Dearest Rachel –
Well, it could’ve happened at a worse time. Barely an hour before Jenn was supposed to pick me up so that we could drive to cousin Jim’s memorial service in the Twin Cities area, I get the bright idea to clean my glasses. Just as I start to rub the lens with that specialized cloth, it pops out – the lens, not the cloth. Worse yet, it’s because the screw holding the frame together has come undone. That’s right – and I know you’re dying to say it – I’ve got a screw loose.
This would’ve been a disaster if it had happened while I was on the cruise – or if we were already on the road. As it is, at least I have just enough time to find an old pair of glasses that are reasonably serviceable, if just a tiny bit weaker in prescription. I’ve definitely got to make an appointment with the optometrist when I get back home to get my eyes checked, and get myself a new pair of glasses going forward.
I don’t know whether the fact that we’re taking a road trip takes the edge off the fact that this journey is specifically for a memorial service. What I do know is that such an event seems an entirely appropriate way to spend the twenty-third of the month.
That’s right, honey. I still remember that it’s the fifteenth month since the accident. It’s possible that, since I’ve been making a point of communicating with you every day, I’m that much more aware of the specific day, but I’m not entirely certain.
Fifteen months doesn’t sound like a lot of time, and yet it will occasionally feel like forever. I’m not sure if it’s everything that’s happened since on a personal level, or the fact that things have gone mad on a global scale as well (complete with idiots leading us headlong into some combination of the Great Recession – if not Depression – and World War III), but it seems that it’s been so long since you were here.
Maybe it’s just having spent so much time by myself in empty hotel rooms since then.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By the time she came around to get me, Jenn had already picked up cousin Doris, so I packed my things into the trunk, and plunked myself into the backseat. While I’ve ridden there with the folks from time to time recently (mostly when they’re driving me to or from the airport), I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve been in the backseat of a car for any extended period of time. Maybe not since I moved out of the house.
This meant that I was only marginally involved in the conversations between the two of them, for the most part. That’s not to say that I was excluded – I was asked about, and I filled them in on, my little hospital adventure earlier this week – but it’s hard to stay a part of the conversation when you’re behind everybody, and they’re facing (and talking) forward. Dennis, Doris’ late husband (and Dad’s cousin) was into genealogy, researching the family history in places like Salt Lake City and Sweden for whatever information he could glean, so she knows about the vast sweep of the family tree. Meanwhile, Jan is an avid Facebooker, keeping up with everybody online. By contrast, I’m something of an isolationist. So, most of the subjects being discussed had me completely lost.
At one point, they began to talk about Doris’ father Wally, who apparently headed his county’s organization on defensive driving – an ironic situation, as anyone who ever rode in his car might attest. It seems that his driving habits skipped a generation, and were passed down to his grandson, who would likely have gotten us to our hotel stop in Chippewa Falls at least an hour sooner than Jenn. Having ridden with Brian several times to business meetings at camp, I can confirm this. At least, however, he doesn’t drive on the shoulder, like his grandfather was known to.
Jenn and Doris also reminisce about Doris’ mom, whose name I can’t remember, and don’t even think was dropped. For my part, I can only remember uncle Wally’s second wife, Martha, who was every bit as boisterous and hail-fellow-well-met as her husband. It’s a tiny bit sad to think that, come the next generation, the kids won’t remember you in connection with me. I know that it doesn’t really make a difference to you where you are these days, but it still bothers me at the moment. I sometimes feel as if I’ve been reabsorbed back into my own family after having been one with you and yours for all these years. From a family perspective, it’s like I’m back where I started, and everything on your side of the tree never existed. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a wonderful family to be a part of, and I love it (and everyone in it) dearly. It’s just that, there used to be others on your side, but those connections have been completely severed with your departure.
After dining in Madison (which Doris picks up – thank you Doris), Jenn fills up her tank (which is so much more affordable north of the state line), and we continue on. By 9 o’clock, we are still an hour away from the hotel, and it is pitch black out there; Wisconsin does not light the interstates the way Illinois does. Doris comments on how it seems so much later than it really is – like we’re driving at midnight or some such. I can’t disagree with her, and I suddenly feel that much more tired. At least I don’t have to drive, so I can shut my eyes and at least try to sleep, if I could see my way clear to; not that I managed to.
Or maybe I did, because it didn’t seem like all that long before we arrived at the hotel. I know that, as individual adults with our individual quirks (not to mention the fact that I’m a male traveling with two females), we would each need a room for ourselves, but it’s weird to think that, back in the day, the family would have bundled ourselves all into one room. I don’t know if that was because we were all just one family, or if it’s just that we can afford individual rooms like we couldn’t back then, but things certainly have changed.
Since they’re low on rooms, I actually wind up getting upgraded to a suite:
I’m not sure why they ask permission to a guest when they do that; unless they’re going to charge me more for my room, I’m certainly not going to object. The only problem I can see is the fact that the curtains don’t close entirely. Oh, they close enough to create privacy, but they don’t seem to keep the light out from outside, which means…
…I’m awake at six in the morning, after having a dream about the Top Gear guys and several panelists from QI involved in a sort of Iron Chef parody. Basically, each of the guys are given an unmarked can of meat and an unmarked package of seasoning, and instructed to make a meal of it. Now I know that Britain has given us Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, but these fellows aren’t them. It might still be a funny concept.
I think, at this point, I’ve rambled on long enough, honey. Besides, I need to get cleaned up, get breakfast, and get packed back up. I’ll talk to you later.
Until then, keep an eye out for me.