February 24, 2009

What a whirlwind

A lot has been going on since I last posted. I remember a week ago, I was getting ready to write about my baking adventures and new haircut. But I got a call from my brother, he told me my grandpa lost his battle with cancer; he had passed away a couple hours earlier. I talked to my dad and told him that I'd shop around for flights and I try to make it in on Wednesday. I'd call once my plans were confirmed. Southwest is my preferred airline to Chicago, they wanted over $700 to fly round trip. That's insane! I spent the day comparing fares. Expedia offered me the cheapest option at $332, but it required me to tour the country and fly two airlines. After hours of searching, I knew it'd be rough, but it was my best option. Normally, it's a 3 hour and 30 minute flight non-stop LAS to MDW. I had the pleasure of taking the scenic route, Las Vegas to San Francisco to Denver to Chicago, nine hours of travel time. It was exhausting, fortunately, all my flights ran a bit early. I arrived in Chicago right on time.

Chicago was cold, windy, snowy and icy, about an inch had fallen right before I got in. My brother was 15 minutes late, by then I was freezing, I called to find out how far away he was - thinking I'd warm up inside if I had the time. He was a minute away in the cellphone lot, assessing damage, he hit a construction sign on his way and damaged the bumper and headlight on my dad's van. The bumper grinded on the tire whenever you'd turn, hit a bump or pothole (every two feet in Chicago). Mike didn't want to drive home, I took the wheel, nervously. My dad's van is huge, the roads were slick, lanes were poorly marked, I was afraid the tire would blow at any minute and I was shivering non-stop. It was slow-going the whole way, but we made it safe and sound.

Amy was at my dad's when Mike and I arrived. We visited a bit and then she and I ran to White Castle. I was starved. Two double jalepeno cheeseburgers hit the spot. She left shortly after. I was beat despite doing nothing more than traveling all day. So, I said goodnight to my dad and Mike and turned in.

Thursday morning was leisurely. Around noon, I was hungry, my dad bought fixings for Italian Beef. I made myself a sandwich, it was so good, I had two. Before I knew it, it was time to head to the wake. Visiting hours were 2-9pm. My dad, Mike and I were second to arrive. The rest of the family showed minutes later. My aunts' put together picture boards of photos that spanned my grandpa's 76 years. Saw friends and family I hadn't seen since August 2007, some were longer, more than six years. I kept an eye on Nicky, my young cousins, and other kids - kept them occupied when they'd get restless. Nicky was a trip, he'd walk up beside my grandpa's casket and yell, "Papa, wake up!", I tried to explain to him that papa was in heaven and he won't be waking up, but an hour later he was back there at it again. In the meantime, he'd tell anyone that'd listen that papa was sleeping. After the wake, Amy, Jeff, joined Mike, dad and I back at dad's house. Jeff's stepmom took Nicky home an hour earlier to put him to bed. We visited for awhile, they left, and we went to bed knowing that'd Friday would be an early morning and long day.

Friday was the funeral. The services were very nice. The weather wasn't too bad, the sun was warm, the wind died-down, so the cold temps didn't feel as bad. Nicky went to his uncle Brian's during the church service, Amy and Jeff learned from previous funerals it's impossible to keep him quiet. They picked him up afterwards so he could join us for lunch at Gaelic Park. Lunch was good, I could have eaten at least four more cups of their cream of chicken soup - it was delicious. Aside from that no chicken was served (my grandpa hated chicken) and Guinness flowed freely. It was a proper send off. From there, we went back to the funeral home to pick up flowers and our belongings. My aunt and uncle invited the immediate family back to my grandparent's house. My uncle's goal was to polish off what was left of my grandparents' booze. It was an odd feeling to be at their house without them. Last time I was there was November 2007, just days before my grandma passed away. The strange feeling subsided and we had a good time looking at old photos, laughing, sharing stories and old memories. I'm sure grandma & grandpa were there with us, and they wouldn't of wanted it any other way. Early on Amy ran to Portillo's, I had her get me a Chicago-style dog. It was very tasty. Then, later, around 6:30 everyone was pretty tanked. Dinner was in order, my cousin suggest ordering Beggar's Pizza. I planned to have dinner at Giordano's, my favorite place for stuffed pizza. But I decided to give Beggar's a shot, Frank and I used to eat their thin crust pizzas regularly when we lived at our apartment in Lansing, those were always good so I figured it'd be a safe bet. My uncle assured me it'd be good. It was a mistake. I didn't like it, they use cornmeal crust, it's too thick and lacked cheese. It was more like deep dish than stuffed. Disappointing. We hung around a couple more hours and then everyone headed home after they sobered up. I crashed around 11:30 I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.

