My husband, Chris, had the opportunity to hear Lonnie Ali speak in Denver a couple of weeks ago. Lonnie Ali, in case you don’t know, is the wife of Mohammed Ali, the former prizefighter who now has Parkinson’s disease. The talk was about being a caregiver and how important it is for caregivers to take care of themselves. While Chris was at the talk, I was taking care of my parents. I’m both a caregiver and a care-getter. At that moment, I was a caregiver in desperate need of a holiday.
My chance to get away came in a way I would never have expected.
I went to my cousin’s funeral in Fleming, Colorado last Saturday. This was a hard one for me as my cousin Dick was the one who taught me how to drive a tractor. He also pushed when we were on their incredible home-made swing-set/merry-go-round that was better than any amusement park ride, as long as Dick was pushing. He had us going so fast that we were flying almost horizontal to the ground. It probably wouldn’t pass the safety standards now days, which is why we loved it so much. Where’s the fun without a little sense of danger?
I was not going to miss this funeral for anything. Since it was a long drive and since I was in desperate need of a little get-a-way, Chris and I decided that I would drive up on Friday morning and have the day to myself before the service on Saturday morning. I would then be well rested for the drive back to Denver on Saturday afternoon. I felt a little funny using Dick’s funeral as my rest and relaxation holiday, but I thought Dick would understand.
Preparing for this trip, I made sure to take plenty of things to do. My son, Patrick, sent up numerous DVD’s that I could watch on my little Toshiba DVD player. Chris made sure I took my knitting with me. I’m almost finished with the pair of kilt socks I made for his birthday. I took my needle felting with me, too, just in case a blizzard rolled in and I’d be stuck in Sterling for a week or so.
I arrived in Sterling and savored the afternoon and evening, taking photos of different landmarks in town: my grandmother’s house, the court house, and Clarence’s Corner. Clarence’s Corner was our favorite place to hang out when we were kids. Clarence sold popcorn, snow cones, and candy. Because he was somewhat disabled, he also drove around in an electric car, something we thought was incredibly cool.
In the evening, I watched “Black Adder” episodes while knitting and felting. I had dinner when I wanted it and I didn’t have to clean up. I stayed up as late as I wanted to and made it almost to 10 pm.
The next morning, I drove out to Fleming and St. Peter’s, the Catholic Church that had served this farming community for many years. I arrived way too early, simply because I was so afraid I’d get lost. The only directions I remembered were: drive to Fleming and turn right. I didn’t remember which road I was supposed to turn on but I made a guess and took the one that was paved. I drove on for another 10 minutes or so, saw the sign for the church, and arrived at St. Peter’s with 45 minutes to spare.
The service was nice. Leo Pimple gave a beautiful eulogy. Dick was truly an amazing individual, much more so than I had ever known. The church and tiny cemetery at St. Peter’s are on the prairie. It’s wide open prairie and the wind is cold. I wish I could have gotten a photo of the priest standing by the open grave, reading from the prayer book, his stole blowing in the wind, with the prairie behind him. I will never forget that picture.
I saw cousins I hadn’t seen for years. I would have needed several more days in order to catch up with everyone. As it was, I was able to visit briefly with them and briefly with my aunt Maribelle. I was saying goodbye to my cousin. She was saying goodbye to her son. I cannot imagine having to do that. I was also introduced to many a number of people whose surnames I recognized instantly. I was probably related to most of them, but I couldn’t tell you how. It was a bittersweet morning.
I left reluctantly, stopping in Sterling to take a few more photos. I wanted to get on the road early enough so I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark. It had started to snow and I thought it wise to keep ahead of the weather. Had I known that through most of the trip I would be driving through blowing snow with extremely poor visibility, I would have stayed an extra night in Sterling. As it was, I finally pulled off the highway at Roggen. I was certain that I had seen a “lodging” sign posted by the exit. Three miles down the road, I realized I had missed the town altogether and had no idea where I was going. The cows in the pasture, which I could barely see, were no help, even when I stopped, rolled down the window, and asked for directions. I sat in the car for a few minutes, close to tears, wondering if I would have to spend the night in the car.
Backtracking to the town of Roggen, I finally saw the “Prairie Lodge”, a small one story hotel with boarded up windows. It didn’t look terribly welcoming, so I went back to the highway and decided to brave the weather. At Roggen, the snow was coming down so thick that I could barely see where I was going. Thirty seconds after starting back down the highway, the snow suddenly stopped and it was clear. The rest of the trip was easy and I relaxed and listened to a cd of Neil Gaiman reading his short story, Chivalry.
I arrived home just in time for dinner.