Lake Escape

Mark’s parents have a lake cabin up north. It has always been a great summer getaway or a convenient hunting destination for the outdoorsmen of the family. The best thing about the cabin is that it has always been open to any family members who want to come spend time at the lake. It’s not big. It’s not fancy. And it’s full of old stuff, history and memories. I think that’s why I like it so much.

The cabin used to be where you could find Mark’s parents most summer weekends. Sadly, not anymore. Mark’s dad is not doing well and hasn’t been to the cabin this year. I’m afraid he probably won’t ever get back there again. So it’s up to the rest of the family to keep things maintained up at the lake.

Mark’s “weekend” began on Monday this week and so he decided to go to the lake, mow the grass and take care of some other chores. He asked if I wanted to take a couple of days off and join him. It seemed like a good idea and I have some vacation time to burn before the end of the year. So I went too.

We stopped at the local convenience store/gas station/marine/bait shop just before arriving at the cabin. We bought some night crawlers and minnows in the hopes of finding time to do some fishing amongst the chores that needed doing.

We arrived late morning and since we were only staying overnight, it didn’t take long to unpack the truck. Soon Mark was hauling out the riding mower and Lucy was happily exploring new smells around the property.

“Do you want me to run the push-mower?” I asked Mark.

“No, I didn’t bring you along to put you to work. I’ll cut the grass with the rider. You go fish or something.”

Who was I to argue? The skies were clear and the sun was shining brightly, a seemingly rare occurrence at the lake. So often when we find the time to go up north, it always seems to rain. I changed into my swim suit (for catching a few rays) and grabbed the bucket of minnows (for catching fish.) Lucy happily followed me down onto the dock and soon my line was in the water, the bobber bobbing up and down on the surface of the lake.

It wasn’t but a few minutes later when my bobber was slowly pulled under the water. I gave the pole a light hitch, and began to reel in. I didn’t feel much resistance. Figured it was probably one of the little perch that are always going after whatever bait we drop in the water.

But when I’d reeled my line all the way in, it wasn’t a perch that rose to the surface. It was something much bigger! I wasn’t sure what it was. I couldn’t get my hook out of its mouth and it was so big I couldn’t hold onto it without grabbing it by the lip, which I didn’t want to do because it had teeth! I tried calling Mark to come help me, but the noise of the mower prevented him from hearing me. Lucy was prancing excitedly on the dock. She wanted to see!

Finally, I decided to leave my fish in the water and lead it behind and around the dock to the live well. I opened the lid and dropped my fish in, still hooked to my fishing hook and line. When Mark made another pass with the mower, I waved him down and he came to see what I needed.

“I caught a big fish and I can’t get the hook out of the mouth.”

“What is it?” he asked.

“I dunno, but it’s big. I just know it’s not a dog-fish.” (I caught one of those once and I remember how ugly it was!)

Mark lifted the live well out of the water until he could see my fish as it flopped around in protest. The hook popped out of its mouth just then, so at least I had my hook and line back.

“Oh my god, Ter!” Mark exclaimed. “You caught the holy grail of fish! That’s a walleye!”

I was a little big embarrassed that I hadn’t recognized the holy grail of fish. I’m not used to catching anything good! But I was pretty proud. We measured it at 23 1/4 inches long. I wasn’t allowed to keep it. This year’s regulations say it has to be between 14 and 18 inches in order to keep it, unless it’s 26 inches or more, and then I could keep it. Bummer. So we took pictures and then set the poor guy free. He’d been through enough already anyway. I texted a picture to the kids and my boys were pretty proud of their mom for catching something so respectable!

photo 1We found time to get done what we wanted to get done. Mark worked on a new coat of stain on the outside of the cabin and I did some deep cleaning inside. And we had time to spare to do a little more fishing and relaxing. The weather was just perfect, even if the mosquitos were a little too abundant. Lucy was in seventh heaven, running off leash (and surprisingly, obeying us when we reminded her to stay close.) She went bonkers over the bobbers, running back and forth along the dock, and kept whining at us as if to say, “Hurry up and pull another fish in!”

