We realized that we've known eachother for 19 years. Our friendship is old enough to vote! As little as 4 years ago, I saw one of these friends, but for one it has been 13 years. Sitting around the table last night was surreal. We have traded our Jolt cola and Cheetos for Jack and Coke and enchilladas, but the jokes and warmth are the same. We have kids now. Jobs. Wisdom to offer. Experience. We toasted one another because if it hadn't been for this tight little group, none of us would be here. We didn't sit there rehashing old times for hours, or awkwardly trying to get to know one another again. We didn't have to. It was like being with those people from 19 years ago...except more distilled. More whole. And without Nirvana playing in the background.
So, I made it to Indiana. Thus far my trip has been a mixture of face-searing laughter, mild frustration and happy reunions that leave a wake of sadness where all I can think is, "Wish you were here." I miss my husband, our daughter, our cats and my friends. There are things I want to show them, people I want them to meet, stories I want them to tell. But, teleportation technology being a ways off, I can't always get what I want.
But, as the Stones said, sometimes, you get what you need*.
I got up at the taint of dawn on Saturday to get to the airport. I opted out of the backscatter machine and got a very friendly and professional patdown. Now, some people may not enjoy getting felt up by a stranger at 5 in the morning, but, I wasn't as experimental in college as others. I decided to make up for lost time. Once I was through security, I had about 30 minutes until boarding. I got to the very full gate to find that due to rough weather in Chicago we were going to be delayed at least 2 hours. (I could've slept in, dammit!) Oddly, though, 30 seconds later, an attendant said that we would begin boarding. Good times. Flight was a bit rough coming in to the Windy City, but then that is usually the way. Once I got there, I started to do my Flash Gordon impression and bolt to my connection. Here, we did have an hour delay. After a rollercoaster southward, I landed in my home town, good ol' Indianapolis.
The airport has changed, the suburbs have grown up...this place *looks* like my home, but at the same time, it looks almost alien. But, even without my glasses, I could tell that the blurry figure standing at the outer edge of the security checkpoint was my dad, smiling and welcoming me here. He and I got a few minutes to chat, got a rental car and I began my trip north to Logansport.
I took a different route. I've never driven this particular country highway, but damn if it wasn't faster. I didn't have my familiar music or my worn old landmarks on the side of the road (like the greasy spoon/fueling station that suggests you "Eat Here and Get Gas"). When I got to Logansport, I went to my aunt's new house. My family waited there for me. Cousins, their children, aunts...all of them faces and personas I know blindfolded and upside-down, but people who have grown and changed in innumerable and vague ways.
I went in to talk to my grandmother first thing. She's not well. She has these spells. Dizzy, pain, vision going black and just bone-weary. She *is* improving, though. Even with that daily improvement, she knows. She told me that last week she thought she'd be gone this week. That this was it. But, she said, it's almost time. She's tired. It's getting near time to go home.
I spent a few days with her and my aunt. Cousins dropped by and the house was filled with the ring of voices I haven't heard in far too long. Yesterday, though, it was time for me to leave for Indianapolis for a couple of days with my Dad and his family.
I had to say goodbye to my grandmother. And both of us knew the moment for exactly what it was. The last time we'd have to see one another face to face until the next life. I am blessed to have had this moment, I know. It is precious to me. Sacred. But it doesn't change the fact that walking out that door, starting the car and heading south hurt like a bitch.
I fought off tears the whole drive to my Dad's place, telling myself "just make it home, then you can cry". After I got here, though, I didn't cry. I had to get ready and go to dinner with old friends. Back in 7th grade I met a very special group of people. We weren't cool. We were awkward kids who found one another and learned how to be ourselves with one another. Last night, I got to have dinner with 3 of these people...all grown up.
So far my trip has been a lesson in opposites. Sadness and joy. Reunion and goodbye. Change and consistancy. And due to humidity my hair has been so fucking fluffy I thought small children were going to try to cuddle it and name it Mr. Fuffles. (Seriously, how did I live with this kind of hair volume for 24 years and forget about it?)
Today, I've been trying to decompress. I feel numb, honestly. It's been an emotional roller coaster. I sat out on my dad's porch today, intending to read and I was instead accosted by one of the cats. Sox is roughly the size of a small outboard motor and purrs just as loudly. He is all muscle, built like a linebacker. A very furry, adorable linebacker. And he is quite insistant when he wants his devotions. He sat on my lap and demanded pettins for about 45 minutes leaving me with claw marks on my hands (from when I stopped before he was ready) and enough fur on my clothes to really piss off PETA. I tried to stand up at one point and he shifted all of his weight against me so I had to sit down. I love this cat.
Anyway, I've rambled long enough, I think. I should consider getting lunch or something. Tonight, dinner with family. Tomorrow, I visit my grandfather for his birthday. Then... home to Arizona.
*I would like to just add that I have heard that song no fewer than 3 times in the car this week.