Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Brewery Tours and Beer Memories



I’m not a morning person but I was up and in the shower by 8:30 on Thursday. I had a tour bus to catch and thanks to the gods of good weather there was no new snow in between me and the senior center where the bus was waiting to take us to a craft beer brewery and tap room. Before this week I could count on one finger the number of beers I’ve drank in my entire life…actually it wasn’t even a full beer. I didn’t like the taste and I never tried it again. It just didn’t make sense to waste calories on trying to acquire a taste for beer when they could be put to better use on mint chip ice cream.  I had a decade long love affair with that creamy, green stuff.

The night before the tour I did my research and learned this particular brewery makes a beer called Kentucky Breakfast Stout that is brewed with chocolate and coffee, two of my favorite things so that was the beer I set my sights on trying it with lunch. It’s been named the 4th best beer in the world. This brewery---along with all the start-up micro-breweries that have popped up in recent years---has put West Michigan on the map for beer aficionados.

I didn’t expect to be impressed but the place was amazing and it covered an entire city block. The tour took almost two hours and the tour guide was funny along with being informative. We learned everything there is to know about making and bottling beer. There, they age their higher end craft beers two to five months in wooden bourbon barrels stored down in the local gypsum mines (accessed from their sub-basement) and the barrels can only be used once. They go through 9,000 wooden barrels yearly and after they use them, the barrels are shipped off to Scotland where they take them apart, plane the inside surfaces and put them back together again to use to age Scottish whiskey. Who would have ever guessed that?

The automated bottling line of the brewery can fill 500 bottles a minute and we got to watch the process in action from cat walks. The place was super clean with stainless steel machines and vats everywhere you looked. The floors were brick red ceramic tiles and every section we went to had a different aroma. We were told at the beginning of the tour that we couldn’t touch anything made of stainless steel and silly me, I said, “I guess that means we can’t lick anything either?” The tour guide laughed, pointed a finger at me and replied, “You’re the one I’m going to have to keep a close eye on!” I love it when young people get my sense of humor.

The tour ended in their huge tap room where we had lunch and got a free beer---they have three or four smaller tap rooms around the brewery for the employees and a happy bunch of people they were. I only drank half of my beer because, apparently, my tastes in beverages hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. I felt bad about wasting beer that is so highly sought after and only available part of the year but I couldn’t make myself finish that pint. I’m a beer drinking failure. My mom didn’t drink beer or liquor at all but she had a better reason for abstaining than I did. Her father, brother and one brother-in-law often drank up their paychecks, leaving their kids with little to eat. In her late teens when Mom was a waitress her dad would come collect her paychecks and she’d never see a penny of it because he’d head to the tavern next. And I grew up seeing my mom slipping folding money to her sister to buy groceries. I’m not sure if my dad ever knew it but if he did he probably would have understood. According to family folklore he had tried to “talk some sense” into the three drunks in the family who didn’t know their limits when it came to drinking. 

When Don and I first met it was springtime and he didn’t know his limit either but by fall he gave up drinking all alcohol and he never looked back. He got his wake-up call when he ran into the back of a parked car and spent the night in jail. That didn’t stop us from going to disco bars and places with live music. I had wine and he’d have a Coke. Someone in the last years of Don’s life ask him if he’d want to have a beer again if he knew he would die within a few weeks. I was surprised to hear him answer, “Yes.” After the first five years of his sobriety I had quit worrying about a relapse. He would have loved the tour I went on but I’m not sure how he would have felt about my seatmate on the bus. When she sat down she said, “I wasn’t sure I was going to make it today. I spent all day yesterday crying.” It was the twentieth anniversary of her husband’s death and she said it hit her hard. I imagine it was the two decades thing that got to her. I’m not sure. At some point I quit listening because the voice in my head was talking louder and it was saying, Please tell me that’s not going to happen to you! ©

18 comments:

  1. I've said it before, but will say it again: I envy you the Seniors Club greatly!

    I acquired a taste for alcohol late in life. I like ice cold beer and wine - used to become cross eyed/giggly after one glass, but now a bit better! Like drinks with good food and company. Sometimes, will get a bottle for myself and have a glass with dinner, especially at the end of a day spent on hard work in the yard, or cleaning.

    For me, the day out would have felt like a reward for the deep cleaning work. It must have been great to return all tired out to your "new" bedroom.

    Libby

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    1. The ladies who had raspberry beer all loved it. If I were ever to go back that's the one I'd try next. I do love hard root beer and hard cider and will get that with dinner when available. (I do love my "new" bedroom!)

      My senior hall is growing so populate I'm worried it won't be as great in the future. One, they are looking for another building and the one we have is so close-by and two, bigger isn't always friendly. But it sure has been a Godsend for me.

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  2. In regard to the last sentence of your blog, people seem to be different. I look at Sheryl Sandberg, back to work after less than a month after her husband's death. I cannot imagine doing that. I couldn't. Strong character, family support, whatever - at the end of the working day, its just you and the young children. I then think of Queen Victoria's very long grief in widowhood - the very other end of the bereavement spectrum.

    I read the "Wave" - author lost her husband and two sons, and parents in the Xmas Day tsunami. I read the review and thought how does one recover from that, and had to read the book. World Wars, Holocaust, modern warfare, etc - examples of normal, everyday people knocked sideways, surviving and then getting on with life - I always think that's true courage and grit. If they can do it, so can I.

    Libby

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    1. I don't know how people recover from the things you mention in your last paragraph. But they do. I would imagine a veil of sadness follows them around though, well hidden at times and not so others. You are right: if they can do it we can too.

