I couldn’t just name this “Vacation”, since I’ve taken a number of them since I’ve been writing. I’ve been to Florida to visit our Granddaughter Kelly and her family; I came to Ohio from Indiana; and I recently returned from a 6 day vacation in Northwest Indiana - then Chicago.
Our Granddaughter Molly was celebrating her 35th Birthday in August, so I wrote to John in July to see if any “celebration” were planned.
He replied that no “specific” plans had been made, but that they’d be glad for me to come up anyway.
Molly’s birthday was on Saturday, and since I am retired, my schedule is practically vacant - at least for major things. So, I wondered about taking a Bus to Chesterton, on Thursday before her birthday.
When I mentioned this to Jim and John, they got together on the telephone and decided they’d like for Jim to take me “half way” - somewhere near Lafayette - so I wouldn’t have to spend all day on the bus - and John would meet us there. The bus ride DOES take about nine hours for the whole trip. I’ve taken it before.
With my practically empty schedule - at least most anything could be dropped - I told them to just let me know when it was convenient for them to “drop me off”. No problem.
I marked the dates of Friday thru the following Monday to be gone, and I deleted normal plans for daily exercising; breakfast, lunch and supper every day (these are regularly on my BlackBerry daily schedule); lunch outing trips; afternoon bus rides; etc.
About a week before, John called and said that he and Tonya would be in Bloomington IN over that previous week-end, and were planning on returning home on Tuesday (prior to the planned Thursday). They would be driving through Indianapolis. Meeting there would be no change for John and Tonya, and would be considerably shorter for Jim to drive, taking me.
“Works for me”, I said.
On that Tuesday, Jim called and said he’d pick me up near 5PM. I suggested that I might save his coming all the way to my place, if I would just drive over to his house - on the way to Indianapolis from here. I’d just leave my car and car keys with him.
Our schedules worked out right, and at about 5:30PM, we left Springfield.
Jim and John reported from Cell to Cell, to learn what our locations were, as we drove.
About 15 or 20 minutes before we planned to meet, Jim and I “pulled” into a BP station on Post Road east of Indianapolis, and Jim reported to John that we had arrived.
They were on their way, and shortly, they drove in. They came right beside Jim’s van on my side, and Tonya and John got out. We greeted one another and hugged. They had already eaten, so I went in to the station for a milk shake. They went to Jim’s side of the car, and they each got caught up on news of the families.
We parted our ways - Jim back to Springfield, and us to Chesterton.
We arrived at maybe 10 PM, and we brought in our luggage, and went to bed. I slept in the same bed and room that Jean and I had while we were living with them.
There were many people I had gotten to know while living there a year and a half - not the least of which were the men at the Wednesday night Bible Class that I had attended, and, the church I visited on Sundays.
But, I was there for FAMILY, and I was determined to stay with them whenever I could.
On Wednesday morning after breakfast, John and Tonya were busy with their Internet Radio Ministry they were involved in - especially after being gone for several days in Southern Indiana.
And, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren wouldn’t be available until after 10 AM.
That being the case, at a little before 9AM, I asked John if he felt it was OK for me to take their second car and visit the Nursing Home where Jean had been a resident for 5 months before she passed.
“Fine”, he said.
I then drove the familiar 2 or 3 miles to the Nursing Home, and went in the door I always entered before.
Right away, I saw four staff members I had known, before I had hardly left the front door. We greeted each other - and hugged. All glad to see me, as I was them.
On the way to the Nurses' Floor where Jean had lived, I stopped by the Rehabilitation Center, then across the Hall to the Beauty Parlor which Jean had frequented regularly. Remembered and greeted several staff members in the Center, and the Beautician came to the door and hugged me. Farther down that hall were the Activity Director and her Assistant. Two hugs again.
Turning the corner to the second hall, I ran across Claude, a tall male African American Nurse I remembered, and he said, “Mike. How are you?” And gave me a hug.
Farther down to the Nurses’ station, I saw several nurses, aides and other staff I remembered from before, and we all had a friendly greeting for each other, and several hugs.
I saw two of the three ladies that Jean ate with every meal. Though I saw them independently, both smiled, but didn’t remember me - nor even Jean when I mentioned her name.
Kind of a shock.
I left then, after asking for the code to let me out of the door.
I must have been told a “dozen” times that “You're lookin' good”. Of course, I then gave them my standard story about that, and it seemed like none of them had heard it.
It was time enough then to go to Molly’s.
But first, I drove by Jean’s grave site in the Cemetery there. John and Tonya have kept it up. It’s a block and a half from both Molly’s and Bobby’s houses.
I pulled up out in front of Molly’s, and hadn’t even got the door open, when Elijah, Mary, Priscilla and Benjamin all RAN out to meet me. Many hugs were had by all. Molly followed shortly, and welcomed me in. Heere are Mary, Elijah, Priscilla and Benjamin on their front porch.
