Journal entry: July 3, 1994 (age 25) – Lowenbrau Light
Today, I was among the extended family gathered to celebrate my Uncle Art and Aunt Millie Grace’s 50th wedding anniversary. As at any gathering of more than two Irishmen, plenty of classic family stories were retold. There were plenty to choose from, in part because Uncle Art is a very funny man. But he’s not just witty – he’s also a jokester who enjoys nothing more than pulling one over on unsuspecting friends and family. But every once in a while, Art’s in-laws have been able to turn the tables.
One favorite tale took place in 1966, shortly after my parents, Jack and Anne Mollen, got married. They were still newlyweds, married only a matter of weeks, when Art placed a call to the workplace of Mil and Anne’s other sister, Mary Florence. At that point, Art had been married to Mil for 22 years. When a co-worker picked up the call, Art instructed her to tell Mary Florence that “her favorite brother-in-law is on the phone.” Mary Florence picked up a moment later and, in a breezy, matter-of-fact tone, said, “Hello, Jack.”
Over the years, Uncle Art and Aunt Millie were frequent visitors at our house. Upon their arrival, Art always requested a “belt and a beer.” The belt was usually a shot of whiskey, and the beer was usually my father’s favorite – a premium, German beer called Lowenbrau. The silver foil at the top gave the bottle the extravagant look of a fine champagne. The Lowenbrau ad campaign emphasized its noble elevation above more pedestrian lagers: “Here’s to good friends – tonight is kind of special…”
On one occasion, my father was out when the Graces dropped by. My mother told Art he could help himself to a beer in the refrigerator. He came into the living room moments later, protesting dramatically. “There’s only one Lowenbrau left, and I won’t take his last one. It’s much too fine an ale for a working man of modest means like me.” It didn’t exactly take any insistence before Uncle Art indeed “let it be Lowenbrau,” but he wouldn’t stop talking about it. With a mock-conspiratorial air, he narrated his trip back to the kitchen, where he refilled the beer bottle with tap water and returned it to the fridge.
When Dad returned, Mom said “You just missed Mil and Art” as he reached for the lone Lowenbrau. With one look at the unsuccessfully patched foil and the dented bottle cap, Dad guessed what had happened. With narrowed eyes and a tiny smirk, he put the “ultra-light” beer back in the fridge. Then he waited. And waited.
Due to busy schedules and family gatherings away from our house, it was a full six months before Art and Mil were again seated in our living room. When Dad offered the belt-beer combo, Art’s face brightened. “Yes, especially if you have Lowenbrau. With eight kids, I’m rarely afforded the opportunity to join you fancy folks in such a fine malted beverage.”
Dad handed Art a bottle, saying, “Enjoy that, Art – it’s my last one.” But Art was in the middle of a story, so Dad just sat patiently until Art paused. As soon as the bottle met his lips, Art’s expression transformed from confusion to realization, and he began to slowly shake his head. They both started laughing, and the bellows only got louder when my uncle called my father a son.