We slept like babies last night with the windows open and the sound of loons calling out across the lake. And I really appreciated a couple of days away from work. The lake is such a peaceful and calm place. We’re going to make it a point to make more of these mini-trips up north and I’m especially looking forward to a few days there with all of our kids this summer. I can’t wait to go back again!

 

Rainfall and Slow Down

I’m making it a long weekend.

All of the kids will be home by tomorrow night and spending the weekend. We’re celebrating birthdays. Brad’s 25th was in March, Jake’s 23rd in April, and Kacey’s 21st  is coming up here in May. Geeze, how can my kids be getting so old when I’m still such a spring chicken?  ;-) Both boys, when asked how and when they wanted to celebrate, seemed embarrassed at the thought we might still celebrate their birthdays! But both were agreeable to celebrating the next time we were all together. So here we are. And while we’re at it, we’ll add Mark’s and my 26th wedding anniversary, which was yesterday, to the reasons to celebrate.

I’m thinking of making it a breakfast party on Saturday morning. I typically eat a responsible breakfast, like oatmeal and a banana, or yogurt and blueberries. But when it’s a kids-at-home weekend, all diets are off. Everyone seems to love when I make a big, old-fashioned breakfast. Waffles, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and/or bacon are all welcomed at these meals. I think I’ll try to find some fun breakfast recipes for Saturday morning’s birthday breakfast.

Oh, and my mom and dad just celebrated fifty years of marriage! We’ll be celebrating that too, on Sunday with a family brunch at a local restaurant.

Besides having a chance to get things done at home, I’m grateful for the break from work. I love my job, but the pace has been frantic lately. I said to one friend/associate that I felt like I hadn’t seen or talked to her in days, even though her desk is only a few yards away from mine. She agreed, saying there has been an uptight atmosphere around the office lately. Good things are happening all around, but there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all that needs doing. Most recently, my small department was brought in on an important pilot project that has given us the chance to help our parent company. We have a short window of time to do a lot of research, but it’s been fun and has also been extremely educational, giving us some new knowledge that will prove invaluable to the work we do with our own clients. Yesterday, I finished the main part of the work for which I was responsible. It feels good to take a break.

It’s been raining here since last Sunday, almost non-stop, and seriously heavy at times. The lack of sunlight is a little depressing, but at least the grass is greening up and colorful flowers are sure to be popping up around the neighborhood in the very near future. The back yard has become a marsh and I think Lucy is getting tired of squishing around in it, but the birds don’t mind getting wet. Last weekend, I could hear a Finch singing his heart out in the Maple tree out front. He was soon chased off by a pair of House Sparrows who proceeded to destroy a nest that had survived the winter in the tree. Meanies!

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It’s still raining and doesn’t look like it will be quitting before the weekend is over. I guess I don’t mind if it continues while I take a couple of days to prep for all the weekend activity. There’s an old saying, Make hay while the sun shines, but I’d rather play when the sun is around. I do my best work when it’s not.

Spring Landscape

I love the transition to spring. Sure, the first few weeks are a bit mucky. When the last of the snow melts away, the yard is all matted and gray. The neighborhood streets are lined with leftover salt and sand. Gardens are empty except maybe for a few dead remnants of last year’s flowers. But spring is an appropriate name for this season. The world does seem to spring to life again after those long, frozen months.

One morning this week, I let Lucy outside and noticed the neighborhood was ensconced in fog. The sun was halfway to its morning destination. And for what I knew would be a short while, the horizon was painted with warm, soft colors. It was enough to stop me in the midst of my morning rush for a few moments of appreciation.

Last night – or early this morning – I was awakened by the sound of rain patterning rhythmically against the house. Such a welcome sound after months and months in which the sounds of the outside world are muted. And it’s amazing how an overnight rain can make the grass turn green so instantly.

