Excursions Begin

Daughter Kate took a day off after driving 14 hours to get here. We visited together at home on decompression day. The next day she, John, and I drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, something we all like to do. The weather was threatening, which is the time we love to go there. Clouds and gusty breezes are much more exciting than a day with full sun and no clouds. As we drove up the mountain, two flashes of lightning added drama to the day. Kate is not a fan of lightning and thunder, so she was glad that stopped. Rain was a bit heavy for a little while. Soon we had some amazing scenes which my camera struggled to record. I hate to admit her phone did a better job.

The weather cleared before we stopped at my favorite place, Sunburst Falls. Kate and I stood there admiring the water, and I asked her to pose with the falls. I laughed when I saw the photo. It looks like it could have been taken in a photographer’s studio, the subject on a stone bench before an impressive backdrop. She took a video with thundering sound to prove she was there in person.

Kate was frightened of dogs as a child, and she works hard to be at ease around them now. She played with Sadie outside and inside that day, ending with a tug-of-war. It might not appear special, but this is a victory photo. You’ll notice she did not climb onto my shoulders or perch on the back of a sofa while screeching bloody murder.

That evening five of us sat around the table laughing and telling stories on ourselves. As often happens, it got out of hand, and we sounded like a bunch of laughing hyenas. I should apologize to neighbor Joyce in case we disturbed her sleep. We were inside, not on the porch, but the noise must have been awful. [I’m sorry, Joyce.]

Talking People In

Daughter Kate began driving from New Jersey at 7:00 am. I talked to her for a while, and she called back as grandson David came in from work. At that point she was going through the last third of Virginia. John was on his way home from the train club in Tennessee. He called David’s phone, and we had a four-way conversation. David held the phones together so that we could all hear each other, but I did the holding as he took our selfie. I figured we began to visit early, so we wouldn’t have to stay up late when they got here.

David got comfortable as we continued to chat. He was holding Kate in one hand, playing a game with the other, letting John rest on his chest, and watching the muted TV. Believe it or not, he was more tuned to the conversation than I was while taking the photo.

Hours with Logan

Neighbor Logan (9 tomorrow) spent time with us after we got home from our trip. I love his sense of humor. He posed, showing off his muscles, with great help from a tennis ball.

There had been several heavy downpours, so we drove to see how high the creek was.

He reminded us that we didn’t have batteries for the radio controlled cars, and Dollar General was on the way home. The right batteries were not in stock, but Logan showed me where Pokemon cards would be. He explained that with cards costing only $1, the display was always empty. He dropped down flat on the floor and looked under the rack. There was always the chance someone might have dropped a pack out of sight. No luck that day.

When Rose and John $pencer came home, Logan enjoyed playing with Sadie. He loves dogs, so he didn’t mind that Sadie kept licking him.

After Sadie settled down, he had a tug-of-war with her.

We didn’t need a reminder that it was good to be home.

Excitement Continues

In the midst of our homecoming from the trip out West, someone asked a question about schedules. I was enjoying the moment and not ready to look even one minute ahead. I said, “All my planning ended with this trip, so I might as well be dead. Just think, that makes this heaven!”

I’m glad the assembled company laughed instead of going out to dig my grave.

We saw many people on our trip, and finally we had someone come to see us! (Brother of brother-in-law Thom) Russ and Elizabeth met us for lunch at the Jukebox Junction. We love this annual visit, time they carve out of a conference to spend with us. Hours spent with family are priceless!

John, Russ, and Elizabeth

In the middle of the night, I heard someone walking in my room. Being surrounded by family, I assumed the footsteps were friendly. They were. Lightning lit up the room as grandson David stepped in from the deck. He carried my solar stars and walked them into the bathroom. He knew one star had already been damaged by wind and that I often bring the hanging stars inside when it is windy. I was able to get enough words together to thank him before I fell asleep again. John and I were impressed at the debris on the roads this morning, evidence of high winds. Everything was dripping wet, and the creek was high and muddy.

I laughed when I went in the bathroom, seeing where David had hung the wet stars. They were still trying to shine, giving their best effort in the dim light.

Solar stars in the tub

Random Thoughts on our Western Trip

I FORGOT to write the story about Larry, Chicken Grandma’s husband. I heard him mention Minnesota and asked if that is where he came from.

“Oh, naw!” he said. “I grew up about five miles from here, and Faye maybe ten miles.”

I asked, “Did you go to the same schools?”

“Yes,” he replied. “We were in the same room all the way through. Back then she was just another girl in the class.”

I laughed, because I could hear behind those words, the tone a boy would have used. You know a 10-year-old would have said the word GIRL with disgust. He went no further, because it was obvious his view of Faye changed drastically, and they have been happily married many years.

I kept forgetting John and I are years older than Faye and Lar, maybe because they made us feel young. They mentioned the age of their youngest son, and he is only a few years older than our elder grandson.

I REMEMBERED a trick from rehab days. The most slippery tub we had was in a handicapped room, of all places! John warned me before I stepped in. I put a washcloth where my feet would be and did not slip.

