Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Visit With My Big Brother

The phone rang at 6:15 this morning, and a half hour later, I decided I wouldn’t go back to sleep. That was good because I had some put-away chores to do before I left to drive up to central Illinois to see my brother Jim and his wife Vivian. I drank coffee with Gerald even though I knew I would stop for egg and toast on the way up in order to take a break. I wanted to hear the report on the early-morning phone call, which is when Gerry usually calls his dad.

Their family was leaving Sioux Falls after Southern Force 16U softball team had their second loss in the nationals there. (I think Geri Ann accumulated seven home runs during practice games, pool play games, and the games they played before they were out of the tourney. Of course, they would have liked to stay in the tourney longer, but it wasn’t to be.) Gerry was driving from Sioux Falls to the airport in Minneapolis when he phoned his dad. His companion was his two-year-old grandson Aidan. Gerry, who has loved a race and/or competition since he was two or maybe younger, had Aidan all involved with the idea that they were going to beat his Gma Vickie, Aunt G, and baby brother Maddux, who had flown out of a different airport to Atlanta. He probably convinced Aidan they won even though the other three had to wait for them to arrive in Atlanta to drive on to Athens.

Tara, the boys’ mother, had left Sioux Falls to go on to Oklahoma City for the 18U gold nationals softball tourney this week. (Last year Gerry coached 18U Southern Force, and Tara coached 16U. Since Gerry can no longer coach a summer team, Tara took over the 18U and certainly did her daddy proud taking them all the way to gold nationals. So this week we will be following the 18U progress just as we did the 16U last week. These games aren’t on TV or game tracker, so constant checking on cell phones will be taking place. (Today Southern Force won their first pool play game.) In the meantime back at Athens, Gerry and Vickie are enjoying these two little guys, and guess what? In his last phone call to his dad, Gerry was telling how smart Aidan is. Grand-fatherhood fits Gerry very well.

Although Jim and Vivian have lived in Mattoon for decades, I have always had a difficult time not getting lost going in and leaving town. Maybe cause Gerald is usually driving. Maybe cause there are two ways into town, and we’ve taken both down through the years. Maybe cause we have often left there to go on up to Freeport or come into town from Freeport. Whatever. But Mattoon has always baffled me. As usual, I turned the wrong direction on their street because NESW seems to reverse itself up there for me. But because I know that, I quickly realized I had made my normal error and turned and went the other way. (And when I glanced down to see the car telling me I was going north, all I had to say was Never Eat Shredded Wheat as I located the other directions.) Gerald offered to set the GPS for me, but I do not like the noise.

We visited awhile and shared news and photos of our kids and grandkids. Each of us had a photo of our newest great grandson. I had to admit that their Vincent Indiana Roland Jones was as cute as Jim said. I hope Indy likes his little outfit I took for him.

Jim had told me on the phone last month about their new fine barbecue restaurant at a resort outside of Charleston, and that is where he and Vivian ended up taking me for noon dinner. Like many senior citizens, they eat out frequently, and Vivian had commented at home that despite the recession, all their many eating places seem to have good crowds. Jim had first pulled into the back parking lot of a nearby eatery only to see that even the large back lot was full—on a Monday no less. We went onto two or three more places in Mattoon and found crowds there also. Finally Jim just kept driving till we got to the resort. They too seemed to have a goodly number of customers, but there was plenty of parking outside and plenty of tables inside. Service was quick and the barbecue was delicious. But all the crowded places had proved Vivian’s point.

The resort is called the Stovepipe in honor of Abraham Lincoln—a childhood home of his is in this area near Charleston. There was an enormous building-high Lincoln figure greeting us that Jim said had been moved there from another park. And in “Abe’s Garden,” there were numerous painted wooden Lincolns that some artist had carved with a chainsaw. The younger crowd were busy at the miniature golf course that we walked by as we passed elaborate water fountain flowing into the goldfish pond with lily pads. Because of the obvious investment someone had made, Jim was hoping that this new business venture would have success.

We drove back to Mattoon a different way that featured good-looking soybean fields on either side. Then we had the afternoon of talk, which I had put off too long. I told them I had been trying to schedule a day-long visit like this since January. Vivian understood. She said she had wanted to start a new quilt since November, but was yet to do so. (When we came back to their house, a friend had left two boxes of fabric at her back door. He had helped an elderly lady move, and Vivian bought the entire woman’s collection of fabrics. Vivian said she had already received boxes and boxes and is sharing with the granddaughters she taught to sew.)

I wanted to leave at five in order to get home shortly after dark. I did and arrived home at 8:30. Gerald was just coming in the kitchen from showering after yet another day getting the storm-fallen trees out of the creek at the other farm. I had hoped he’d take off early and eat dinner in town since I was eating at our favorite chain restaurant in Mt. Vernon to break my journey. But he had worked too late and was settling for sandwiches again, which is what he had for lunch. I opened a can of soup to provide him something hot. And I think he probably ate another piece of angel food cake.

Well, I have blogged, and Leslie has arrived at Woodsong. We’ve talked a bit and she has her laundry going. (My downstairs office has a laundry on one end.) She has already been on her laptop to send a twitter and Facebook entry for Mike and the world to see and know she arrived here safely. She is sleeping in the “brown room,” which is everyone’s favorite downstairs bedroom since it is the underground area of the downstairs without windows and the sleeping is good. She just told me good night, and now I will say the same to you.

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