Yesterday, while running a few errands, I noticed a wide open pond. The ice cover is gone and a pair of Wood Ducks paddled effortlessly across the middle. The water sparkled brilliantly under the afternoon sun and I thought what a beautiful sight it was to see. It occurred to me that the older I get, the longer the winters feel. The cold and pristine landscapes might be exciting and fun the first few times it snows, but the thrill wears off quickly. Looking at the glimmering water yesterday, I reminded myself to always appreciate the world this way while I have the chance.

On Again/Off Again – The Battle for the A/C

Mark is anti-air conditioning. We have it. I love it. And there is a constant battle in this house between using it and agreeing to let the fresh air come in through the windows. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the fresh air. I rather enjoy it, actually. But when the outside temperatures and humidity levels reach a point where it’s impossible to merely sit without sweating, I see no need to suffer.

Yesterday was the hottest, most humid day of the most summer-like week we’ve had so far this year. As the sun began to set last night, Mark came in from outside and announced, “It’s really cooling down out there! Should we shut off the air?”

I sighed and said, “Sure.”

It wasn’t really cooling down out there. But there was no point in arguing. Oh, Mark would leave it on if I’d argued, but he would be sure to let me know how wasteful he thought I was being. He wouldn’t be mean about it or anything. He would just be sure to let me know. And I would feel like I was being selfish. Sometimes I fight for the comfort. Sometimes I let him win. It was his turn to win.

So the air conditioner was turned off and the windows were opened. Our bedroom is in the lower level of the house, so the cooler air settles there anyway. And I have to admit that I slept rather comfortably most of the night. Until 5:30 this morning.

It was a combination of things that woke me. Yesterday, Mark broke the string on the pleated shade that covers our window. He took it in for repair and it won’t be ready for a few days. So the morning sunshine was coming right through our bedroom window. I tried to keep my eyes closed, but there was no pretending that I could still make it dark behind my eyelids. The air was still humid and I realized I was feeling sticky. And also? There was a bird party going on in the back yard. They were chirping and squawking like crazy! And since our window was wide open to let in the cool, fresh air, there was no way I was going to fall back asleep.

Mark was beginning to wake up too. He had to leave for work at six anyway. And Lucy was thrusting her nose in my face, wanting me to get up and play. I reluctantly crawled out of bed and went to the window to see what the bird ruckus was all about. They were scattered all over the back lawn, plucking bugs and worms from the grass. Clearly it was breakfast time in the bird world.

Mark left for work and Lucy waited for me to finish observing the Grackles, whining occasionally for me to turn my attention to her. I looked down at her hopeful face and said the magic word. “Walk?”

She became a canine ping-pong ball then, scrunching up her body and bouncing with joy. It’s always a mistake to say “the word” before the exact moment I’m ready to actually walk out the door, but I do it anyway. I love watching the way Lucy anticipates our departure. I quickly tossed on shorts and a t-shirt. Lucy danced and whined for me to hurry up. I brushed my teeth. Lucy bounced and whined for me to hurry up. I washed my face and straightened up my bed head. Lucy bounced and danced and whined for me to hurry up.

When I was ready to slip on my tennis shoes, I glanced sadly back at the bed and the early hour displayed on the clock that sits on my nightstand. Oh, well. Who was I kidding anyway? I’m an early bird even when it’s quiet and I’m not sticky and sweating.

I grabbed Lucy’s harness and leash, tied my shoes and we went off for one of those quiet, early Saturday walks that I actually really love. Lucy pulled me along sniffing all kinds of interesting smells. I appreciated the relative quiet of the morning, some blooming Asiatic Lilies and the sunshine that still feels so welcome after all of the clouds we had in recent weeks. Arriving back in our own driveway, I opened up the garage door and walked back to the house through the empty spot where Mark’s truck sits when he’s at home. Lucy was panting and I was sweating. Inside the house, I unhooked Lucy’s leash in the foyer and headed straight for the thermostat. Smiling over my own private victory, I turned the air conditioning back on!

