Shawn loved beer. He always claimed it was a Canadian thing. “We drink beer!” he’d say when I asked him about why he was requesting a Coors Light at an afternoon barbecue.
I got him interested in the Oregon wine my dad shipped us every year, and every once in a blue moon, he’d order a mixed drink at a bar. But really, Shawn loved beer.
His tastes were not high brow. He mostly liked cheap beer (see aforementioned Coors Light) and other light beers. One of his favorite beers was a shandy, which is basically beer mixed with lemonade. On the first nice day of spring, he’d go to the store and come home with dozens of them. “Shandy!” he’d say, laughing, because he knew his friends would make fun of him.
I thought it was cute. I appreciated that he was a man not swayed by peer pressure. “Your husband has terrible taste in beer,” many men would say to me in front of him, and Shawn would laugh. He didn’t care at all.
When people would ask me what kind of beer I liked, I didn’t really know. “Wheat beer?” I’d say, because it was the tastiest kind of beer that Shawn stocked. I never went out to get beer (our Costco doesn’t sell it) and I didn’t ever tell Shawn to get anything else for me.
Honestly, I never really thought about it. I just drank what was in front of me, and enjoyed it. (This is a theme of my life, really. I try to enjoy what life gives me, if at all possible.) But it was a bit silly – I could have easily told Shawn to also pick up a 6-pack of IPA or something else that I requested.
But I didn’t ever think about it.
When Shawn died, there was a long period of time when we didn’t have any beer in the fridge. I was so tired (God that was a tiring time) and on the rare night when I wanted a drink, my dad poured me a glass of wine.
But once I finally started to face the world again and went out to friend’s houses and new restaurants, I was often paralyzed about which beer to request. Was it really wheat beer that I liked? Or was that just what I ordered when Shawn was alive? Did I even know what kind of beer I liked?
It was an interesting question. Why hadn’t I asked it of myself when Shawn was alive? He certainly would have been accommodating. He didn’t care a lick what kind of beer I liked, that I knew for sure.
And yet. It was easier for me to just drink the beer he brought home. And so that’s what I did.
Once I became a widow, nothing was easy. I had to actually think about so many little things that had once been decided for me, and beer was just another one of those little things. Furthermore, no one was putting beer in my fridge, which meant that I needed to go out and buy it myself.
And I didn’t really know what I liked.
So I started experimenting. I tried a lot of different beers and I eliminated those I hated. It took a while but I realized that I really never liked shandy, and I actually appreciated a beer with some hops. I still liked wheat beer, but fruit-flavored beer? That was out.
One night about 18 months after Shawn died, I was out with my friend Abby at a new bar. As I’m prone to do at new places, I asked the waiter to bring me the best thing they had. She did, I took a sip, and I knew I had found it: my perfect drink.
It wasn’t a Coors Light, or really any of the other beers I’d tried to that point. I knew what I liked by then, even if I was still experimenting, so I could definitely say that I liked this drink in front of me.
So now, on those nights when I want a drink, I know what I’ll be having. It’s more like something my grandfather might drink, but I don’t care.
Turns out, my drink is a gin and tonic.