My aunt, KJ, and I endearingly call my nana and my grammy "The Old People". Yesterday, I woke up at the crack of dawn to drive two hours north to meet my aunt so we could venture to visit with the old ladies together. Despite my efforts, I was late but figured I was allowed at least 15 minutes as a family rule. Of course, when I arrived, I found KJ in her bathrobe doing her hair. I was relieved for not being late yet annoyed for the extra hour I could have slept in. Although, the additional time did permit for me to antagonize my favorite uncle and play with "SheeShee" the cat.
An hour before noon, we were out the door heading north. The car ride to our final destination was well spent gabbing and laughing. KJ is not much older than I, which means she's more like a big sister than an aunt. She never had children herself, but with mothering all of her siblings' children, she never really needed to. I was delighted to have an entire hour of uninterrupted banter with her because usually we converse briefly two or three times a month on the telephone. Road trips provide a much better ambiance for chatting. I entertained her while she vented some much needed frustrations until we arrived at our exit. One would think when you arrive at the exit, you are not far from your desired ending point. This is not the case when you are nearly four hours from civilization or almost two hours from the next country. We still had another 20 minutes to drive to get to town.
KJ's brother, my middle uncle, telephoned us to inquire where we were. My aunt inquired about his cough and asked if he had a cold. Then she reprimanded him for smoking with his condition. (Apparently his new wife introduced him to the terrible habit last year. Disgusting.) KJ hung up and commented on his smoking. I responded by saying, "Really, it's probably healthier to be a prostitute." Shocked at my comment, I looked at my aunt in disbelief. She gave me a very disturbed and quizzical look before responding with, "Actually, now that I think about it, you're probably right." Honestly, I have no idea where I come up with this stuff. We discussed the pros and cons of prostitution compared to smoking and concluded, with certainty, it was probably better for your health to engage in the former. Never a dull moment folks.
We arrived at Grammy's house to retrieve our favorite old people to head to one of the two local restaurants. Smokey, his second wife, and two children met us there. I was very excited to stroll into the "Hotel Terrance" only to find it filled with elderly. At this point, my aunt and I thanked our lucky stars we got away from this town when we did. The restaurant showcased an interesting buffet, which everyone ate except KJ and me. I stuck to a safe club sandwich and so did she. You really cannot take me anywhere because the entire time we were eating dinner I was making jokes and silly comments to my aunt. Grammy started to give us a look but decided on a wink instead. Seriously, she is my most favorite woman in the whole world. At 83, she's more lively than most 30 year olds. That woman definitely knows how to live. I think I inherited my sense of humor from her or at least I hope. Oh my gosh I love her so much. Both of them are just amazing. Anyway, I was also lucky enough to sit next to my cousin Olivia. She's nine and talks more than I do. She provided quality entertainment for the duration of our meal.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon at Grammy's house where KJ and I had to listen to stories we did not need to hear. I will refrain from sharing how the doctor of Osteopathy saved Grammy's life, or from divulging the details of her 66 year marriage to the indestructible man sitting in the living room watching TV. We left her house chuckling and traumatized around dinner time with a bag of frozen fiddle heads neither of us would eat. We ventured to Nana's chateau down the street before leaving town. My Nana and I are very close, but she still makes me shake my head. KJ and I walked in only to be greeted by an indeterminable number of felines. In her old age, she's become somewhat of a crazy cat lady:
very much to our dismay. She's currently renovating her grandmother's house so the whole place is in a state of complete disarray, to put it nicely. We walked around marveling the strange figures and antique items she had on display. Her china cabinet was nicely arranged in the corner showcasing a plethora of beautiful patterns and delicate designs. It kind of inspired me to start a collection of mine own until she asked me which ones I wanted. That was easy. I discovered a new kind of tea mug, and delighted in the atomic hot balls she still kept on the counter. It is nice to know some things never change. Boy, do I love her something fierce.
We talked about jewelry for a bit. My aunt has taken to making some beautiful pieces for the old ladies. She told us it was difficult to make one in red for Grammy because the colors were not right. She said, "the reds looked like," then paused for a minute. "A French whore?" I interjected. She and Nana busted out laughing. My aunt said our references to prostitutes today were scaring her. Her? I was horrified as I have no idea from where they were coming. We chatted some more until KJ and I said our farewells and headed off to the cemetery before dark.
We were worried the gate would be closed because it was approaching sunset. Luckily, it was still open and the rain had subsided. We located her father's grave. It was the first time I can ever remember being at my grandfather's resting place. I removed the moss on the headstone and said a jolly hello to him despite never having met him. (I'm quite certain he's the family guardian angel.) My aunt set out two enormous pots of flowers, and we told gramps we loved him but were off to find some chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. I'm certain he would understand. Before we left the cemetery, we drove around to visit the rest of the family buried there. Memé, Gram's mom, Great Uncle Keith, my great great grandmother who used to give me cookies and dollars and yelled at the radio when the Sox were playing, and anyone else of whom we could think. While we were driving up and down the roads, we commented on the gravestone's, the families my aunt knew, and the dates of the dead. It was the first time I've truly felt compelled to learn more about my family history. I was reading all of the headstones of these strangers wondering what their lives were like. Someone must wonder about them for sure, right? Sadly, most of the plots were for at least two and the trend seemed to be the husband was quietly waiting for his wife to join him. KJ and I made up stories about some of the people based on their last names. She told me about some of the people with whom she grew up. We did this for quite some time before it started to rain again and the desire for cake began to consume us. My aunt and I headed to the local grocery store where we were not disappointed. We found a luscious stack of chocolate whoopie pies filled with peanut butter frosting. The two of us devoured most of the delicious treats in the car before we headed out of town to the highway.
Despite the exceptionally long haul, my journey north to visit with the "old people" was well worth it. Just writing about it today makes me smile.