Free Beer for a Funeral
On March 3th, 2015, I held in my hand the new label variant of Real Ale's Lost Gold IPA. Being a little dramatic about the whole ordeal, I tossed out to a friend that I was "remembering the old labels fondly." But that was really only part of a longer story about free beer and a funeral.
My grandfather Al Torrey lived the final decade plus of his life with Alzheimer's Disease. Prior to his placement in a nursing community, he had stayed in my parents' house with us for a number of months. I remember him drinking coffee. He almost always had a cup in his shaking hands. Funny, now, that I drink coffee obsessively (the similarity only made apparent to me via outside observation).
After he was moved, I got married in 2006. Our oldest, Kenzie, born January 5th, 2012 got to meet him. I remember the visitation to the facility and the conversations in the cafeteria. My grandfather always remembered me and my guitar playing. But he asked again and again about my wife, children, and even younger siblings. I don't recall the date of that visit and am not sure that Judah (born May 29th, 2013) ever did meet him. He died on September 20th, 2013. At the time, we were living in South Austin and I recall hazily my father notifying us via text message as we drove north on Manchaca road towards Slaughter Lane. But those things do not get archived and I am now unsure.
My grandfather's funeral was held on Monday, September 30th, in San Antonio, Texas. The drive is not long, but I do not remember it. I do remember carrying my suit jacket into the hotel as we checked in before the family visitation on Sunday, September 29th. As we checked in at the front desk I mindlessly watched as my football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, got beat by the Minnesota Vikings in London. They had driven down the field to tie the game only to turn the ball over within ten yards of the end zone. It was the fourth straight loss to start the season and a more invested me would have been infuriated.
The memory of the football game stands out in the haze of that day. The game took place in London and provides some indication that we were checking into the hotel quite earlier in the day. Early enough that as we walked out of the elevator towards our room(s), the cleaning lady was pulling the cart out of our room and closing the door. We passed her as she moved to an adjacent room and I spotted on her cleaning cart sat a six pack container of Real Ale's Lost Gold IPA. I can't recall how often I had been drinking Real Ale but I recognized the label and made a comment about how few of the beers had been open. The cleaning lady explained that they had just come out of the room we were staying in as she proceeded to look the beer over. She then turned to me and said, "I don't like IPAs. Do you want it?"
In hindsight, it is all ironic. To this day I get teased for my knack of acquiring free beer. And here I was on the cusp of seeing my grandfather off getting beer from what would eventually become my favorite brewery. Missed at the time, it was definitely all a sign. Naturally, there were chuckles from the somber family about how it was both free and already chilled. And it was true, I was able to set my stuff down and pop open a beer (using my keys because there was no bottle opener in the room). I'm pretty sure I had a second or third beer before going to the family visitation. I recall being a little buzzed during the hugs and tears that culminated at Sunset Funeral Home.
The next morning we buried my grandfather. My neck was too big for my shirt collar but capable of hiding behind my tie as I helped load his casket into the hearse. At Fort Sam Houston, the military personnel took over. We heard taps and a three-volley salute. My kids don't remember any of this. I'm writing it down because the details get increasingly hazy every year. But every time I see or drink a Lost Gold IPA, I laugh a little. I tear up a little. And I remember those two days.