In spite of its less than stellar beginning, the trip back to Iowa has exceeded expectations. We have seen, were seen, and by this time tomorrow – the goddess willing – we will be getting ready to land in Minneapolis for the final leg of our journey home. Home, where apparently winter is getting ready to take up his nine month residence. No joke. Snow by week’s end. I plan to console myself with a new pair of winter boots.
The wedding went off with only the slightest of hitches. The groomsmen were hungover and the bride’s wedding band had been sized too small. Aside from that every detail announced my niece – her personality, taste and style. Only she could use every shade of pink known to man in a way that was elegant rather than Disney princess.
The hotel where we stayed was on the plaza recreation of a canal street that had only just been finished the last time I visited Pella with Will. It is – interestingly – just across the street from his grandmother’s house, a house she bought with the proceeds of the life insurance policy of Will’s late father. I noted that the building belongs to a historical preservation society now. I haven’t any idea where Lucy is. She could be dead. She is old enough to be dead.
Rob and I walked the town square on Sunday morning. The day was crisply fall. As Rob snapped a photo here and there, it occurred to me that this was what Will and I had done on that last visit. It was Easter of 2001. We’d been coerced/guilted into including his relatives on a stop on our way back from my folks. After a quick bite, we’d escaped the dagger looks of disappointment from his mother for a stroll in rather bitter spring air. She was angry because Will’s cousin announced her pregnancy that day and there she was without a grandbaby or one on the way.
“I should be the one wearing the grandma shirts,” she complained to him.
We strolled the canal that day. Took photos. Never dreaming that someday he would be dead and I would be there again, remarried and ruminating a bit on the twistyness of life.
Staying in a hotel on our own has become this wonderful treat. It’s like Idaho Falls again except we do get outside the room for more than just food. I am not sure how much longer we will be able to leave Dee with my mom overnight. It struck me forcibly this trip that she is nearing eighty. The nephews One and Two stay the weekends with her frequently, but they are used to the autonomy. And so are their parents. We are not as keen on the running wild aspect for Dee. Fostering independence is one thing and leaving children with the impression that they are the masters of their known universe is quite another.
We spent Sunday afternoon at the wedding brunch. Sis and Bride each made promises to sit and chat with me that really never came to fruition. I was not disappointed because I have been a bride and know that personal time is premium. Everyone wants to bask in your glow.
I did have time to talk a bit with Sis about things more personal. She was asking about the memoir and I mentioned that I was afraid I might offend or hurt feelings with my take on life back then.
“I feel badly that I didn’t help more,” she said. “I should have been there more for you at the end.”
We’ve never discussed this. I was distant for many months because of the events of those last days, but I never told her how hurt I was or that I was upset by it. Mostly because there was no point. Sis is my family, and there is no question of our connection.
“I was upset,” I admitted. “But I have come to realize that there is no handbook for events like these and people will do what they are able. You can’t ask more from anyone than they have to give and you accept people as they are or not. I am okay now. And I made my mistakes too.”
The time with immediate family has been pleasant to actual fun. Rob and BIL get along much better than BIL and Will ever did. It makes hanging out possible. Although we don’t have a lot in common. I am a “dance mom” and DNOS is a hockey mom. They are Republicans and we are Canadians, so many topical conversations are off limits. We are middle-aged though and have historical mile-markers in common. Sadly, we are also old enough now to veer off into discussions of the physical betrayals of age. BIL regaled us with his bladder habits.
While here I have shopped. And will shop again today. It’s hard not to consume when in the land of consumption. Leafing through the Sunday flyers in the paper, I happened upon the Target ads. I actually hugged them. We don’t have Target. I couldn’t live here again and not become a devotee of the place. Best that I am a foreigner.
At the wedding brunch, I spent quite a while chatting with Sis’s Norwegian cousin, Helge*, and his wife. I am not surprised to find that I have more in common from a common sense stance with Europeans than with people from my homeland. I haven’t ever met Helge before though they come to visit at least once a year. He invited Rob and I to call upon them when we are overseas if we should ever make it to Norway.
Today is our last day of non-travel. There is a laundry list of things to do with Mom, and actual laundry, to do. Wish us luck for tomorrow. We will be victims of the system.
*Quick aside, we noted that Chicago had lost its Olympic bid and after listening to Helge recount with considerable disgust the practice the U.S. has adopted of photographing and fingerprinting foreign visitors, I am not surprised. Rob didn’t have his vitals captured and secured at customs though there were large signs everywhere reminding people that they could be and what the process was. Canadians are still exempt for the moment. I am a bit disconcerted by my country’s need to collect and store data. It sounds more Nazi than healthcare to me.