Chicago,Kentucky Tennessee and back to Chicago
My 10 days in the states were 10 of the most painful days I have ever experienced.Barring my transplant or being caught in a burning wreck I can´t imagine ever having worse pain.
The first week in Chicago or...more precisely Rockford Illinois afforded me very little opportunity to get out by myself and explore the local town...I had recently been diagnosed with severe arthritis in my right hip and was told in no uncertain terms that I would need hip replacement therapy and sooner, rather than later, a mere 6 days before leaving on a trip which was to take me from Chicago to Tennessee and then down the mighty Mississippi to New Orleans where I had booked 8 days banging nails for Habitat For Humanity.I had planned a total of 3 weeks and sadly, none of these plans were to materialize in the way I had intended. My trip was to be cut short by 10 days just so that I could come home and get some physio and much needed hot tub time.
No trip to New Orleans and a very painful week reminiscing with my cousins and their family in Rockford with no outlet for explorations of any sort...As a matter of fact, even a trip to the local grocery store caused me so much pain that when I took more than 20 steps ,I would have to stop and lean against a wall for at least 5 or 10 minutes before the pain would subside.This ordeal went on for about a week and I was not enjoying this at all.
On Friday, Oct.23rd my cousin Doreen ,her husband Chuck and I left for Florence Kentucky where we were to pickup 2 of their
daughters..Bethanie,who lived there and Carrie ,who was an airline pilot for CONTINENTAL. Here we were to stay the night at a hotel suite and then journey on the next am to Oak Ridge Tennesse where we were to have a reunion with my aunt and uncle and another cousin Sydney and her husband Paul. Now, I hadn´t seen any of these cousins for 40 years and we had been out of touch for much of the ensuing time. Our families had drifted apart and it fell upon me to find us all and help in getting us back together.It was a relief to discover that my cousins all felt the same way. As children we had been very close and the last time we had been together was in 1970 when everybody looked a whole lot younger and we had our whole lives yet to live. Tragedy had befallen both our families as a cousin Greg, a mere 3 months younger than me had been struck down in a car accident 21 years earlier. My father had died 17 years earlier and before he died he had told me he wanted me to get in touch with this side of our extended family. As it was, my father had no siblings and the matriarch of the family my aunt Doreen was the closest he had to a brother or sister growing up...I had no sisters but had 4 great cousins,3 of who were girls who had been just like sisters to me.
There was however a bittersweet component to all of this reunion stuff. My cousin Sydney had inoperable cancer and the prognosis was bleak. The entire day of Saturday was a holy day though as we reinserted ourselves back into each other´s lives,forgot about past differences and forged a new an meaningful blueprint for the future.
So this day of all days Oct.24th 2009 turned out to be a special one indeed where every word uttered had a spiritual patina shading the conversation. After 40 years I was to get only a few sacred hours with my beautiful cousin Sydney and her mother and father...at least for now.
The rest of the weekend was a mirror image of the first half and after 1443 miles we pulled into Chuck and Doreen´s driveway. I had been away exactly one week and it was then that I decided to go home early and attend to my ailing back.
Fortunately for me and.... well... everyone else in the family too...Carrie being a pilot, was able to buddy pass me back to Seattle through Houston the following Wednesday.
The night previous to my departure though Chuck and I treated ourselves to a Bob Dylan concert at the local arena...The Rabbi of Rock,the Shakespeare of Pop was in fine form...doing his rock stance with his tiny little stache and his torreadorean chapeau just like the true rock n roller he´s always been and treating us to about 25 of his greatest of oldest and newest songs.His band was fantastic with Charlie Sexton on guitar and another fine gentleman the name of Larry Campbell also on guitar. Most of the time he spent behind his keyboards but he came out for a few tunes with his guitar and harp.His version of Highway 61 Revisited this time out was unbelievable ...I had never heard this song done this well before and believe me,I´ve heard many versions done well by him and many others before. A fine finale to 10 days that were many things to me. Painful in more ways than one....I must hand it to my fine cousins Chuck and Doreen whom we affectionately have always called Tinker. They showed me how a family should relate to each other in the face of adversity and tragedy. All members of the family extended and otherwise daily communicating with each other with the utmost of respect and care and love...and the goodbye to Paul and Sydney from the driveway was one of the most genuinely hearfelt goodbyes I have ever experienced...i truly love you guys and I´m so grateful for having reconnected with you all.
Coming home was uneventful and the pain had subsided probably by 50 percent or so and I was now getting ready for this part of my journey which i´m now experiencing without any pain to speak of, no painkileers and no cane!
Upon my arrival at the Clipper dock on a cool rainy Thursday morning in Victoria I was met by my beautiful friend Lorraine who is planning to meet me here after Christmas for a few days...
My heartfelt thanks to Chuck,Tinker,Bud ,Doreen,Sydney,Paul, Christie, Britton, Bethanie, Peter,Carrie, Jamie........