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  3. Was your assumption that the poor widow had been having a very difficult time for the past twenty years? That really is very sad.

    I am a beer drinker and I have been on a few good brewery tours including the Anheiswer Busch factory in St Louis. That was historically interesting because the buildings were very attractive with old pictorial tiles and iron decorations. I have never heard of Kentucky Breakfast. It is interesting how regional beer tends to be. I am a fan of Sam Adams beer and their brewery is in Boston. However, when I am on the east side of the Atlantic, as I am now, I am a great fan of English bitter. It is very smooth and slips down very easily! Having praised it thus, all I drink is one glass a day!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. They have a sign in the brewery that says, "It's not how many beers that you drink, it's about enjoying the drink in your hand. They make 21 different beers with only 7 of them available year-around. I think it would be fun to try the sampler sizes. Trays of samplers have become a big deal in this area and I can see why. Sam Adams is what I buy if I'm having company over. I just like the name, since one of my ancestors use to hang out with thee Sam Adams. LOL

      No, the widow on the bus I know slightly from the Movie and Lunch Club and I don't get the impression her life was unusually hard. She a retired teacher, traveled the world, raised two kids, is a quilter, active in church and choir. He husband died at 55 years old and she never dated. I was shocked at the all day cry 20 years out! She said the 19th year didn't effect her that way.

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  4. Hi Jean. I'm back from my cruise or should I say a week ago. I've been sick since the Thursday of my cruise. There were many people hacking and coughing on the ship. The cruise was OK but being sick doesn't make it good. maybe next year will be ready. See you soon my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. That's too bad! Hope you're all back to normal soon.

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  5. Don't worry--we will be dead before the 20th year sadiversary!

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    1. I don't plan to be dead. I'll only be 90! LOL

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  6. I'm glad you had a great time. I would have loved that tour, but like you I'm not a fan of beer. Now a nice glass of wine is another thing.

    Have a terrific day. ☺

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    1. I don't think they even have wine in their tap room but you can get sodas. I like wine, too.

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  7. Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I can smell it from here, and my, how rich and smooth. I adore stout - Guinness, any stout, loaded with flavor, vitamin B12 and anti-oxidants. Best on tap in a pub. So-so from a bottle. Not my go-to drink at home.

    Alcoholism in families sure does deprive the kids. I'm glad your Mom grew up to pick a good husband and raise a daughter who didn't drink like her dad and brother did. I didn't know Don was headed in that direction when you met him. What a 'fortunate' intervention that night in jail was.

    It is a bummer that two decades out, this widow still grieves. I try not to think about all the lost opportunities, because, hubbys aside (or six feet under), we lovely women still have so many reasons to marvel - at ourselves! Happy Valentine's Day to each and every phenomenal woman here.

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    1. I was surprised when the tour guide talked about anti-oxidants and B12 in beer. I didn't think there was anything redeemable or healthy about beer. LOL

      My mom's upbringing has a serious influence in how she raised me to be independent. As for Don I have written about the "ghosts" he dealt with when we first met but I never put a name to those ghosts before now.

      Happy Valentine's Day to you, too. I am a big believer in buying ourselves flowers and candy if there is no one else to do it. We deserve it!

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  8. My husband and sons are beer drinkers and love trying all the microbrews and taking brewery tours. They would love to visit the one you visited. Me? I have ALWAYS hated the taste and even the smell of beer. When I drank, I drank wine (preferring Chardonnay), but when I felt I was maybe developing a teeny, tiny problem with drinking more than I intended to on occasion, I quit drinking completely, just like that. It will be 5 years this summer and I don't miss it a bit. Now I'm working on my sugar problem..... :)

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    1. I kind of get the impression that "tasting" different kinds of beer in mini glasses is more the goal in these places than getting drunk. Who would have ever guessed it could be a yuppie thing to do?

      I know several people with "teeny, tiny problems" with drinking wine, but they don't know it. So good for you for recognizing yours. Sugar is my downfall too.I'm almost off it again. I was at the grocery store today and didn't buy anything with more than 7% sugar in it.

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  9. Years ago, when we were visiting my sister in New Hampshire, we decided to visit the Anheuser Busch brewery. My sister and B-I-L took us to a local diner for breakfast. We ate bacon and eggs. On the way to the brewery, I started to feel sick. I was feeling pretty bad by the time we took the tour. The tour took us through a couple of climate changes, one was very warm. I barely made it through the tour. My sister had to stop the tour guide's final remarks to ask for a bathroom for me. I almost fainted. After discharging all of my breakfast in every way possible in the bathroom, they rushed me to the hospital. I couldn't walk on my own by the time we got there. It took a couple of hours and several injections of various drugs to get me to stop. It was the sickest I'd ever been. Needless to say, I did not get my free beer. Those tours are very interesting, though. We got to see and pet the clydesdales. They are so beautiful and BIG. I'm glad you enjoyed your tour. I understand addiction. It runs in my family, too. It's very destructive. I'm only addicted to food... thank goodness.

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    1. What a terrible experience! But I'm jealous that you got to pet the Clydesdales. They came to town once in the last years of Don's life to do a parade but with a wheelchair I didn't want to tackle the crowds. Instead, we went out to the horse range where we knew they were staying and watched them in the field just being horses, not celebrities.

      One of the reasons I don't drink much or often is that I, too, am addicted to certain foods so I think it would be easy to get addicted to wine or beer.

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