We spent 13 hours driving to my parents’ house and arrived within two hours of the start of my nephew’s 14th birthday party. My nephew has Down syndrome and attends a special needs class at his middle school. He has a best friend and a girlfriend in his class who also happen to be brother and sister. We were able to meet them both for the first time that night and they seem to be really good kids. Since his birthday falls during the school year, this was the first of his parties I’ve been able to attend in the seven years since I’ve lived in the Southeast and was the very first one for my daughter. I think she, quite possibly, had the best time of all.
On Sunday (Easter)
We got up earlier than I wanted to after staying up way too late talking to Mom the night before, but not any earlier than we do on a normal Sunday. This day was different in that we all got a little more dressed up than normal. There’s Sunday Best (which at my church is dress-casual) and there’s Easter Sunday Best, which means a fancier dress for her and a new shirt and tie for me. My younger brother and his wife showed up just as we were leaving for my sister’s church in a nearby town (big brother only comes home for Christmas as he lives in New England), so we were all able to ride together. I was more exhausted than I realized, and while I stayed awake throughout the service, I didn’t really pay as much attention as I should have.
Note to self: Don’t drive all day and stay up too late the day before Easter next year.
After a delicious lunch or ham and many wonderful sides and desserts, my brother’s wife hid the 150 plastic eggs my sister had filled for the Easter egg hunt. My sister usually coordinates the Easter egg hunt at her church, but did not this year and I think she missed it. Reason being, there were only three children in our family to find all of these eggs (and the other two are hers)! The kids all had a good time though, and my students will love all of the extra candy when I remember to bring it in for them.
Just before the egg hunt, we saw this guy resting under my parents’ car.
I think maybe he had an even longer night than I did…
My mom loves to work in her yard and garden. I can only assume that’s where my passion for this originated. She has a beautiful yard and spends weeks each year working to make it look just right. One of the things she most enjoys is the opening of the local greenhouses. There is one that she is particularly fond of (there are actually 13 separate greenhouses to go through there) and she waited to go this year until we could be there to enjoy it with her.
It rained the entire time.
But we managed to make the most of it, and I even managed to remember to take a picture without my daughter in it so I could post it here.
That night I got to take my daughter to her first live sporting event – a minor league baseball game. Now, it is important to note that I am not even remotely a sports fan. I watch the Summer Olympics every four years, but even then I only watch selected events. I do, however, enjoy a good live game/match. I just don’t get to them often enough. So it was a nice surprise a week earlier when my brother called and said he had scored six free tickets to a game. And it was dollar food night, which appealed to the miser in me as well.
Although it was really cold, it was a pretty day for a game.
There just weren’t very many fans in attendance.
After 6 ½ innings, this is how the game ended.
Yes, that’s the infield.
But the game was not a total bust. Our seats were just far enough back that we did not have to move when the rain started. And the first baseman for the opposing team tossed her a baseball, which she later had signed by the third baseman of the home team, who came out of the dugout in the rain to sign it for his newest fan. We didn’t have the heart to tell him we live 800 miles away.
We spent another day running around the town I where I went to college and met my wife. There is a bakery there that is almost unmatched (there’s one in my older brother’s city that rivals it, but thus far it’s the only other one I’ve found that even comes close). Whenever we are home, my mom makes sure we have doughnuts from there and we usually manage to find an excuse to stop for cookies or cupcakes during our visit as well. A few months ago, the bakery opened a café and coffee bar in a different location, so my parents (again) waited to try it since they knew we would be visiting soon. I think it was worth their wait!
That evening we went to another town a bit further away to see my friend and former college roommate and his wife. They are the only friends with whom I feel like my friendship has not changed/suffered as a result of my wife’s death. Which is ironic in a way, since he and I are much more alike than my brothers and I, and his wife and mine were as well. And not just in the greater aspects of our personalities, but in the smaller, quirky aspects as well (they were even known to be dressed alike when we would meet somewhere for dinner). If anything, our friendship probably should have suffered the most, based on all of our similarities, but it did just the opposite, and I think that is a true testament to their character.
This was also the night of the big reveal, so after dinner we gathered the girls in the kitchen so that their older daughter could tell mine about our upcoming trip to a very kid-friendly place next month. She was not quite as expressive as I thought she would be, but now that things have sunken in a bit, she cannot stop talking about it! It will definitely be a memorable trip for us both.
And since it was too cold and rainy to work in the yard together, my mom and I made small terrariums when I got back from dinner with our friends and stayed up way too late doing so (again).
After digging up several pots’ worth of flowers to plant in my yard and packing up all of our stuff (how do we always manage to leave with more than we brought originally?), we had a quick lunch and bid farewell to my parents, (who I would later find out took a nap all afternoon) and drove the almost two hours north to spend the remainder of the week with my in-laws.
This school year, they volunteered to cook dinner for the church youth group and their families, so we spent the evening there seeing many familiar faces and several new ones. They still attend the church where we got married (but had the good sense not to hold the funeral), so it has always held fond memories for me, and I enjoy any chance I get to go there.
My mother-in-law had the day off, so I slept in a bit and was treated to a nice home-cooked breakfast. We met my father-in-law for lunch, then spent some time in a larger city nearby buying my daughter some new outfits and a couple new dresses for our trip (at least in her mind. She needed them for church anyway).
My daughter rode the first of two of these this week at the mall.
That night we went out for some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. There is a place where I live that my daughter and I frequent and the food there is excellent. When the egg rolls came (as an appetizer), I started talking about how the food there rivaled the food at the one in my town. After about my third comment , my father-in-law looked at me and said very seriously “Is your egg roll the same as ours?” He kept a straight face when I said “yes” and proceeded to tell me that they contained shrimp! It is a well-known fact that I do not like nor do I eat any organism that can survive underwater. But this shrimp was virtually undetectable and I had already consumed ¾ of the egg roll, so I finished it. But I did let a few obvious bits of shrimp fall to the plate during those last few bites.
Both in-laws had the day off, so we ate a late breakfast, then headed to the nursing home to see my daughter’s great-grandma, who had returned a day earlier from her most recent hospital stay. Last month she had to have emergency brain surgery and her hair is just beginning to grow back, so before we left I took my daughter aside and explained that Grandma would look a little different when we saw her. She did look a little different, but the shortened hair was the least of it. When we saw her at Christmas she was not at all like herself. She was somewhat despondent and had trouble holding her end of a conversation. Since I’ve known her she has been a fiery little woman, and though she’s lost too much weight, her spark has definitely returned (hopefully for good).
The rest of the afternoon was spent tending to my nieces, whose mom had to have outpatient surgery that day (dad’s a doctor, but stayed in the role of husband this time). We had all three of them at my in-laws’ house overnight, so it was a fun time for my daughter. And they were all in bed asleep by eleven.
The two older girls were picked up by their dad to attend to some 4-H obligations. While they were doing that, the rest of us drove to an Amish area to meet my wife’s best friend (and former college roommate) and her husband for lunch. (A side note here: If you ever have the chance to eat real Amish cooking, take it! Just be sure to bring your appetite along for the ride.) It was good to see our friends, and we made plans to get together again when we are “home” this summer.
Oh, and my daughter got to ride her second merry-go-round in as many days.
Saturday afternoon and evening were uneventful. I almost finished a book (which I took care of Sunday night) and packed the van for our return journey, while everyone else watched tv and tried not to think about the fact that in a few hours we would part.
We spent 15 hours making that return journey and it was one of the most enjoyable car rides I’ve ever had with my daughter.
It’s always nice to visit family and friends.
But it’s always good to be back home too.