A Weekend in a Day

Dearest Rachel –

It’s weird to realize how little of what I’d had lined up for this weekend would have happened were you still with me. It’s even stranger to realize how few of the plans that I thought I had actually managed to pan out. And yet, there was plenty else to rush in and fill the voids left by the diminution of my original plans. I’m sure that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at first. So let me explain a little further.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned about the PJ Media group. This was a special perk of subscribing to the conservative online news service; several of the columnists had, throughout the pandemic, created a weekly chat room where they would (on camera) expound on various matters other than the breaking news of the day, while the subscribers would be able to chat with each other, and (when said columnists bothered to notice the chat) ask questions of the hosts. You actually managed to participate in one of these chats a couple of days before the accident. I had hoped it could be a regular thing, where you would connect from home while I would link up from the ‘office,’ but, well, life (and the Lord) had other plans.

In any event – and I have no idea what triggered it in the first place – several regular members of the chat came up with the idea of getting together here in meatspace. One of the regulars lives in Elmhurst, less than a 40 minute drive away, and several others expressed interest in traveling to Chicago, and the idea took root. These regulars started meeting occasionally on Zoom, as well as the usual Thursday afternoon chat room, in order to arrange the details. For my part, I blocked out the days on my own calendar…

…only to discover later that VBS would be wrapping up on the Friday of that weekend, and because I’d blocked out the date, I hadn’t been assigned an official place among the volunteers. I quickly let the group know that I would be delayed on Friday, and made the effort to attend both the briefing and each evening of VBS in the booth, regardless.

However, come Friday afternoon, after a long walk (including a stop at New Trier High School to obtain a couple of bottles of water, where Lars talked our way onto campus with a insouciant lack of guile that made me feel like I was one of the Doctor’s companions: “Just walk in like you owned the place; it always works for me”) and a pleasant lunch, I attempted to contact our would-be hostess to determine if my late arrival would be acceptable…

…only to discover that there was nothing going on that night after all. Only one member of the group had actually made it into town, and lodged as she was downtown, it would be challenging for her to head out to Elmhurst. Besides, she was only in town for the weekend, and wanted to see the sights. So, the planned weekend-long get-together had dwindled to a dinner some time Saturday evening (which is to say, tonight). She would have more details for me tomorrow as things unfolded.

Well. This was mildly disappointing, to a certain extent, but it also opened my schedule up to accept a number of other activities. Nothing like keeping a busy calendar to mitigate any dismay at such disruptions. For starters, I could serve at VBS with a clear mind, serene in the knowledge that I wasn’t missing anything important. It turned out to be a shorter session than usual, highlighted by the sliming (as selected by the amount of coins contributed to her bucket in support of Pastor James’ mission in his Nigerian homeland) of the girl serving as MC for the week. There was some talk about the buckets being deliberately stuffed with coins to produce a predetermined outcome, but if so, Kaylee was not a party to the vote fraud, and indeed, seemed to want little part of it. She bore up under the onslaught (of a mélange of applesauce, vanilla pudding and green food dye) if not with dignity, at least sportingly, and in fact, was almost completely cleaned up (apart from her hair being tied back in a bun) by the time everything was capped off by the arrival of a shave ice truck.

The next morning, I was able to attend the men’s Bible study, and also a small barbecue being held early in the afternoon by our leader, Jeff. I had originally turned down the invitation, because of this weekends plans, but as they had been truncated, I was able to show up. Recall, though, that I had never been a part of the study prior to your passing, because Saturday mornings were always ‘our’ time. So this, too, was another case of something that I would never have been a part of while you were still around. It’s amazing to realize how much in my life has changed in these scant seventeen months. And as much as I wonder what you would have made of these changes, I keep having to acknowledge that you would never see them, even if you were still around, because they wouldn’t have happened in that case.

Be that as it may, I’d gotten word from our hostess that we would be meeting at the Berghoff restaurant downtown. Now, I thought that had closed down years back – evidently, I had been mistaken, or possibly misinformed. Anyway, given our experience with driving down, and especially parking, in the city proper, I chose to take the ‘L’ down there rather than drive. After all, there was a station right around the corner from the place. The only question was, when would I have to leave in order to make it on time?

