I forgot to mention in my last post that Dad and I had a wonderful dinner, just the two of us last Thursday. I enjoyed spending time with him and really being able to talk, and it’s nice that we can chat on a wide range of topics. Becoming friends with your parents is a pretty cool side benefit of getting older, and I am definitely enjoying that aspect of being in my 50’s.
On Saturday, I left DeDe and Denny’s for the last time, and headed out for a whirlwind day of meeting folks. Although we had lots of time during the week when we visit home, most folks are working traditional jobs, so Saturdays and Sundays fill up fast. Plus people have their own lives happening with church, football games, other family events, so it can be pretty tough to see everyone you want to see. Mom helped me solve this problem by scheduling a family gathering on Sunday with her side of the family and despite the short notice almost everyone was able to come. Dad also had some people down on Saturday night and Saturday and Sunday were jam-packed.
You may have noticed that Lee and I have been apart more than together the last several days and this was an intentional choice on our part. It is flat-out impossible to see everyone when we are trying to do this together and since we spend so much time together in our regular life, we didn’t feel the need to be with each other on our “vacation”. The break probably served us well and since Lee had the opportunity to pick up a couple of days work with the old company he used to work for that money definitely came in handy. I know he was missed at my family gatherings and I assume I was missed at his get-togethers. Hopefully people understood, because more than anything else we wanted to spend concentrated time with our parents. I will say that absence does make the heart grow fonder, and by the end of the week I really missed him. It’s weird not being able to turn to him and tell him stuff, and although we are keeping in close contact via texting, it’s not the same.
We did start the weekend together and went to a Sunbury campground to see one of our oldest friends, Ted. Ted was the best man at our wedding and has caught the camping bug and he and his family have a really nice Grand Design travel trailer in a seasonal site. I didn’t even know Grand Design made a travel trailer, and they are really nice inside. Ted was kind enough to invite a couple of Lee’s friends from high school as well and the four of us had a very nice lunch and caught up with each other. Since Lee and I got married so young they are my friends as well, and we all share a history with one another.
My day was so jam-packed that I had to leave early, so I hugged and kissed everyone goodbye and drove from the far north of Columbus to the far south to meet my Aunt Cathy. My Aunt has been reading my blog from the beginning and has been a huge supporter of the lifestyle and she even bought me dinner while I was in Texas because she was thinking of me. It means a lot to me when family members take the time to check in on me and I absolutely wanted to spend some time with her. We met at the Grove City Brewing Company and although I have not been drinking while driving my in-laws car, I did have a $2 sample size of the Grove City brewed pumpkin ale. It was really good and pretty novel to drink something brewed in my previously small hometown and we spent almost two hours catching up.
Cathy also brought me a present which was really amazing, because it was based on reading about our life and putting some thought into what I might need. She had an extra Kindle Fire, still in the box, and I was blown away when she handed it to me. I haven’t had much luck reading on my iPad because it hurts my eyes, but I am excited to try out the Fire. Plus since we are Amazon Prime members I get one free e-book a month, and its small size and “book like” holder seem like a pretty cool solution to needing a book on the go. Most of our friends are 100% ebook because it helps with the space, and although I like reading a paper book, you can’t always get the titles you want. Frankly it’s just easier and I am interested to see how my eyes do with this new format.
We could have talked for hours, but she was very understanding that I had also scheduled a visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years. Beth and I went to second grade together, lived down the street from one another in high school, and played soccer together. She is an elementary school teacher and doesn’t do Facebook, so we had lost touch over the years although I tried to keep up on her life a little from other mutual friends. My dad and her dad are very good friends, and when they all saw each other at a local restaurant on Tuesday night (Grove City may be bigger than when I was a kid, but it’s still a very small town) she gave my dad her phone number. He passed it along and we made plans to see each other around 4:30pm.
Beth was always a very kind person, so I wasn’t nervous about seeing her, but I did think there might be some initial awkwardness because so much time had passed. Instead, Beth came in, started laughing (she has a great laugh) and we started talking as if we were continuing a conversation that we had left off earlier in the week. I know I say that we pick up relationships with people easily despite the separation, and it is definitely true, but even I was surprised when it happened with someone I haven’t seen in 20 years. Some people and relationships are just special though, and Beth definitely falls into that category for me. There were some differences of course. We have grown kids and our lives have gone in completely different directions, but as she said at our core we are still the same people, just hopefully a little more mature. I had a wonderful time hanging out with her, and again could have talked for hours, but finally had to leave because I was late for a get together at dad’s house.