I FAILED to write about going to the Lewis and Clark Experience. This non-museum was in Sioux City, near where the members of the expedition camped. I was surprised to learn that only one man from the group died. He died in that area, and the rest of the men went all the way to the west coast and back without further loss of life. Amazing! The facility was geared for school children. We saw youngsters eagerly stamping their cards and rushing to the next exhibit. I felt the display was disjointed, but that’s a small drawback, since it was obviously exciting to the children there.

I WISHED I had asked John to stop the car when we first saw the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies on the horizon. We passed a small windmill near the road, one I could almost have reached out to touch. Water was running out of a small pipe, and it was the only windmill I ever saw accomplishing anything. Then I saw the solar panel. Although the structure looked like a windmill, it was really a solar mill.

I NOTED a regional food item that we had not seen before. We tried to eat in local restaurants most of the time. I ordered a chicken dish with lemon, spinach, and artichokes one day and saw the same item on the menu at a different place the next day. That did not define it as a regional favorite, but it was worth noting.

I WONDERED about fence structures along interstate highways in Colorado and Utah. John slowed down for me to take a picture of one. Does anyone know what this is for? There was an earth ramp up to the fence, and in the middle of the ramp was a divider. I guessed it would guide wild animals off the highway. The drop on the other side would discourage them from going near the road again. I’d love to know if my supposition was near the mark.

I LOVED coming back to my own bathroom. Have you noticed that public toilets and motel fixtures are designed for a short six-year-old?

We had a marvelous trip, but it was time to get home. The official log showed we drove 4,814 miles in two and a half weeks.

Audrey and End of Trip

Our last person to visit on the trip was Audrey. John had been in phone contact with her for the last few years, but this was the first time he had seen her since they graduated from high school 60 years ago. I knew she had been a refugee, but I heard more of the story. She came from Estonia and probably does not remember her father. He was in a war camp and died of TB. She remembers seeing a statue from the ship, which her mother told her was the Statue of Liberty. She was eight years old. Their sponsor did not know they had arrived, so someone took them to the Waldorf Astoria for the night. I cannot imagine life from the mother’s point of view. She must have struggled for many years to care for her daughter. Audrey went to school, not knowing a word of English. She spent half the day in second grade and half the day in third. It seems the language began to click when she took piano lessons. Audrey and John were in the first graduating class of Our Savior, a Christian school in the Bronx. From there she went to two-year Concordia College, eventually married her college sweetheart, got a BS in nursing, and later a master’s degree. She and Frank had two sons. The couple had a good life together, making it to their 50th wedding anniversary before Frank died.

The present-day Audrey smiled a lot and gave us a warm welcome. Several times she said how good this country had been for her. I agreed with someone who said Audrey was a blessing to the United States. She worked in the Veteran’s Hospital, and after retirement, volunteered there.

Audrey, husband Frank in photo, and John

There was one amusing incident. I knew Audrey was not hearing me well, so I said as loudly as I could, “You don’t speak with an accent! How did you do it?”

Audrey replied, “I cooked the pasta and meat together in the oven.”

Imagine a big-eyed cartoon of me, sitting there wondering exactly what she thought I’d said. John picked up on it, and he repeated my conversation for her.

In Kentucky we went through horse country and hilly landscapes before getting to East Tennessee, near home. It was marvelous to drive in and find hugs waiting for us. After other trips, we walked into an empty house, needing to unpack the car and buy groceries before being fully functional. Not this time! Rose made a statement that I ought to work with needlepoint, frame, and put on the wall. She said, “We cleaned so that you wouldn’t have to.”

Son John $pencer said, “We’re going to cook breakfast for you tomorrow. We found vegetarian sausage that Rose can eat, so we’ll have biscuits and sausage, bacon, and eggs.”

What a homecoming! When David came home from work, we had another warm welcome and more visiting. I didn’t know returning from a trip could be so exceptional.

John, Rose and our welcome home breakfast. The bacon is missing. It didn’t want to hog the photo.

One Day in Illinois

We miscalculated the time and were getting to Springfield too early for lunch. Cousin Peter and Debi had the wonderful suggestion of having brunch together instead of lunch. They met us at the restaurant, and we chatted until the hostess seated people at every table around us. We did right well, considering some of us don’t hear well and some don’t talk with booming voices.

While conferring on the phone to make the plans, they mentioned that we would go by a rest stop at mile 30 on the interstate. Debi’s father gave the easement to put that rest stop on his property. My question for Debi was if she remembered the building of the highway. She did, indeed. She remembered a night when she had a slumber party, and she and her friends walked over to the construction site.

I was interested in the health of their church. Some years ago four churches joined together, because none of them were big enough to keep going on their own. Debi was pleased to tell us that the melded church has been held up as an example of a successful integration. She and Peter, along with others, worked hard to make it happen. It’s always great to hear a success story.

The time together was all too short, but we enjoyed it while it lasted.