ST. MAGNUS DAY II

On December 4th, 2010, our dear friend and fellow Alehead, Magnus Skullsplitter, passed away. Today would have been his 34th birthday..

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It’s been just over a year and a half since Magnus died. To be honest, I actually neglected to use that word for awhile. I would say he “left us” or “passed away”. Words have power, and the word “dead” was far too final…too unequivocal. But after about 20 months, I think I can safely say that Magnus probably isn’t coming back (though I’m still holding out hope that this is some elaborate prank a la the 1997 Michael Douglas vehicle, “The Game”). So I’ve been using the word “dead” lately. And you know what? It totally sucks.

The world marches on after a friend or family member dies and memories either calcify or fade away. That’s how it has been with Magnus. There are things about him I remember as clear as day. I remember his infectious (and kind of ridiculous) giggle. I remember how easily embarrassed he was by his friends’ anti-social behavior. I remember the way he would sort of puff himself up when he was in the midst of a favorite story. I remember the way he would embellish or alter those stories to make them sound even more epic. I remember everything about the way he played beer pongĀ  (I know how stupid that sounds, but I played beer pong with him a LOT). I remember the way he held his paddle (we played with paddles), celebrated after a good hit, threw his head back after his opponent sank a cup, and argued over the finer points of the game. I remember that he had a genuine smile. He smiled with his whole face.

But I forget a lot too. I might remember how he looked when he was telling one of his favorite tales, but I don’t really remember the stories themselves. I can vividly picture him playing beer pong, but I don’t actually recall any particular games. I can perfectly hear his voice in my head, but I don’t remember specific things he said. When I picture him or hear his voice now, it’s an amalgamation. I see him doing things I “think” he did. And I hear him saying things that sound like something he’d say. My memories have been adulterated over time. They’re not trustworthy. With each passing month, I’m sure I lose more and more. It’s what we do.

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As time passes, a lot of my thoughts turn to things that Magnus has missed. He never had a chance to visit me in Alabama. He won’t get to meet my second child and only briefly got to meet my first. He won’t get to meet the Czar’s youngest or the Commander’s youngest or Mashtun’s girls or Jaydles son or the Professor’s newborn. He won’t get to meet Kid Carboy or Mother Gueuze or Jimmy Hoppa. He won’t get to write another post for Aleheads or try one of the crazy, new, American craft beers that have hit the market recently. He won’t get married. He won’t have kids. He didn’t get to see his goddamn Giants beating my goddamn Patriots in the goddamn Superbowl again.*

*Goddamn.

I still walk by his picture on the way to my daughters’ rooms every day. And every time I pass by, I give that picture a quick double-tap with my index finger. It’s a ritual I’ll probably never stop. It’s the laziest, easiest way for me to have a “Magnus Moment”. It pisses me off to no end that I’ve been reduced to really “focusing” on my lost friend for less than a second a day. I used to send 20 e-mails to him a day…or get caught up in an hour-long chat session about beer or sports teams or which beer best represented which sports teams. Now I just have that little double-tap.

I can’t help it. I’ve got two kids, two dogs, a wife, a job, a house to maintain, family, friends, this world-renowned beer blog, etc. I’d like to spend some time looking at pictures of Magnus or listening to one of the old Podcasts we did. I’d like to call our mutual friends and chat about him. I’d like to hit up New York and catch up with his old crew and visit his old haunts. But there’s never time. Like a depth charge exploding, Magnus’s death was monumentally jarring…but then the water came rushing in to fill that space. It’s not like the time I used to spend conversing with Magnus has been set aside for quiet contemplation. It filled up immediately. And so, I just get that one second a day. It isn’t nearly enough. He’s worth more than that. But…that’s just the way it is.

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Today is St. Magnus Day. Today, I’ll think about my friend as much as possible. I’ll recall him as best I can. I’ll try to honor him. I’ll have a Scotch Ale tonight. I’ll go through some old pictures. I’ll listen to some old Podcasts. I’ll remember just how goddamn important he was to me.

And then tomorrow, I’ll start forgetting again. The water will come rushing back in. My days will get filled up. The only time I’ll have is that one second each morning. And you know what? That’s OK. I may not have as much time to remember as I’d like, but I DO remember. I may be forgetting, but I’ll never truly forget…

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Today we remember a good man and a good friend. There has never been another like him.

To St. Magnus…

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7 comments

  1. Anonymous · ·

    Gramps is with you Bro Barley !!

  2. Oh Sir Magnus, how I wish you named yourself after a citrussy IPA. Off to pick up some more Skullsplitter I guess. Slainte Mhath.

    Happy Birthday bud.

  3. Dear Magnus:

    Miss you buddy. Happy birthday… and thanks for giving us the opportunity to make up a holiday that involves drinking good beer and remembering good times with you. We’ll be doing plenty of both today.

  4. We all have our own ways of honoring this special and tragic occasion. I get a six-pack of Magic #9 on this day each year. I should probably be saving the 5 I don’t drink so I have a collection of crappy, skunky apricot beers for each year I’ve had to remember Magnus rather than celebrating with him. Instead I just leave them in the fridge like land mines for unsuspecting friends.

    It is a testament to Magnus’s dedication to his friends that it will take DECADES before the events at which we’ve missed him outpace the good times we had together. And that his presence is missed as if he died yesterday. Happy birthday pal. I guess it is not very happy at all.

    1. Let’s get together in 2015 and do a five-year “vertical” of #9 in his honor. I can already hear him guffawing at our response to a well-past-its-prime bottle of beer we didn’t like to begin with.

      What’s really amazing is how “present” he has felt at the events that have taken place since he died. I mean…I’m almost certain he was at Piels’s wedding this past April. Wasn’t I standing behind him in the buffet? Yes, I’m sure I was.

      1. Let’s face it; the man was born to wear a kurta.

  5. Had a Deviant Dales today in his honor. A beer he would have loved had OB made it when he was alive.
    Brother Barley, don’t forget about his Huskies, and the endless glee he would have trashing my ACC-defecting Orange.

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