This beer’s for you

It’s not fancy; just a simple Wisconsin tavern, the kind of semi-rustic place found in every town and city in the state.  The building is small and unassuming.  Inside, there’s a bar that runs the length of the room, with the grill at one end and a storage area at the other.  The floor has just enough space to fit the pool table and 7 or 8 small tables.  Sports paraphernalia hangs on the walls, with the Packers the clear leader and the Badgers a close runner up.  The menu is simple but good; burgers, grilled cheese, brats; items that can be done quickly and easily.

I passed it this morning, on my way to an exercise class.

Nine years ago we were newly dating, but already starting to go beyond casual.  About once a week we would have dinner with your elderly Aunt.  We drove there separately and would stop afterwards at this bar for an after dinner drink.  The bar was across the street from a golf course situated on the edge of a cemetery, in an area that was once upon a time the far Western edge of town.  At 7pm the place was quiet, past dinner, not yet time for the evening golfers to have finished their games.  We’d sit at the bar and nurse a beer, talking quietly.  There was electricity between us, a spark I’m sure was palpable to others.  We’d spend 40 minutes or so before going out to the parking lot. After a goodnight kiss we’d each drive home in different directions.

I woke up early this morning, early enough to stop and visit your grave before heading off to exercise and grocery shop and see people and do all the things that occupy the living.  My best friend helped me pick the site last fall, when I was so much in shock I could barely move.  It’s a lovely old cemetery with Civil War soldiers and the history of my adopted city lying within its borders.  There aren’t many open areas left.  I found one on the far end, near to the golf course, that seemed perfect.  A large old tree secludes the site chosen for you.  Many of your nearby neighbors are members of the Hmong clans that settled here in Wisconsin, and the loving attention paid to those graves made me feel better.

All through July and August we met weekly at that bar.  By the end of August we drove in one car, together.   Over the course of those summer weeks we’d gone from dating to something more.  We hadn’t yet made it official, but we both knew where we were headed.

A few years went by.  We didn’t go there as often; once we started living together, its location as the fulcrum between your house and mine wasn’t as important.  You still went past on errands and business, but I hardly saw it any more.

Until last fall.  When you were buried just a few short blocks from where we first started.  There’s symmetry there; our beginnings and endings, so closely tied together.  I usually visit you early on weekend mornings, long before the bar is open.  I think, though, that I’ll have to plan on an afternoon visit soon.  When I’m done, I’ll turn left instead of right and go a few blocks out of my way.  I’ll park in the lot and go into that little tavern, sit down at the bar and order a beer.  I’ll make a small, private toast to you; to us; to that couple we were nine years ago, full of promise and hope in the future.

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48 thoughts on “This beer’s for you

  1. Grief is uniquely human. It is as inevitable as death itself and almost as feared. Thank you for giving us an insight into how it can be made up of not only sadness but also joy. Sorry for your loss.

  2. I found this hard to read. I guess when my father died, not that long ago and quite young, I went through the same emotions with the pub that we used to drink in together. Its a painful process trying to go back somewhere with such memories. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. my husband and i sometimes bond over beer (we even started dating like that) and your blog made me realize how the seemingly routine things in life are those we will be missing when they’re no longer there.

  4. Its a very touching story. I have recently gotten engaged and soon to get married. My story has just begun and I am yet to see all the phases post union. But I had goosebumps reading this post. I am sorry for your loss.

  5. Hmmm..to visit a place that evokes those emotions, such a personal thing I think and not a “one shoe fits all” scenario. When I think of those places in my life, the changes happening now hard to cope with, I feel sadness thinking about those places with mixed memories. Is it wrong that I get comfort knowing someone else out there is experiencing this? Not a question for you but I don’t know, just a question.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you for expressing yourself so clearly and honestly. My heart goes out to you. My dear friend and next door neighbour died three years ago of a heart attack. One day he was at our house telling stories about his trip to Africa, the next he was gone. His wife, my dear best friend, is still mourning the loss. Sometimes I don’t know what to do to help. What helps you?

  7. I didn’t want to read this, when I saw it on the FP site… I’m so tired these days that emotions run very close to the surface, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read something that was going to make me cry, when I don’t usually need much prompting! But you’ve managed to capture such a sense of the positive, of happy memories, and a wistfulness for the past that doesn’t descend into agonising grief. I don’t doubt that you still miss him terribly, but you are able to express your joy at having known him, and that is such a lovely thing. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you. I think the grief process is one of moving to a place where the memories are more joyful than agonizing. I’ve been slowly doing that over the past year, and have gotten a lot of help from other bloggers in doing so.

  8. I’m not sure whether to cry or laugh, so I’ll do both! My husband and I go to Milwaukee often as we both have ties there. We also often go to small taverns to blow the froth off a couple. We closed Wolsky’s!
    Congrats on getting pressed!

  9. I’m sorry for your loss and I can imagine that having a beer in the tavern is a special place for you. A place where you can still be together now that you’re apart.
    Enjoy the memories and the love the tavern holds for you.

  10. The beauty of your sentiment and power of your love made my eyes well up. I’m deeply sorry for your loss and admire the bond your souls still share.

  11. hi… i’m also a widow … i completely understand how you feel… my late husband’s 2nd year death anniversary is on september and i always think of the song by green day….. wake me up when september ends…. :(….. …. i’ll follow you… nice to read about things that i’ve gone through!!!!

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