The first thing I noticed outside was the new Trampoline in their back/side yard. Molly’s family and their neighbor bought it together.
Inside, every one spoke at once, and we just “reacquainted” ourselves with one another. They showed me new things, and Mary right away wanted to play “Barbies”.
She had a new Barbie house I hadn’t seen before, so she got it out while I got down on the floor beside her. Molly right away hauled out her camera and took pictures.
After awhile, John and Tonya walked in the door, and asked Mary and me if we wanted to go to Merrillville to the “grocery”. Of course we did.
Tonya got in back with Mary and the car seat, and I climbed in beside John.
That Mary, about to turn four, jabbered to Tonya the whole time. Tonya came right back at her, and they talked and giggled the whole way.
I must stop right here and mention something.
For years, I’ve said - very sincerely - that Jean was the “best Grandma” I ever laid eyes on. I know her grandchildren think that.
But, seeing Tonya with HER grandchildren the 6 days I was there, and remembering her with them while we lived there, I have to say that Tonya rates right up there with Jean as the “best Grandma”.
Before the “grocery”, we stopped at a fast food restaurant for terrific hamburger sandwiches, then on to the store.
I had remembered the store from when I lived with them. And, I have to say, it may be the LARGEST and most complete “grocery store” I have ever seen. And, it’s MORE than a “grocery store”.
This was Wednesday, the night when the Men’s Bible Class meets. It would have been nice to go there, but I found out what the family was doing, and I went with them.
One of the things we did was to take Elijah - Molly’s oldest - to Valparaiso for a play practice. Then, later we picked him up.
After dropping him off at home, we went to Bobby and Paige’s to visit. Paige’s brother, Zachary is temporarily staying with them as he gets his business off the ground. We spent a nice time with them - Bobby, Paige, Isabelle, Janie and Zach.
What a wonderful thing - to visit with family you don’t see regularly.
On Thursday, John and Tonya had a lot to do, besides letting me use my “ScanDisk Drive” in their computer, to get stories to write on and post on my blog.
There were two Pharmacists I had gotten acquainted with when I lived there, but both of them were unavailable Wednesday or Thursday. I saw them both on Friday - one in the next town of Portage.
I spent part of Thursday morning visiting my barber; banker; hearing aid specialist; pastor; and Jean’s main and favorite Nurse named Beth, at the Nursing Home. I had missed her on Wednesday. We greeted each other with a hug, and a “nice to see you”.
The rest of Thursday is a “blur”, but I did offer to take John and Tonya out to eat - which never happened! Instead, on Saturday night THEY TOOK ME to my favorite restaurant in Northern Indiana - well, really in southwest Michigan - in the town of New Buffalo.
I didn’t get to spend much money in Northern Indiana this trip.
On Friday morning, John said, “When we get done here, let’s go for a ride. Maybe to Amish Country”.
We stopped by Molly’s to pick up Mary, then we got Janie - Bobby and Paige’s youngest - and took off for Goshen, Indiana - in the Amish Country.
On the way, the girls and Tonya in the backseat, were jabbering all the way. Tonya had told them that we were going to a Restaurant, but that it was a secret. When one of their mothers called (Don’t remember which one), the girls said they had a secret, and were NOT going to tell. Lots of fun.
We got to Goshen, and John took us right to the South Side Restaurant there - a landmark, actually - that Jean had gone with us to over a year ago. We all had our meal - talking the whole time - then got back in the car for the return trip, another way.
Mary, Tonya and Janie in South Side Restaurant.
What a wonderful day!
Earlier picture of Benjamin, Isabelle (Bobby and Paige's oldest) and Priscilla.
Late that afternoon, I took one final trip to the Nursing Home - planning to arrive there during the evening meal. I hadn’t been able to see Jean’s former roommate before, and I knew I could at mealtime.
When I walked by the Dining Room, she waved to me. I was a little shocked, for she was now in a wheel chair. Before, she did a lot of walking around the Home. She’s only a little over 50, but suffers from MS, and is in declining health.
I went to the other dining room where Jean ate, and saw the mother of one of Jean’s table mates there with the others. She used to come at noon to see her mother.
I was glad to see her, and told her that her mother hadn’t recognized me. She shook her head, because she knew. A third “table mate” was there, and she said she thought I looked familiar, but she couldn’t place me. I mentioned that I was the husband of Jean, but I’m not sure that registered.
Finally on Friday, I visited the family of John and Tonya’s Orthodox priest, Father Bill Bass, knowing that I couldn’t see them after church Sunday, since I was going to Chicago. After MY church each Sunday, I visited theirs to fellowship in the basement.
They had just returned from Notre Dame, having taken their son, Billie there for a 4 year “full ride”, on a swimming scholarship.
On Saturday, we not only celebrated Molly’s 35th, but also Mary’s 4th, and Troy’s (?) Anyway, here’s their picture with their cake.