Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Radio Silence

I like to blog. I like to write. I have lots to say and am never quiet.

But this past week? It's been rough.

My last post was April 1 and it was a form post that many of us who work for NPN posted. I tend to write my posts in advance and schedule them out for the week, so it was already in the que, so to speak. That morning, though, I learned that my uncle had passed away.

It wasn't unexpected; we knew he was sick and my mother told me over Easter weekend that he was back in the hospital. Still, I was surprised at the amount of grief I felt and the strong, burning desire I had to go to his memorial and pay my respects.

Everything came together at the very last minute and I was able to travel to my original hometown (where I was born and spent the first ten years of my life) to be with my family. My father changed his plans at the very last minute and was able to fly instead of drive. Our planes landed ten minutes apart. They were both on time; in fact, all our connecting flights were on time or early. For the most part, the flights were smooth and I had pleasant seat-companions the whole way. I am NOT a fan of flying but I couldn't have asked for a better trip, especially since I was traveling sans husband or kids for the first time since college.

Driving to the hotel was a mini-adventure in an of itself, because the GPS refused to pick up satellite signals. Finally my father out smarted the GPS (ie, he had me turn it off and then on again) and I was able to amuse myself silly by taking photos of this:

Hills! trees!

Yes, I took pictures of the HILLS and TREES from the car window! For someone who has now lived in the flat Midwest for the majority of my life, I was stupid-happy to see landscape that is not flat and trees that are more than 50 years old. So what if it was overcast?! TREES, PEOPLE, AND THE HILLS!

When we came to the exit for the hotel, we pulled off into.... nowhere. Well, not nowhere- there was a gas station, small drugs store and the hotel.I think there was a ski rental place next to the hotel, which had a mostly empty parking lot. We stood in the cool breeze for a moment, wondering if one of the cars belonged to family members. (I ruled out the van from Quebec.) I finally looked at him and said, "I think I'm in a bad Hitchcock film."

He snickered. "Keep the lights on when you shower!"

"Dude, if the receptionist looks like the Bates Motel lady, I'm outta here!"

She didn't; in fact, we had nothing but excellent service. It was the right hotel and several other family members were there. I spent the next few hours catching up with my cousins and marveling at how big and empty my hotel room seemed without five other bodies crammed into it.

Saturday dawned bright and early, mostly because the person who stayed there before me had forgotten to turn off the alarm. I was up, so I showered and dressed in PEACE AND QUIET. I even put on make up and jewelry without being bothered! I used the restroom in peace! I marveled at this and then joined my father and a cousin for coffee and a talk about politics.

(Least you think this caused drama, it didn't. Dad and I argue and debate religion and politics all the time and we finally had someone who could match our wit. It was pretty awesome.)

Dad offered to take me to the house I spent the majority of my childhood in and I accepted. This house had been in the family for decades before my parents had to sell it when I was ten. It holds many wonderful memories for my cousins (both sides) and myself. Both my grandparents died there (at home, yes, which I now realize is such a blessing), my siblings and I can home from the hospital to that house. My parents were married in the backyard... like I said, so many significant and life altering moments. I had told my dad that I only wanted to see it if it was well-taken care of. Since he and my mother had been back about two years ago, he was able to assure me that it was.

It was. The house looked different but good different. We met the owner, who clearly loved the house and land as much as we had. I did feel a bit sorry for him though, because he recounted how another couple had been there "several years before" saying that this was their old family home. Ugh, yeah, that was the OTHER side of my family. Poor guy was getting stalked by us!

Traveling around the town, seeing my elementary schools and church, visiting my grandparents grave, was a bit surreal. It was like every memory I have coming out of my head and I was standing in it. Enough had stayed the same that I found myself saying, "The church is right up here" and I was right. I was home; I will never live there again, I likely won't be buried there but it was home, plain and simple. It will always be home.

My uncle's memorial was both heartbreaking and uplifting. As we drove up, we saw his neighbors walking up carrying plates of food. We had more food than anyone could ever eat and it was all delicious. The whole afternoon was informal; a minister was there and he read from the Bible and said a few words but he mostly guided the conversation and stories. I met the last few people on the planet who still call me by my first and middle name (I kinda like that they do) and we swapped memories of when we were little. I hadn't seen them in 20 years and we are back in contact again, which makes me so happy.) I loved on my cousins twins and chatted with the neighbors. Kids ran around, playing outside, reminding us that life goes on and his legacy lives in his children and grandchildren, the memories of his friends and the wonderful woodwork he created.

I held it together for most of the afternoon but I nearly lost it when I had to say good bye to my aunt. The image of her and my grandmother hugging and crying is something I will never forget. I think my heart broke a bit.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted that night. My aunts had to wake me up for dinner and I turned in early (for me) to enjoy the last night alone in a giant bed with no children to hog it. I even slept in the next morning.

Breakfast the next day was more rushed. When Dad asked if I was ready to go, I said, "No, but I'll go brush my teeth." I didn't want to leave. In spite of the very sad reason I was there, I felt happy. Relaxed. I'm sure part of it was because I was alone without any responsibilities but it also felt very natural to be in my first hometown. I know I am exactly where God needs me to be and where I need to be for my children...but I can still love that town too.

And, yes, I cried when I left my family.

The flights home were smooth and I got in early. Sunday was Bear's birthday so I gave my birthday boy a big hug and kiss. The house was standing, even if it was two steps above being on Hoarders. (Seriously, kids, why do I keep finding spoons in random places?) I spent all Monday cleaning up the Styrofoam from the packing on the boys new twin beds. Cole was a little more clingy than normal but none of them were the worse for spending two nights with just Daddy. As an added bonus, Adam got a taste of what I go through when he leaves!

So. That's the reason for my silence. I hope to pick up the writing pace a bit now. I've been feeling a bit more reflective (a memorial will do that to ya) but overall, I'm doing okay.

Me, to Aunt #2: Oh, did I ever tell you that you're my favorite aunt?
Aunt#1: Laura, did you say something?
Me: Me? No, just telling your sister how YOU are my favorite aunt!

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