I actually slowed myself down by offering to pick up dinner for Daniel beforehand – and, more to the point, picking up an anniversary card for Bill and Jenn on my way. Either errand by itself would have been okay, but when the two stops were combined, I barely made it back to the house by 5:30, giving me an hour and a half to drive to the station, and ride the train in. To be fair, I thought that would be ample time.

As a side note, though, I have to confess that even the routine matter of finding an anniversary card is a more painful process than it ought to be. You know, we were supposed to carry on together for the rest of my life. It’s these little things that spur a momentary flash of envy that I’m not proud of, but I never see coming until it hits me.

Anyway, with Daniel taken care of, and a baseball cap procured to ward against the possibility of rain (by evening, the chances were running at about 50/50), I made it to the train – and arrived at the Monroe station with less than ten minutes to spare for the meeting time as set.

There were but the two ladies; our hostess, and the traveler, who had come all the way from South Carolina. That was it. But in fairness, they were not about to let the small group get in the way of having a good time. Honestly, I’d wager that more was said between us than would have been had there been more of us, most of which I shan’t repeat – mostly because I tend to forget what’s said in conversation. I’m sure that, if not for the fact that I had every bit as much to say as they did, that I would make a great priest for keeping secrets.

I can barely keep track of what I ordered, and how it tasted. The ladies (both of whom are more adept at social media than I am) had me write it down as I was taking a picture of it. Clockwise from the top: duck (slightly sweet), wild boar (grainy in texture, but otherwise much like standard pork) and venison (spicy, but not in a ‘hot’ sense; more like ‘well-seasoned’).

Susan, our hostess, filled me in on the restaurant: apparently, the original family had decided to call it quits within the last decade, but it seems that some distant relative (well, relatively speaking, anyway) had decided to revive it after all. They even kept most of the old decor, including liquor license number one, the first one issued to an establishment in the state after the repeal of Prohibition. So it’s a historic place that respects tradition. Which shouldn’t come as a great surprise; this is the city that keeps Wrigley Field in pristine condition (apart from the addition of a vast quantity of lights these days).

We chatted as the bar began to empty out (the last customers on Saturdays are let in at 7:30, so we only made it by half an hour or so), and by the time we left just before nine, we were practically the last ones left. You would have been proud of us. We even talked with the fellow whose job it was to clean the place after nearly everyone was gone; he was a colorfully personable fellow whose only complaint was that a few protestors (who we’d seem a few passing by early in the evening) had slapped a sticker or two on the furniture. Those things have to be removed carefully, so as to not damage the finish. Not exactly the way to win him over to their cause.

We wandered the streets of the city for a couple of block until we arrived at Jennifer’s hotel. Susan had, at this point, given up on walking the mile to Oglivy Station for a Metra that would either leave in 13 minutes (not enough time for her to even run there) or that she would have to wait for until 10:45. So, she called for an Uber, at which point, we all said our goodbyes. It may be that next year, I might consider hosting a similar get together, since Susan was dealing with certain circumstances that ended up precluding being the hostess she’d intended to be. If nothing else, the kitchen would be ready for it.

The trip home was relatively uneventful. I did see a few individuals in black bloc; I’m guessing they were returning from the day’s protests. At least one had a shirt specifically identifying herself as such, but I bit my tongue. There was a blue haired gentleman (and I use the term loosely) that I spotted on the train, even getting off at the Rosemont stop. I admit to being sorely tempted to ask whether he was at the protests, and whether they managed to change any minds – or if they realized that, here in Illinois, nothing is going to change between pre- and post-Roe. It’s the sort of behavior I know you would have disapproved of, and one of many reasons I didn’t make the attempt. That doesn’t eliminate the curiosity, or the temptation, though. It’s the sort of thought that’s almost appropriate for an evening given to meeting up with members of a conservative community such as PJ Media.

Anyway, that’s what my day – which was supposed to have been my whole weekend – was like. Wish I could hear from you about how things are on your side.

Still, until I can, keep an eye out for me, honey, and as always, wish me luck (and discretion) – I’m going to need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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