Last night I stayed up chatting with my cousins. The ones closest to me, whom also live in Seattle. I had grabbed the box of leftovers and snacked on the homemade bread. The slices were double the size of a regular slice of bread. I looked down after snacking for a while, and saw that I had eaten three slices. I woke up Saturday morning feeling ready to walk with Aunt and Uncle. I didn’t want to eat anything except maybe a salad. On our walk we stopped to admire the architecture of the homes and churches around us. My favorite things to see was the different styles of stained glass. It was on most of the homes. I loved paying attention to the little things that made me feel connected to my family. Aunt and I were walking in front when I pointed out a spiral staircase fire escape. From about ten feet behind, I hear my Uncle saying “Look at that spiral staircase fire escape!” I smiled.
We all met for “breakfast” more like lunchtime. I had a salad, minus the croutons and cheese please. After brunch we headed to Grandma’s house. Today we were headed to the famous Junk Pile. Grandma and her sister love antiques. Grandma’s style is primitive. Her house is full of primitive dolls, furniture, and pictures. It is fun to walk around and look at all her treasures. One of her favorite places is the Junk Pile, it is an antique mall on the edge of town. I am not sure if I will find anything I want, I am excited to see where Grandma likes to spend time. I ride in the car with Grandma. She is not looking for anything in particular. She says she is always surprised when she gets there. Upon arrival, I am surprised to see it is a rather organized junk pile. There are a lot of old tools, kitchen items, gardening items, license plates, and much more. I love to see the unconventional items they use for price tags. In the garden section, it was all playing cards with the price written in permanent marker. Finally, someone is thinking about reusing and recycling. I found a few items I thought might be interesting, but put them back. I had enjoyed my experience with Grandma, and the rest of the family. I loved seeing what caught each individual’s eye. It was always something different. Even my cousin’s husband, who is from Germany. He thinks that most of the American antiques are just “junk”. Even he found some things he liked.
After the junk pile we headed back to the hotel. A cousin had rented a suite and we were having a potluck. Although only one person had made all the food. We brought all the drinks and ice. I was still appreciative for all the food having been prepared. We walked in and it smelled great. Barbecued meats, potato salad, and chips. It was a very relaxed atmosphere. We all rotated around the room, making sure no one was left out. I got talking to Great Uncle. He was feeling a little down this day, mostly because he was feeling old and tired. I was able to share with him something I had read in a book the day before about aging. That we are not only the age we are now, but also all the other ages we have been. I’m paraphrasing. I asked him about his life. His education, jobs, and places they have lived. Even though he felt ordinary, I was fascinated.
Great Aunt came by, and we all took turns hugging her, and telling her how beautiful she is. It was awesome to see her face light up. Those closest to her told us that she has not been this happy in a long time. She has a little trouble with every day things like eating and talking. She is in a wheelchair and has a live in nurse. It meant a lot to me that she remembered me, and that I have three little boys. She says I need a little girl. I don’t think so! I gave her hugs and kisses on her cheek. It was a very special day.
