About twice a year we travel west from Cleveland for about a week. To visit my Mom (Oh yeah, and my brothers, too) in Missouri and our daughter Rebecca in Iowa. We took this trip a couple weeks ago, and I’ll share some of the fun with you.
It’s a tradition. As Murray’s trying to figure out which road to take somewhere along the way, I’ll say, “Go west, young man.” And he’ll always ask, “Who said that?” and I’ll say, “Some newspaper guy.” (Horace Greeley)
There are other landmarks along the way we always enjoy. A huge cross set up somewhere in the middle of Illinois; the Arch as we enter St. Louis. Another of our favorite traditions since the kids were little? Murray always honks when we enter a new state. Everybody’s grown, and Ping-Hwei’s usually the only one who goes with us, but we wouldn’t think of passing a state line without this signal.
One stop we made this year was to take pictures at a house in St. Louis where Murray lived when he was eight or nine. He showed me how close their school was, only a five-minute walk. They came home every day for lunch.
Mom had her eightieth birthday last spring, so I told her recently to let me know if she’d rather we stay in a hotel when we come. She said, “Oh no, I like being around people.” It made me think.
Dad moved to a nursing home eleven years ago, two and a half years before he died. She’s been alone for a long time. I only ever lived by myself for two years, in an apartment, before I got married.
We had lunch in our favorite restaurant when we visit Mom, a pizza joint which also sells hotdogs with a lovely supply of toppings. Ping-Hwei ordered a shrimp pizza, which really concerned me, but my brother Rodney was nice. He asked Ping-Hwei if he could taste it and said it was pretty good.
On Sunday we went to the Hope School reunion, held every three years. My Mom went there to school, a one room school house which started sometime in the late 1800s and closed in 1955. Each time now, when they gather the students for a picture, there are fewer. This year there were twelve. One of the men there this year said he was the entire first grade class the last year the school was open.
Several of the ladies who came to help set up for the day go to my Mom’s church. When others from the church came later, including the minister, he said, “Oh, here’s the rest of the church.” One of the ladies asked him, “Did you pray for us?” He said, “Oh, I did more than that. I used you in illustrations.”
My cousin Vernon sat beside me and told me his son was about to turn forty. I told him, “The other day I complained to Mom that my baby is in his third year or college, and she told me her baby is almost ready to retire. So I figured I’d better stop complaining.”
After we left Mom’s house, on the twisty country roads, we almost hit a deer. Murray said the deer was almost across the road. When he saw us, he turned and ran back the other way. Poor guy.
While we were with Rebecca, we stopped by a store so she could get cold medicine. She asked, because she’s my daughter, “Should I get candy?” Murray said no, I said yes, and she brought chocolate.
Rebecca took us to her animal shelter and let me play with many happy dogs and cats. The next day she asked if I wanted to go to her friend’s house to see her pet snake. I really don’t feel comfortable with snakes, but because Rebecca’s my daughter, I went. I even held it, a ball python.
When we got ready to leave Rebecca’s apartment on the last night, I stood up and said, “Okay, Rebecca, let me give you a hug.” She muttered, sounding maybe somewhat disgruntled, but as I moved toward her, she slammed into me for the hug.
We listened to books including a Lincoln Rhyme mystery. As we stopped at a rest stop in Iowa coming home, Murray mentioned, “Oh, I found a good parking space.”
Here I experienced a technique of a writer that I am always impressed by. The Lincoln Rhyme book takes place in Italy. As I was getting out of the car, I thought, maybe our disability parking pass won’t be acceptable in Italy,, so drawn into the story had the author brought me.