Thankfully Dad understood, and they had saved me the lobster rolls and shrimp everyone had made. I spent a couple of hours at his house with my brother and his family, Aunt Susie and Uncle Don, Barb, and some friends of Dad’s I recently met and then headed up to Upper Arlington to my mom’s house. Five distinct groups in one day is a stretch even for me, and I watched a little TV with mom and then collapsed into bed. We needed to get up the next day and prepare for the big family gathering and I was pooped out.
The next day folks started to arrive around 1:30pm and by 2pm we had a full house. Most of my cousins were there along with my great-uncle Larry and my grandfather (who are both widowers and now live together). My Aunt Diane and her daughter Trish and her family were there along with my brother, his family and his in-laws. I was grateful and humbled that everyone had found time on short notice to come and see me, and everyone seemed to enjoy catching up with each other. Even though everyone else lives in the same town, they don’t get together as a big group that often and it was nice that everyone saw one another.
I should probably explain that growing up in a small town often means you have lots of relatives you go to school with. My Uncle John was one grade ahead of me in school. His wife Wendy, my cousin Mike, and his wife Stacy all graduated in the same class together. And my cousin Troy was one grade later, and cousin Lori was two grades later. Being in school with family members can be a little weird. It’s likely that at school you run in different circles and have different interests but you see each other at family gatherings and have a shared childhood history that is a strong bond. In my case, since I was an only child for 11 years, these cousins were the closest thing to brothers and sisters I had, and as a little kid we spent tons of time together. Our families just threw us all in a group together and all the adults parented everybody, so I have a strong connection to all of them and their parents.
Unfortunately my cousin Troy was unable to come because one of his kids had a football game and my Uncle Larry (who is an avid blog reader) was in Texas on vacation. They were both sorely missed but hopefully I will get to see them next time around. As with my other friends, the conversation was very different of course. Mike and Stacy are grandparents three times over (I know they don’t come close to looking old enough to be grandparents) and I spent quite a bit of time talking about healthcare and retirement with my cousin Mark. We also talked about my lifestyle and many of them had lots of questions. My cousin Trish is a self described minimalist and she and her husband were really interested in what we were doing. It was a great gathering and again felt really blessed that people found the time to come on such short notice, and after everyone left Mom and I cleaned the house (she is in the processing of selling so it needs to stay “show ready”) and once again I collapsed into bed, tired but happy with the people I was able to see.
The next morning Mom and I got up and she followed me when I took back DeDe and Denny’s car back to their house. Then we stopped at the greenhouse DeDe and Denny work at to see their haunted house. DeDe and Denny have worked at de Monye’s since retirement from their “grownup jobs” and really enjoy working with the plants. The greenhouse also has a kid friendly haunted house and play area this time of year and Dede, who is incredibly talented, decorates the area. I have known DeDe for 30 years and always knew she is more talented than many professional interior decorators, but even I was blown away by the haunted house. It was really large for one thing, and each little area in it had it’s own theme. Plus, it was very kid friendly (although the spider room creeped me out a little bit), and for a set fee kids get the haunted house, a straw maze, animal viewing area, popcorn, and more. Really great idea, and again, beyond anything I expected, so if you have small kids and live in the Columbus area you really should check it out. Look for the tiny lady with the spiked grey hair and tell her you read about it in the blog!
Mom and I stopped for lunch and then headed back to her house. We both had to pack for our upcoming trip and I wanted to spend some time with my brother. We had seen each other several times throughout the week, but with so many other people around hadn’t really spent much time together, so we scheduled pizza dinner on Monday night and we were finally able to spend some quality time together. Eddie has grown up to be a pretty chill guy and is handling parenthood very well. There is something to be said for becoming a parent later in life and he shows a patience that I never had with my kids when they were three. Plus he really seems to be enjoying every moment with his son and step-daughter and it was just fun to watch them play together. Looking forward to coming back and spending Christmas with them after Amazon, so it wasn’t too bad saying goodbye to everyone.
Next up Mom and I are headed down to Myrtle Beach to look at condos, and we are seeing my sister Wendy and my daughter Kyrston along the way. Simultaneously, Lee is driving up to New Hampshire to clean out our portion of our storage unit, and bring the small amount of things we have left back to his parents in Columbus. Then he will get the RV, and drive down to meet me at Kyrston’s where we will spend a few days together and then we we will drive up to Amazon. Tired yet?? I know the schedule is nuts, but we need to make the most of our time back east before we head out west again!
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