We were at the lake

It seemed like my little vacation was never going to start. I was off work as of Wednesday, but because none of the kids could arrange their work schedules to be off any sooner than “early” on Friday, Mark and I decided not to leave until Friday either. There was much that could be accomplished at home in the meantime.

I spent most of Wednesday cleaning my parents’ house while it rained all day long, and then came home to do some cooking. On Thursday Mark and I finished the big “closet purge and reorganization” project, otherwise known as “nearly divorce court.” I had begun this enormous task the previous weekend and it ended leaving Mark and I feeling seriously fed up with each other. But the closets are clean and organized, the Goodwill has been well-stocked with everything we decided we could live without, and Mark and I are on speaking terms again. When Friday finally arrived, I planned to pack my bag for the weekend and make sure my own house was clean. (I hate going away and coming home to a dirty house. It must be cleaned before we go.)

My plans were slightly waylaid by the demise of the dryer on Friday morning. Mark did some investigating and quickly learned that it wasn’t worth the cost of replacing the motor. The dryer was very old and had been repaired many times. It already had more features that no longer functioned than ones that did. So a trip to the appliance store was squeezed in and I quickly picked out a new dryer. My only requirements were that it be large capacity and that the buzzer that signals the end of a dry-cycle could be turned off. (Day sleeper in the house!) I found one for a reasonable price and we were out the door within twenty-minutes with the promise of delivery for the following Tuesday.

Mark, Kacey and Connor headed for the lake not long after our visit to the appliance store. Brad and Heather left Fargo not long afterwards and began their drive to the cabin. I worked on the remaining laundry at home, shuttling loads over to my parents’ house to use their dryer. I finished cleaning, baked cookies and packed my bags. I checked the house over to make sure it was in good shape to be unattended for the weekend, double checked my packing to make sure I had everything I needed, and when Jake still wasn’t home from work, I went to the gas station to fill up the gas tank and get a car wash. Jake finally came home, about an hour and a half later than he had hoped, and he, Lucy and I hit the road just in time for the Friday afternoon rush hour.

The first hour of our drive was frustrating, but then the road opened up and we were really on our way. Jake had insisted on driving, so I got to kick back and relax in the passenger seat, helping navigate now and then. We talked, sang along to our favorite country songs, and enjoyed the scenery while Lucy alternately slept in the back seat or watched the scenery pass by out the windows. We made a stop at McDonald’s for some food and  to let Lucy out to stretch her legs and attend to other business. We finally made it to the cabin by 8:30 Friday night where everyone else was waiting for us.

And I was so exhausted that I was in bed and sleeping by ten o’clock!

We were all up early on Saturday morning, thanks to two dogs who were not only excited to be together, but to be in a place so full of new things to explore. I swear, Lucy and Dakotah were like a couple of toddlers, running from one place to the next and investigating every new taste and smell. And we, their people… we played right into it and catered to the dogs’ every whim. What can I say? They make us laugh and they reward us with complete adoration. How can we help ourselves?

The weather was beautiful and we spent much time sitting down on the new dock. The kids fished for hours and for once, the fish were biting. The dogs were fascinated by the water and the way the waves lapped up to the dock, by the fish that were being pulled from the lake and just happy to hang out with their people. Lucy still can’t be trusted not to run off, so we kept her on a leash whenever we were outside. But on the dock, she could be off leash as she quickly proved she wouldn’t leave it if any one of her people were there.

Dakotah practiced retrieving her “dummy” from the water. Heather would throw it into the lake and Dakotah would launch herself in after it, grasping it in her mouth and returning it to Heather. Lucy was fascinated and she clearly wanted a chance to give this dummy thing a try. Seeing as how she’s had very little exposure to water (except for her pool on the deck,) we took it easy at first. Heather threw the dummy just off the shore and Lucy would jump in and grab it and proudly walk it back to Heather on shore. After several attempts, Mark suggested that Heather challenge Lucy and make her swim for it. So the dummy was thrown a little further this time and Lucy heaved herself into the lake and began to walk out to the dummy. When the water became deeper than Lucy was tall… she went under water!