After a few hours, I was starting to feel antsy. I had been sitting for a long time, and started feeling trapped in the room with a lot of people. I needed to walk. I wanted a few minutes to breathe. I sat down and worked on a few drawings, thinking if I kept my hands busy maybe that would help. It didn’t. I knew that Auntie wanted to get a t-shirt from JoeStock. I asked her if she wanted to take a walk and go get one now. Thankfully, she said yes. Auntie, her cousin, and I walked down to JoeStock. There was an Ozzie Osbourne cover band playing. I thought it was pretty great. When they started playing an original song (it wasn’t that great) we decided to walk back. A walk was what I had needed. Getting out and moving felt great. We saw a bookstore/bar that had live music inside and we decided to pop in for a drink. Auntie’s cousin bought me a beer. I smiled and said thank you. It was a cute little place with books lined up on the wall in different categories. We sat around talking for about fifteen minutes. I thought about buying a book, and then I remembered the huge pile next to my bed at home. Back at the hotel, the family had thinned a bit. A few of the great Aunts had gone home. It felt a little more relaxed. Grandma started telling stories of her life. This is what I had been waiting for. I pulled out my phone and recorded some conversations. I loved hearing about the greatest day of her life. The day her divorce from her abusive husband was final. A few others decided to go down to the bar. I stayed in the room with Grandma and Auntie. Grandma was going to stay the night at the hotel. I was sitting next to Grandma on the couch. This is what my heart had longed for all those years. To sit close to family, and listen to them speak. To have conversations with those who truly loved me and had known me from birth. I felt my heart becoming full. I will never forget staring at Grandma while she talked. Hearing her accent and admiring her beautiful skin. She is silly, smart, and brave. Stubborn as anything but loves her family the most. I laughed at the way Auntie treated me like her baby. She kept saying “I gotta take care of my baby girl”. I truly loved it. We are all dealing with this loss of time in our own way. To love and be loved now is the goal. I didn’t want to, but it was time for bed. Tomorrow is the last full day.
Sunday morning, I am laying in bed enjoying the fact that I am awake, but don’t have to move. No little ones prying me out of bed. I hear a loud “knock knock knock” on the door. I can tell from how loud the knocking is, that it must be someone with fake knuckles. My Grandma. I open the door. She is wearing the clothes from last night. She says she is going home and we will meet at her sister’s house later for a barbecue. I’m excited. We are all anticipating this day because it is an idoor/outdoor party, and the hottest day of the weekend. Also the highest humidity. Auntie decides she wants to eat out and I decide I was espresso. I am tired of the regular watered down coffee from the lobby. We head to Starbucks before picking up a cousin for some shopping at the mall. Cousin wants a wallet and I want some sandals. Auntie just loves to shop. Once again, I am just enjoying time with family. We shop rather quickly in three stores before heading to Great Aunt’s house.
I love walking up to the family. Everyone is smiles, hugs, and kisses. Everyone, including Great Aunt, was sitting in the driveway eating yummy looking barbecue under some shade tents. There was misters attached to hoses in an attempt to keep everyone cool. It was hot, but not too bad. It was really humid. I looked at Great Aunt, wondering how she was handling it. She looked just fine. I suppose she is accustomed to this heat and humidity. I enjoyed eating and talking with everyone. I did not necessarily enjoy sitting in a pool of sweat. I would stand up as much as possible. Eventually a bunch of us went inside to enjoy the air conditioning. It was not a very long barbecue since it was too hot for most
We all went home to shower and nap before dinner. Most of the relatives were flying out in the morning, so this would be our last meal together. I caught wind of some people going to the casino. The casino is another place where Grandma loves to go to have fun. While I don’t usually like casinos, I decide to go because I don’t want to miss out on family time. The casino was really smoky, I decide it’s too smoky for me, but I saw a nature preserve building just a short walk away. So I decide to take a walk along the Missouri river. I went over and kissed Grandma on the cheek before heading outside. I took a deep breath of fresh air and decided to call home. I had been so busy with family, that I hadn’t called home a lot. I walked
along the river and had a good conversation with Husband. Everything was good at home. He had taken the boys to the county fair because I wanted a picture of baby riding a pony. I told him about our adventures. I was starting to miss Husband and my children. I was looking forward to going home. The river was beautiful, and by the time I got to the nature preserve, it was closed. That was okay. I was enjoying some alone time to gain clarity and check in with family at home.
Once back at the casino, I sat outside on a bench for a few minutes and waited for everyone. As much as I don’t like breathing smoke, I also really don’t like my clothes and hair to smell like smoke. I sat there watching out for bugs, and then I spotted the family slowly trickling out. They decided they wanted to walk along the river path. That was fine with me, I love to walk. A few of them had won some money inside, but they all had fun. Cousin and I walked down the dock, and I dipped my toes in the water. It was warm. I would have been tempted to jump in, except it was also muddy brown. We decided on air conditioned cars and dinner.
