Once upon a time, there was a family of 4, a father, mother, daughter and son. This family of 4 always spent lots of quality time with family. The mother’s family was from Evansville and the father’s family was from West Virginia. Growing up, this family had many traditions, including many Easters spent in West Virginia and many Thanksgivings in Evansville and a few Christmases when the kids were babies. As the kids grew up, the daughter ended up loathing travel for the holidays. After all, that was the time that all her friends had plans and wanted her to be a part of them, that was a week or more out of school that she should be spending with her friends. The brother never seemed to mind spending the holidays away as much as the social butterfly daughter with a friends only agenda. He enjoyed the “nothing to do” country scene and spent his time hunting or fishing with the father and grandpa.
Every trip to Evansville seemed to cause more boredom than the previous trip for the daughter. It was the 90’s and her grandparents lived in front of a cow pasture in the middle of nowhere with no VHS player or cable. No call waiting and no long distance either. The daughter finally started bringing her own VHS player and hooking it up in the basement of her grandparents house and spent her days watching every movie imaginable and writing scripts for movies because there was nothing else to do. She and her brother spent time feeding the cows and playing with the neighbor’s husky pups and the neighborhood basset hound Buford. The only thing enjoyable about the trips to Evansville was when A League of Their Own was filmed there and the daughter was able to visit all the sites and see first hand for herself how awesome the magic of movies was; not that she didn’t already know.
The family became busier and busier as the kids got older. FINALLY Christmases and Thanksgivings were spent in town, at the family’s house and the grandparents would drive up from Evansville for a week or two at a time to visit. This made the daughter happy and the son was happy too, even though he still scheduled mini trips to Evansville to hunt with family from time to time. The grandparents would come up for 2 weeks at Christmastime. They would bring Little Debbie Dunkin Stiks and cinnamon pin wheels. They would also bring Christmas happy meal toys from McDonalds along with our present of cash in a bright red envelope, sometimes with a $2 bill included for fun. The parents enjoyed having a built in babysitter so they could finish Christmas shopping and the daughter enjoyed not having to miss time with her friends. The mother and grandmother were very close. Secretly, I think the mother loved that the grandmother did dishes every night and laundry too. Oh and speaking of laundry, it was always folded in the living room during All My Children or General Hospital and the washcloths were always folded diagonally, not in a square. The mother hated the drama of soap opera’s but the daughter always enjoyed the “green light” to watch them when the grandparents visited.
The grandparents also started visiting for a few weeks at a time during the summer. They would help with the mother’s annual yard sale and visit with the family. As the kids got older and their lives got busier, they realized it was a good thing that the grandparents came to visit so they could spend some family time with them.
Years passed, and the grandmother became sick. The mother invited her to come live with her family so that she could take of the grandmother. The grandmother agreed and came to live with the family. Under the mother’s care, the grandmother improved and was able to move back home. After a few rough winters with several bouts of pneumonia and congestive heart failure, the grandmother passed away. Life changed, and the grandfather had a double knee replacement surgery and was wheelchair bound for over a year. He was no longer able to drive, so the visits to the family ended. No more Christmases with dunkin stiks and pin wheels, no more summer visits with General Hospital and diagonally folded washcloths. No more stories from the grandfather about how he met someone at the local Dairy Queen that was “looking for her”. The daughter thought she was tired of the story after hearing it for 15 years, until it was no longer told to her. The grandfather started showing signs of dementia and was placed in a nursing home a few years later.
Visits were made to the nursing home by the mother and father and sometimes the son and daughter. It was sad. It was lonely and the grandfather wasn’t the same. The mother would send Christmas gifts and decorations for his room and the uncles would visit and take photos of the grandfather’s progress. The grandfather had his good days and bad and many ups and downs. He passed away in his sleep on January 18th, 2016 at 86 years of age.
There is a piece that will never be filled quite like it once was. The annoying trips to the middle of nowhere with no VHS player, the many hours conquering boredom by writing pages and pages of scripts, the staying home on a Friday night because the parents said the grandparents were coming to visit, the long visits during Christmas breaks and the long visits in the summer.
The daughter is this girl writing this, and this girl will miss all of those things.
My heart hurts a little around Christmas every year, thinking about the feelings of pure excitement my brother and I had when our grandparents would come up during our Christmas breaks. Excitement because their arrival signaled the start of Christmas break. Excitement because grandparents always brought the best candies and goodies, excitement that Christmas was just weeks away. A few months ago I spoke to my cousin about this and she felt the same way. If only we would have appreciated it more back when it was happening. But, that’s how things go….hindsight, you know?
This chapter has ended but we will forever have our memories. My only hope is that our own kids have fond memories to look back upon. That they will be able to tell stories about their parents taking them on annoying, boring trips to visit family. Though it may seem like the craziest thing in the world during those younger years, those memories will be the ones they treasure when they are parents themselves.
Rest in Heaven Grandpa, I wish you eternal life with Grandma, that includes plenty of bingo, sweets, story telling, vegetable soup (with the corn picked out) and music.