you have to get a guy like this,” and I pointed to my husband. “My husband takes very good care of his wife and his family.”