I had an incredible time with my family this weekend. I completely underestimated how difficult it was going to be emotionally, however. I arrived in Nashville on Friday early afternoon and my cousins picked me up at the airport. We drove straight to Murray, Kentucky to my uncle’s house. Another group of cousins had just made it to his house from Michigan so he had already been surprised by them. We walked in, one by one, and he was so happy to see everyone. He could not believe it when I walked in, he was not expecting that AT ALL. He gave me a huge hug and kiss and it felt just like I was in my dad’s arms. It was comforting and heartbreaking all at the same time. He is just about the same size as my dad was and just felt like him. I cried a little but held it together OK. It was emotional, but everyone knew why I was having that reaction.
The “real” party wasn’t until Saturday night but we started then and there, on Friday evening. The coolers were loaded down with drinks on the back deck, the bar was set up in the kitchen, and the food arrived for the next 48 hours straight it seemed. A huge delivery
of pizza came first, followed by a giant pan of shrimp that my cousins brought from their home in Gulf Shores, Alabama (yum!) I probably had at least 6 beers, maybe more. We sat around Uncle Paul’s kitchen table and out on his back screened in porch and caught up … and laughed. We had great memories from our visits at Granny’s house in Owensboro when we were kids. She had a small house with a large attic and a large basement – which is where the kids were directed to when the aunts and uncles were trying to visit on the main floor. How so many of us could have so much fun with so little – but we still talk about the giant attic fan, the pole we would swing around in the basement, the knife sharpener in the back yard, the swing set without swings that we would climb on … such simple things but hold such huge memories for all of us. We span across several decades, I’m one of the youngest and I have cousins approaching 60 and up.
We left his house around 10 pm to head to the hotel. Along the way we stopped at a bar for another couple of drinks – not sure why, but we did. At this point, I was feeling no pain and I arrived at our hotel lying on the floor of our SUV. Again, not sure why….
So, needless to say, I did not wake up early on Saturday morning to get my training run done. I had gone to bed at 1:30am on Thursday night and was up at 4:30am to catch my flight. I was very sleep deprived and hung over – I needed sleep more than I needed a run. But, I did get up eventually, and carb-loaded at the hotel breakfast buffet before it closed at a late 10am. Some of the cousins were heading back over to the house but I knew that if I was going to spend another entire day of eating and drinking, I had better get some exercise done first. Plus, our hotel was across the street from Murray State University and I wanted to get a chance to go see the campus. I had brought my running clothes, Garmin, etc. so I told myself I would try to cover 5-6 miles – whether that was walking or running depended on how I felt.
I headed out to cross the street, which was sort of like a highway, and I wisely took my headphones off so I could pay attention to my surroundings, since they were all completely new. I hit the walk button and started across the intersection. About halfway across (I was walking, not running) I looked over to my right and noticed that a big black pickup truck didn’t look like he was slowing down, at all. I think an angel was watching out for me because I just stopped in the crosswalk because it didn’t feel right. Sure, enough, the truck came straight through the intersection. I watched the driver too – he didn’t seem distracted or looking elsewhere – he just went straight through the red light at at least 40mph. I would have been flattened for sure. I waved my arms at bit pointing at the light but I don’t think he ever saw me or noticed what he had done – never saw any brake lights. Whew. Well, that got my heart racing a bit.
The Murray State campus was very pretty. Unfortunately, it was an extremely hot and humid day. It might have even been warmer than it was back home in Phoenix. There were quite a few hills on the campus too. I walked the first mile then decided to run a straight mile. I enjoyed that – it felt good and I felt almost like a college student. Classes had started there the week before but the campus was strangely deserted – but I remember thinking that when I was on my college campus on a Saturday morning many years ago. I used to think that visitors would wonder where everyone was…. sleeping most likely, even at 11am! I then stumbled upon the bookstore and decided to go in and check it out. I had told Nathan I would look for a Murray State basketball shirt (they have a good hoops team that often makes it deep into the NCAA tournament – and there is also a student from a nearby high school playing there as well). I found a shirt to get him but didn’t have my credit cards or enough cash on me to buy one so I re-planned my outing of the morning to take me back to the hotel to get my card then go back to the bookstore – if I could find it again. So I looped back around the campus, back to the room and repeated the trip. I was super hot and sweaty at that point, but I covered a little over 5 miles and got him a shirt!
After I cleaned up, we went back over to my uncle’s house. It was so fun to watch the steady stream of family and friends stop by the house all day and night to surprise him. All the cousins sat on the back patio and drank and ate – pretty much all day. I tried to space my beers out with water bottles but I still over-indulged, but not too badly. After things calmed down a bit, my uncle joined us out on the patio and I loved just watching him move and talk. He is very quiet, like my dad was, but his mannerisms are so similar. The way he gestures with his hands, the look on his face… It was comforting in many ways. Just being around him made the whole trip worthwhile. He was so tickled that I made the trip – quite a few times he would call me over to introduce me to someone and tell them that I had come all the way from Arizona. Two of my cousin’s kids (the next generation) are great guitar players and they were playing on the other patio and everyone was singing into the night. And, just like that, it was time to head back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes to most of the family but planned to stop by in the morning before heading back to Nashville.
Sunday morning we got up and my Michigan cousins headed back early. We had a few hours before we needed to get on the road to Nashville. We said our goodbyes back at my
uncle’s house, I had another minor cry but the emotions of leaving my family again were pretty strong. We arrived in Nashville with a few extra hours to do some sight-seeing in the downtown area before going to the airport. My cousin’s daughter, that was driving us, lives in Nashville now after moving from Michigan and she had fun showing us her adopted city. I got to spend my last few hours with my cousin, Janet, at the airport. We haven’t spent much time one-on-one – probably ever. I enjoyed just chatting with her too. She and her 5 sisters have always been so gracious to include me as honorary sister when we are together, it really means a lot to me.
I was back at my house in Phoenix by 8:30 pm Sunday night. I felt a great sense of closure with my dad’s death I think. It may have re-opened a few wounds, but having the chance to talk about it with his/my family was healing as well. Being with his brother and hearing his nieces and nephews talk about my parents helped me feel the larger connection I have with my family – something that often feels so distant so far away. After this weekend, however, I know I still have family and my parents that are now gone touched more than just my own life.