Friday, August 26, 2005

Random Vacation Thoughts: Part 2 - It Gets Better

The Portland Area: We spent a week at Mr. Random’s Grandma’s house, the mother of Mom Random.

We have not seen Grandma Random in almost 7 years, since our wedding. However, we do send many cards and letters and gifts back and forth over the course of all of the years, so it’s not like we don’t keep in touch. I adore Grandma Random, and she adores me. And the fact that she adores me, well, really touches me, because before I met her I was really scared to meet her. I was scared to meet her because her family told me that she was really conservative, being brought up in rural areas and stuff, and really religious and the kind of lady who believes all of that black helicopters & militia kind of stuff. Being an African American female walking into this little white haired lady’s den freaked me out. But the first thing she did when she saw me 8 years ago? Gave me the biggest hug. Accepted me with open arms. And I learned to never try to ever judge a book by its cover again.

She was so happy to see us that Saturday evening when the train came in. Very tired, but beaming. She will turn 90 years old in January, and she has a lot of trouble getting up and walking due to pains and injuries she’s had since she was a little girl. The whole week we were there, she pushed herself to stay awake a little longer and do stuff with us. We tried to let her know that we were happy just to sit in the living room and watch TV with her, but she wanted to be active with us. Mr. Random and I made her dinner on Tuesday night – a simple herb salad in a bag, with some gorgonzola cheese and little cherry tomatoes, along with some cheesy breadsticks and one of my fave easy recipes, tortellini soup. She loved the salad and bread and had seconds, and liked the soup, but she had filled up on the other stuff and couldn’t eat much of it. Grandma was very pleased to not have another microwave dinner and to have someone make something for her. Yay!

Grandma Random lives alone in a cute little ranch house, around the corner from Aunt and Uncle Random, so they can check in on her and run errands for her. She has an awesome garden in the back yard with all types of flowers and pots of roses. We helped her out a bit and did some staking of flowers and Mr. Random cleaned out her birdbath and put fresh water inside. She loves to identify the birds in her yard, and they hadn’t been coming around for a while, but after the birdbath was cleaned out, the birds started showing up again.

One day, we went out to one of the Random cousin’s houses – she rents a house in a rural area by a river and keeps chickens in her yard . . . so I spent an afternoon feeding the chickens! (I have to post the picture for that – little old city girl, me!, feeding chickens.) They were cool though – came right up to me and pecked them right out of my hand. Later on, her friend, who is the caretaker to an estate, took us by the estate and gave us a tour of the grounds. So beautiful! And the estate has a place where they are growing vegetables, and so there are pictures of me holding huge stalks of rhubarb. We also picked some snap peas and cucumbers to take home to Grandma Random. To end the day, we had some homemade zucchini cake, which was just heavenly.

One day, we just sat at home and looked at old family pictures. Grandma Random actually has the photo albums very well captioned and pointed out the many cousins and aunts and uncles that even Mr. Random didn’t know much about. The last night we were there, she took us to dinner at a restaurant by the river which was one of her favorites.

The day we left, she made sure she took lots of pictures of us, and we all cried as she hugged us goodbye. She said she thought it might be the last time she saw us . . . Awwww! I promised her that it wasn’t, and during our train trip back Mr. Random and I promised that we would surprise her and fly back to Portland for her 90th birthday.

So, you can tell by all of this that this leg of the trip was a much better experience than the week before.

Train Portland to Chicago: We went through Washington and Idaho and Montana and North Dakota and Minnesota and Wisconsin to Illinois. I had never been through those states before, and watching the landscape go from mountains to trees to flat prairie always fascinates me. I was most excited going through Minneapolis-St. Paul because it looked like an actual city! Which made me excited because we were getting closer to home! We were so tired on this leg of the trip, we just slept most of the time or stared out of the window. So much had gone on, we just needed time to process it and try to decompress.

Train Chicago to DC: We were so tired of trains at this point . . . I just wanted to be home! Sleep in my own bed. Pet my own cat. Sit on my own couch. Got into DC at 12:30 on Monday afternoon, took a cab home and here we are. The much anticipated trip was over, thank goodness.

So . . . the trip was a mixed bag. But I am so glad we went to Portland, so glad we made Grandma Random so happy, and so all the stress and drama and aggravation was all worth it.

I just wish it had been an ACTUAL vacation. I could really use one now.

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