Celebratory Beers

When is a beer not a celebratory beer? This is not a riddle. Every beer I drink with relatives and friends celebrates us, our being together, our community, our communion with one another confirming a bond among us, the essence of fellowship, of companionship, concord and rapport, the list of synonyms goes on.

At a large family party once, a cousin of mine and one of our uncles were drinking celebratory beers on some occasion, as were the majority of us, participating fully in that affirmation, that concrete example of the bottom line: That we were still alive to be together yet again.

My cousin and my uncle both, perhaps, had put away one too many. They were not alone there. But an argument erupted between them that grew into a top-volume shouting match. At its peak, when everyone could hear them, our group stopped dead silent, amazed that this could be happening within our close-knit clan.

I couldn’t quite follow whatever it was they were yelling about, and then, quite unexpectedly, my cousin, no longer in a celebratory mood, punched my uncle.

This violent act killed our collective convivial mood instantly.

We could, some say, be hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow, and all of this bruhaha would have amounted to nothing in the grand scheme of all-embracing love for family and friends. You’d hope it would dissipate like the smoke from the hibachi where we cooked our kalbi. Blood after all is supposed to run so thick that it chokes out all thinner considerations.

Sadly, however, I don’t remember that cousin ever attending another family get-together. I’m guessing either his anger continued at full Korean boil, causing him to stay away by choice, or he was banned from all future family functions.

Both of them are gone now, and I wonder how they might have recalled that incident toward the end. I hope that finally they would have privately made peace with each other.

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