Saturday, I chatted with my dad all morning. I had lunch plans with Bob, he drove up from Kentucky to help out, father-in-law was released from the hospital on Wednesday, well, I think it was Wednesday. Anyway, he picked me up and we went out to Golden Palace, a Chinese restaurant in Lansing, a couple miles from the Indiana border. It was Frank and my favorite place when we lived there. I was happy to see the same family was still running it. We ordered egg rolls, beansprout noodle and orange chicken, we also had tea and almond cookies. So so good, you can't find Chinese food like than in NV or KY. We were stuffed, but happy as can be. Before he took me back to my dad's, I visited with him and the in-laws for a couple hours. Frank's dad is doing well, he looks good, he seems to be well on his way to a full recovery. Amy and Nicky were at my dad's when I got there, Mike was for a bit, but he left to see a show with his friends. The three of us visited and played with Nicky. It was hilarious to see my dad and Nicky play "ring around the rosy" around the stripper pole that's in his living room. Yes, you heard right. After Christmas, Mike bought a stripper pole, and it's in the middle of the living room at my dad's house. As soon as Nicky would get my dad up then he'd run off and do something else, leaving my dad alone at the pole. In this picture he took off to play telephone. My dad joined him. Nicky took pictures with my camera so the settings were off - it's distorted, but you get the idea.

From Drop Box

Hunger struck, I was torn, I couldn't decide if I wanted Giordano's or a gyro. I settled on a gyro, we got them from Markella's. They were really good, even better than Nicky's were I usually go when I'm there. We hung by my dad's the rest of the night. Jeff came by and Mike came back after the show. We played cards and talked. Around 2am, my eyes were getting really heavy. I knew I needed a nap, I slept for an hour and a half, they stayed up. I packed my bags, my dad gave me Italian Sausage and pancetta to take home - frozen, so it'd make the trip. I said good-bye to Mike and my dad. By 4:15, Amy, Jeff, Nicky and I were off to the airport. We said our good-byes and I took off for my longest day of traveling ever. I left Midway for Denver at 6:10, arrived on-time, but my flight to San Francisco was delayed - issues at SFO. We were cleared to leave about an hour behind schedule. Arrived in San Francisco. It was pouring, the rain came down in waves. My flight to Vegas was delayed three hours. I walked the airport, bought sourdough bread and a book to pass the time. By then, I had read everything I brought along and done more word searches than you can imagine. I'd close my eyes and I'd see letters float around. I read until it was time to go and finally at 1:30 we were boarding - on my way home, finally! 13 hours in airports and on airplanes is no fun. I was absolutely thrilled to be home. It was cloudy, but the 70 degree air felt wonderful. Frank picked me up and we zipped home.

Overall it was a good trip, given the circumstances. It was nice to spend time with my dad. I saw him more in those few days than I have in the last ten years. We've had our high's and low's over the years; I want to put troubled times behind us and work to build a better relationship. I think this trip helped us take steps to do so.

The last few years have been tough for my family, we've lost many loved ones, I hope my grandpa's death closes this chapter of our lives, and happier and healthier times lie ahead.


Hurricane Mikey said...


I'm so sorry for your loss, but even though the circumstances were not ideal, it had to be nice to be able to spend time with the family.

And any family that has a dad with a stripper pole in his living room is definitely a good family to be a part of.

Unknown said...

Kellee--I'm sorry for your loss! But when you have to have funerals--isn't it nice when you can be surrounded by family, telling stories and looking at photos and remembering all the good times?

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to hear about the passing of your grandfather. It sounds like you had an enjoyable time with your family. May you have a happy and healthy 2009.

Kellee said...

Thanks all! Yes, it was nice to see everyone and take the stroll down memory lane. It was too long since I last visited. I hope next time is under better circumstances and a bit warmer - ok, a lot warmer, but not super hot and muggy. Picky, aren't I?