We all gasped, momentarily panicked, although anyone of us could have hopped in and grabbed her. But just as quickly, Lucy turned around, resurfaced and looked at us as if to say, “Where did the bottom go?”

We all cooed at her and patted her wet head and told her what a brave girl she was. Then Brad suddenly remembered something. “Oh, yeah,” he said! “I forgot that I had to teach Dakotah how to swim her first time! I’ll go put my swim trunks in and show Lucy how it’s done.” Before long, Brad was in the water, with Lucy in his arms. She was none too keen on going back in, but she let Brad hold her up in the water and within seconds, her little paws were paddling and she swam herself back to shore. We all cheered like the bunch of dog-loving doofuses that we are and I swear I saw Lucy smiling from ear to ear!

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When it was too dark to fish on the dock and the mosquitoes threatened to eat us alive, we’d head back to the cabin and watch funny movies that we’ve all seen a million times and we’d say the lines right along with the characters and crack ourselves up all over again. We slept at night on the ancient mattresses with dogs wandering from room to room all night long, unable to decide which people they wanted to snooze with. But we didn’t mind about the mattresses and the dogs, because we were at the lake, where everything slows down and there’s very little that has to be done at any specific time.

In the mornings we ate big breakfasts, like pancakes and eggs and French toast. For dinner, we grilled steaks over charcoal and buttterflied them for steak sandwiches which we ate with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions and steak sauce. Everything tastes better when you’re not watching the clock and you’ve got nowhere else to go and most importantly, you’re sharing a meal with the people you love.

The weekend, of course came to an end much too quickly. The kids wished out loud that the weekend could go just a little bit longer. It just wasn’t long enough. I felt the very same way and proposed that we start planning now for next year. And let’s make it a whole week next time. There was a chorus of agreement as we hugged Brad and Heather goodbye and headed back home.

Vacations are just never quite long enough. Guess that’s why we love them so much.

Recharged

285We had a great weekend at the lake. The weather was beautiful! My kids had fun with each other, which is always such a joy to witness. They fished together, watched movies, talked with and teased one another. And there was so much laughter.  We played games and ate meals together and slept as much as we wanted.

The weekend was pure joy for Lucy Pie and Dakotah too!

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It was just what I needed – a chance to be with the ones I love, a chance to take a breather from everyday life.

I took about 300 pictures. More coming soon!

 

Shine On

There was this big, yellow ball up high in the sky today.

It looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it at first… And then I remembered!

Oh, yeah! The SUN!

Wow.

People in the office gathered near windows to gaze in wonder at such a rare and beautiful sight. We looked at one another and smiled in awe and amazement.

At home this evening, the birds were celebrating in the maple tree out front. (Think they know that the next three days will bring rain and more snow?)

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Isn’t he handsome?

018bI’ve been pretty uptight lately and not very appreciative of all the good things in my world. After yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, it seemed important today to stop and appreciate the simple things.

Still waiting for spring…

004bIt’s mid-April and it’s still snowing. It’s been snowing off and on since Wednesday.This morning there was a gentle drifting of flakes. Then the wind got blustery and the snow began swirling down from the sky. Then came the rain.

I know we were spoiled last winter by the absence of any measurable amount of snow. I think we more than made up for it this winter. And it’s spring now. Enough already.

Lucy found a wiffle ball out in the yard the week before last, when spring teased us and acted as if it were finally coming to stay. Each time she went outside this weekend, she’d race like a maniac around the frozen back yard and then “sneak up” on the ball and pounce on it. She’d pick it up in her teeth and run some more before dropping it again, only to run and pounce again. Today she kept trying to bring it into the house, but I stopped her at the door each time to make sure it didn’t come inside with her. The inside of the ball is filled with snow!