We drove to a pizza restaurant for dinner. It was so good. The cousins from New York said it was almost as good as their favorite pizza close to their house. I believe it. I sat next to my Dad’s cousin, and we talked of more visits. Telling each other we were welcome for visits at either of our homes. I was feeling a little sad that our time was almost done. Everyone was talking about going back to work, and our regular lives. I felt satisfied with the time we spent together this weekend. It was a beautiful beginning to the rest of our lives together. I feel the family bond forming. After dinner, we gathered in Aunt and Uncle’s hotel room. We needed to finish the beer and wine. No one was ready to say good-bye. We sat around talking for a long time. Before we knew it, bedtime had arrived. Most people had to get up early. Auntie, who had been my roommate, was going to stay at Grandma’s tonight, and I didn’t know if I would see them in the morning. More hugs and kisses, and most went to bed. I stayed up with cousins in their room for a little while. There was one more bottle of wine and three more beers to finish. We had a little trouble finding cups, so I dumped out my fruit cups and we used those. It ended up looking like urine samples. We laughed and cheered with our fruit/wine cups.
The next morning, I woke up early. I had some serious figuring out to do. How was I going to fit everything in my carry on? I got a text from Cousin that we were going to Grandma’s for breakfast. Yay! It took me about an hour, but I got everything organized in my bags. I went down to the lobby for coffee before we all went to Grandma’s house. I have one memory from when I was a child, before the cult, of Grandma making pancakes for me. I went in the kitchen to see if breakfast was ready. She said “No, do you want some syrup?” I thought “yes” but this was before I knew that “syrup” meant a swat on the bottom. I told Grandma that story and she laughed. Grandma’s house smelled like bacon and pancakes. Even though my stomach was still full from the last few days, the smell was heavenly. I did not interfere with the cooking process. We all stayed in the living room while Grandma was busy in the kitchen. I sat next to Auntie and we enjoyed our last few moments together. We were both so tired. I got the feeling that she wanted to stay forever. I don’t think Auntie was looking forward to going home. If my kids and Husband were there, I wouldn’t want to go home either. Goodbye hugs and kisses for Auntie, and we noticed she was starting to cry. While the van was backing out of the driveway, we all went out to the front walk to wave. I could see Auntie’s hand waving back through the tinted glass. I wanted her to remember the smiles and the waves. I hoped they would carry her safely home. Back inside, Cousin took a nap while the rest of us took turns sneaking into the kitchen and cleaning little bits, so Grandma wouldn’t find out. She said she would clean it when we left, but we didn’t want to make her do that. We talked about Grandma’s favorite antiques, and some of her antiquing adventures. She loved Amish country. I learned that Amish restaurant’s don’t have much flavor, but Grandma loves their gooseberry pie. I want to lock all these things into my memory. We walked outside and looked at the garden one more time. We walked around the house one more time, saying our mental goodbyes. Pretty soon it was time to say our real goodbyes and promises of future visits. We took a short detour through Kansas City, before realizing the store we were headed to was closed. Then it was off to the airport. At this point, I am anxious to see my children. I want the hugs and kisses. My lap feels empty without them. Cousin shares a movie with me on the plane, which helps to pass the time. I get so sad flying over the mountains, to see the air faded with smoke from the wildfires. Then I see Mount Rainier and know that I am almost home. The plane takes a wide circle over Seattle before heading for the runway. As soon as we touchdown, I am texting Husband. I am home! They have been tracking my flight, anxious for my arrival. I say my quick goodbyes to Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins before rushing out the doors to meet my family. I hear “honk!” And see the van. I opened the sliding door and see the most beautiful faces in the world. My boys. They are smiling and happy. I am home. My heart is a little more full than when I left. I am encouraged and peaceful. Husband and I hold hands the entire ride home. I cherish this family, and I love this family. I am loved and I am cherished.