Seven beers

Next day, I have a busy day planned.  I’m planning to spend the night in Manhattan, Kansas.  There’s a water conference being held there, and then I’m attending the Kansas Press Association Conference banquet that night.  Bruce, my husband, will meet me there and stay with me.  As I pack my overnight bag, I decide to bring one of the beers with me to share with him.  I grab a towel to wrap it in, and I pack my clothes around it.  It will be safe.  I don’t even think about how to keep it cold.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted.  So much driving.  So much thinking.  The first press Media briefing I’ve ever attended, and there were some great newsmen there, people I read frequently from bigger papers than mine–Kansas City Star, Lawrence Journal World, Wichita Eagle, Salina Journal and the Associated Press.  Being in the same room with them, observing what they do, the questions they ask, and how they work was a great experience.  I can’t help feeling both in awe and a bit like a fraud–I mean, they have so much more experience than I do.  But they were in my shoes a long time ago, and I push forward, even ask a decent question or two of my own.

The banquet was good.  I talked to a guy there who is younger than me, and bought his own paper and is acquiring a few others.  He’s a bit loud, but he’s fun to talk to.  And, I got received some insight into what it’s like to work on the other side of the desk.

Bruce joined me after the banquet at the hotel lobby bar, but we didn’t stick around long.  I really needed some sleep.  We got back to the room, and I forgot about the beer, and I had a wonderful, blissful night of sleep.  And in the morning, as I woke, I thought I need to get up, get the laptop out, and write.  Dress, kiss and goodbye, see you at home Bruce, and I make my way to the other hotel where the conference is, and check in, a little early, and sit on a lobby chair and write Eight Beers, which you’ve probably read.

While I’m there, I see my old editor with the new crop of young reporters.  She’s actually there at an event–something she never did while I was at the Telescope.  I say hi to a few old faces, and during the break between speakers and the award luncheon, I decide to leave.  She never came because her son was in high school and she didn’t have time to take away from raising him and attending his stuff, and I realize–I don’t either.  And we’re not getting any awards either.

It’s prom day.  i’ve spent three weeks making a dress for my daughter.  and I need to get home and be there for all of it.  Leaving before lunch, I make it to help with last minute dress adjustments, photos, and the walk-in.  While we’re there, we talk to some friends who invite us over to have a few beers.

I didn’t bring any of Mark’s beer.  I couldn’t drink it in that setting.  For me, his beer isn’t for drinking socially.  So, it’s back in the fridge, waiting for me.  I’m going to go drink it now, on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Tomorrow, I’m making THE POST.  I’ll tell you about it more later.  It came to me in the morning.  It will (hopefully) be good.


Nine beers

I have got a real problem.  I’m stuck.  Literally stuck.  I need to get a story done about the tiny house guy, one about the Burdett playground, one about the teachers losing tenure, one about how the school funding issue is affecting the local district, and then there are various other stories.


But I’m stuck in the past, reliving the week I found out my brother was lost.  This is the week leading up to what would have been his 37th birthday, and I can’t stop thinking about him.

Tuesday night, I went to see Divergent with my daughter.  It was a wonderful movie, and I saw interesting parallels between the storyline and what is happening to our educational system today.  (But that’s probably influenced a lot by the sheer volume of information I’ve taken in, including both the Kansas house and senate bills, commentary from various media outlets, responses by the Governor and various legislators, interviews with local school administration, and the “man on the street.” )

I mean, I was pretty consumed with that topic, and then, as we’re leaving the movie theater, I see a flier taped to the door.  Our local theater offers “Retro Movie Night” on the third Tuesday of each month.  Last month, it was The Breakfast Club.  But for April, it’s The Big Lebowski.  That’s what caught my eye.

At my brother’s memorial, one of his beer brewing buddies talked about how that was one of his favorite movies, and his friends had nick-named him “The Dude,” based off the character in the movie that reminded them of him.  At least when he was relaxing with his friends.  In February while I was out visiting my mom, we watched the movie together, and yeah, I could see that easy-going spirit in the character that matches what I remember of my brother.

I looked closer then, and it turns out, the movie is being shown on his birthday, April 15.

Perhaps it’s a sign?  I’d like to think it’s a sign.  It got me thinking, it’s time to start drinking his beer.

When Mark went missing, he had a batch of home-brewed beer going on his kitchen counter.  He’d been doing it for a few years at that point, and it was something I looked forward to at Christmas.  After the Search and Rescue people concluded their search, his beer-brewing buddy came over to my sister-in-law’s house and bottled it when it was ready.  She gave me nine bottles at Christmas time.

When I got home Wednesday night, I opened the first one.  I’d been saving it, because Mark always made a point of telling us that it needed to sit for a few months for it to taste it’s best.  I opened it, and with it’s first breath of air, came to life, pushing itself out of the bottle and running down the sides.  It tasted rich, with a tiny bit of bitter.  I can’t even remember what kind it was, because he experimented with several varieties that he liked.

My son came in and talked with me before bedtime while I was sipping the beer.  I let him have a few tastes, and we talked about his uncle.  We shared memories about the last time he got to spend time with him.

We had this great family reunion camping trip at the beginning of June, 2013.  We weren’t sure until that week that Mark would come.  But a few days ahead of the date, my mom told me he was coming and bringing his oldest daughter with him.  He stopped by our house before heading to the lake, and John opted to drive to the lake with him.  They talked a lot, and John will always remember that time spent with him.  It was great to spend that time with him, and each of us have great memories of that weekend.  Memories of fishing, playing, hiking, drinking beer, hanging out by the campfire, sharing stories, playing with the kids at the edge of the lake.

The last time I saw my brother was a few months later, for Labor Day.  We all got together at my other brother, Brian’s house.  The next day, he and Brian hiked Long’s peak together.  That was the last time Brian saw Mark.  And a few weeks later, he headed down to the Sangre De Cristo range to climb the Crestone Peak or Crestone Needle.  He went alone, and we know he made it to his camp, and he likely enjoyed one or two of his beers that night.  They found a few of them with his things when they found his tent.

It’s been almost seven months since that night we imagine him cracking a beer to enjoy, probably after eating some fish caught at the lake nearby, and having a good night of sleep before setting out on his climb the next day.