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At least it was a good weekend for getting things done. Weather like this tends to keep me inside. The house is clean. The laundry is done. I did some cooking and got plenty of sleep.

And outside, the rain continues.

005bI’m sure there’s a silver lining somewhere in this weather. Surely the never-ending winter means there will be a lush and green spring and a beautiful, mild summer. But for now… for the next week… it looks like more rain and snow. When the warm weather finally arrives, when the trees come back to life and when the flowers begin to bloom again, finally, it will certainly feel like a gift from above!

 

Happy Last Snowfall of the Season!

001bIt was the last one, wasn’t it? Please tell me it was! I’ve had enough.

The snow began to fall yesterday and continued through the night and most of today, leaving a reported ten inches of accumulation. I guess the school kids were happy. Classes were cancelled. Me? I left for work an hour early, trying in vain to find the lines that divided the three lanes of the freeway. My windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the falling snow and a layer of ice formed on them so that they were no longer very effective. I strained to see through the blurry windshield and rolled down the window, attempting to catch the wiper on its upswing and snap the ice from it.

I arrived at a quiet office. Several wise coworkers had opted to work from home. If I didn’t think my winter funk would talk me into napping in front of the television, I might have done the same. I have lost all motivation during these last couple of months. I always feel on the edge of, if not smack in the middle of some cold virus. I can’t seem to sleep enough.

I need sunshine. I need warmth. I need to see color in the landscape again. I think I also need to eat better, get up early again and get some exercise… just as soon as the stuffiness in my head clears and my nose stops running, I promise.

003bI know spring is just around the corner. I know it because the Boxelder bugs have begun to appear in our lower level family room. We learned a couple of years ago that they have a habit of hibernating inside the walls of homes when the weather grows cold. As they begin to wake up near the end of winter, they gravitate to the warmth. My family room is warm and the Boxelder bugs aren’t really welcome here, but I’ll take their presence as a good sign.

There are other signs of spring in the neighborhood as well. Jennifer down the street has begun to take Rascal, her Beagle out for early evening walks again. The sounds of bird songs can be heard through the windows on a quiet Saturday morning. At six o’clock in the evening, after work, there is still daylight. And perhaps the most promising sign of all…

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… Neighbor Bob has resumed his ritual of drinking beer in the garage while waving at cars and people as they come and go past his house.

Spring is definitely in the air. Someone please wake me when it arrives.

Four Days in Arizona

011bIt wasn’t exactly what you’d call a vacation. There was too much purpose in our visit. But it was still nice to get away.

Our parents are ready to let go of their little winter home in Arizona. Mom’s health is best described as not likely to improve. She weighs next to nothing. The slightest exertion wears her out. She needs and wants to be near her kids and grandkids. The warmth of Arizona wasn’t enough to compensate for how much she misses her family.

My parents only returned to Arizona last fall with the intention of selling their mobile home in their fifty-five and over community. They were already settled on moving back to Minnesota permanently. There were a few potential buyers over the last couple of months but no offers to buy. Mom finally decided she’d had enough of sticking it out. My sister and I planned to visit for a few days and help pack up the things that weren’t necessary for day-to-day living. Mom said that after we returned home, she and Dad would likely follow shortly afterwards, whether their place was sold or not.

It was a nice four days. Mom and Dad welcomed us as if we were royalty. The fridge was stocked with beer, as promised! It was great to have time to sit and talk together in person, laugh together, cook and eat… and eat… and eat together.

The weather wasn’t fantastic. It was seventy-ish when we arrived on Thursday and it felt great. Thursday was our day to relax. The weather went steadily downhill from there and maybe that was a good thing. It was easier to be stuck inside working knowing we weren’t missing spectacular weather outside.

On Friday, the neighbor, Bill came by with a man who wanted to see the house. John took a look around and seemed to like what he saw. After he left, Mom, Cori and I were cleaning out the closet in the spare bedroom. Suddenly, a strange woman in her pajamas and bathrobe poked her head in the room.

“I’m Mary,” she said. “Don’t mind me. I’m just here to look around.”

And off she went down the hallway. The three of us looked at each other, baffled only for a moment until John appeared again and said, “I brought my wife this time.”

Strange. Very strange.

John and Mary didn’t stay long and soon were on their way again. Mom, Dad, Cori and I spent the next few hours sorting through cupboards, closets and drawers, filling boxes and trash bags until we heard a knock on the door. Dad opened it up and there was Mary again, still in her pajamas and bathrobe. This time she was with her brother, Paul. Mary plopped down on the living room couch and proceeded to chat with us while Paul toured the house and asked questions of Dad.

“Paul’s a talker,” Mary said. We said that was good. Dad is a talker too.

Eventually Dad and Paul found their way back to the living room. Mary and Paul stayed for well over an hour telling us about themselves. When they finally left, we weren’t certain if Mary was interested in buying or if Paul was, or if we’d hear from them again.

On Saturday morning, there came another knock on the door. It was John and Mary once again. Mary was still wearing the same pajamas and bathrobe as the previous day and she seemed not the least bit concerned about it. They wanted to make an offer. It was less than Mom and Dad were asking, but they were so ready to have someone take it off their hands that the offer was accepted. This was a huge relief all around. It was agreed that the new owners could take possession by March 1st. This made our packing so much easier. Mom and Dad kept enough clothing and a few other things to get through a couple more weeks and we packed the rest.

I’m relieved they are coming home. They’ve only been away a few months, but in that short time, it appears to me that Mom seems so much more frail. Dad’s health is good, but with his poor vision, he can no longer drive or do many things requiring clear vision. And I know partly, it’s a generational thing, but Dad does so little for himself or in contribution to the household. I know he could run the vacuum around. But he doesn’t. I know he could get his own juice from the refrigerator. But he doesn’t. He should be able to prepare himself a simple lunch, but it’s always up to Mom to do so.

Dad feels relatively good but he moves so impossibly slowly. He likes to get out of the house and wants to go places. But he needs Mom to drive him around and she’s often simply not up to being away for the amount of time it takes Dad to make his way through the grocery store or pharmacy. And it’s clear that the physical and emotional strain of it all is taking a toll on them. They’re not old. They’re seventy-two. But they seem so much older than their years. They seem to be lacking a sense of contentment and happiness that I wish they could have in their retirement years. Mom has said on more than one occasion that she wishes she didn’t have to ask so much help from her kids. We’re happy to do whatever we can, but I know she expected a better quality of life during these years. Her health has robbed her of that. Quite honestly, it made me sad to see the state of my parents’ lives.

LemonsBut there were plenty of good moments too, the kind that made me realize that it was good to be there. Cori and I got up early each day and took walks around the neighborhoods. We met the neighbors and the neighbor dogs. We picked fresh lemons, oranges and grapefruits. Mmmm, did they taste good!

We took our time cooking – big, tasty, fattening meals. There was shrimp and linguine and garlic cheese bread for dinner one night with a hearty garden salad on the side. There were breakfasts of scrambled eggs with peppers and onions, bacon and hash browns and pancakes. There were homemade lemon bars made from fresh picked lemons. We all agreed that it might be a good thing our visit wouldn’t be longer. We might all get fat.

And there was an afternoon visit to an old mining town. It was overcast and windy that day and we were bundled up nearly like we do at home in the winter. We only spent about an hour, but there were awesome views  and we were able to snap a few photos.

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It was hard to leave, not because I wanted to stay longer. I was missing home and family and my dogs. But Mom cried when I said goodbye and that told me just how badly she wants to get back to home; her real home. Just a couple of more weeks and Mom and Dad will be home again. We will all sleep a little easier then.