Wow. Take off for a couple of weeks and Blogger changes everything. Will need to get used to this new posting format!
I probably shouldn't be posting right now - it's already past 1am, and I've got a demo to do tomorrow - but I know if I don't do it soon, it won't get done at all. Too many things getting in the way!
Our trip was long and tiring. The visit had its good times and bad. The trip back always seems so much shorter than heading out. I know it's just a time zone illusion, but it still feels that way.
Youngest and I headed out on the Saturday, drove until we found one of the rare rest areas in Manitoba, then crashed in the back of the van for the night. We stopped much, much later than I intended to. We had brought a couple of foam mattresses but forgot our bedding, other than a sheet to cover the mattresses with. That turned out okay, since we always keep blankets in the van anyways.
The rest area we found was a full service one, with indoor bathrooms, lots of parking and plenty of motion activated light. One area was filled with semi trailers and a few RVs in amongst them. The area we parked in had a few other cars and trucks, but was otherwise rather empty. I'd parked in a spot at the end of one side, which turned out not to have been a good idea. We kept getting blinded by the motion detection light, which I think was being set off by birds or insects or something. I vaguely considered moving the van, but since we'd had to move the seats forward as far as possible, then put our luggage, etc. all in front, there was just too much to move to make it worthwhile.
We had intended to sleep in, but the morning was just too bright to let us! We'd brought food for the road, so we took the time to have ourselves a lovely little picnic. Which is when I realized the spot I parked in probably wasn't meant to be a spot at all, since it had a curb cut to access the picnic area. Oops.
I'm happy with out things worked out food-wise for the trip. In past road trips, we tried to bring food along, but often ended up eating gas station sandwiches or beef jerky. *L* This time, I had a couple of insulated bags. One is actually a picnic backpack, complete with a 4 pc set of dishes and cutlery, glasses, a large insulated pocket, two insulated side pockets for bottles, and a plastic backed picnic blanket. I found it at Goodwill, which meant it was missing two of the butter knives and two of the plastic "wine glasses" were cracked, but it's still the best $9 I ever spent! *L*
We also brought along one of my insulated grocery bags. We kept stuff that only needed to be cool, not cold, in there, while the stuff that needed to stay cold was in the backback with reusable icepacks. We packed 3 different kinds of deli meats, a small wedge of brie, some smoked cheese we'd never tried before, a bit of provolone, celery and carrot sticks, apples, a bottle of V8 for Youngest and some grapefruit juice for me. Some buns, a bit of mayo for the sandwiches, and a tiny cutting board with a paring knife finished things off. The sandwiches we made were soooo good! Love brie in a sandwich. :-D
Sure beat gas station food! *L*
A few more hours of driving, and we made it to my parents' farm. My mom was at church by then, so it was just my dad. I kept family updated through facebook until we reached the cell phone deadzone. Where my parents live, I found there was enough signal to send a text message (sporadically), but not enough to make a phone call. We reactivated Dh's old Blackberry for Youngest (yes, we are now a 4 cell phone family!), as my own phone does not get service in Manitoba. My parents don't have a computer, but I was able to keep my computer literate family members updated, and they in turn kept my parents updated. I sent one last update before hitting the dead zone, and my sister called my dad to let him know we were almost there, so that worked out really well.
This time, we stayed at the farm with my parents. There was some doubt as to whether this was a good idea, but I'm glad we did. We were running around so much, there wasn't much chance for disaster anyhow.
It was good to see my father. He's having a harder time getting around and I really wish they had home care coming in to give them a hand, but they won't accept it. My brother's death has really taken a lot out of him, but my parents are survivors. Painful as it is, they've seen so much death in their lives, it's not going to destroy them. My dad turns 88 this year, and he plans to hit 100. He might actually do it, if my mother doesn't put him over the edge.
Seeing my mother was its usual manic depressive experience. One minute, things are going good, the next she's ranting about religion or politics or telling me how we should live. In the past, I would never have left my mother alone with the girls, but Youngest is old enough and capable enough to handle my mother. My mother seemed to take advantage of every opportunity to get Youngest alone and talk to her. She had a few negative things to say about home schooling, myself and Dh for not "allowing" them to go to school, and so on. She was thrilled with Youngest mentioned she was kinda interested in going to college and offered financial help with that. By the time we left, Youngest told me that, if she did end up going to college, she would certainly NOT accept money from her Babcia! She knows full well that sort of thing comes with strings attached.
Overall, though, it worked out well. There were a few unpleasant moments, but not enough to completely ruin the time we spent there.
Of course, we did our best to visit other family members. My middle brother lives up the road from my parents, and now that my youngest brother is gone, he's born the brunt of helping them out. There's a whole soap opera situation there. My brother is in a lot of pain - both physically and emotionally - and has a lot of bitterness and anger going on. My oldest brother and his wife was able to come out soon after we arrived. Normally, my oldest brother can only make it out once a week, but there's been a lot going on, so he's been out more often. The farm is getting old and falling apart, and it's getting to be a major issue. My late brother could do a lot of the stuff himself, but there's none among us that can match him on that. With one of the big jobs that needs to be done right now, a plumber is going to have to come in with an excavator and dig down to the bottom of the foundation! My oldest brother is doing the best he can, but he's got a full time job, a small farm of his own, and it's an almost 2 hour drive for him to come out. We were able to go to their place the day before we left, and it's looking so great. Their neighbours laughed at them when the bought the property because of flooding issues, but after years of hard work and a whole lot of money, the place is looking amazing, while their house and driveway remain high and dry.
We got to visit my sister as well. Her farm is about an hour's drive away, and we ended up staying overnight. With all the flooding going on in Manitoba, the creek they live on is really full. They're not in any danger where they are, but the water is the highest they've seen for this time of year. My BIL has been helping my oldest brother out with a lot of the work at my parents, but his own parents are getting on in years, too. They share the same yard, so they see each other every day. One day my BIL might be at my parents' farm, helping dig a trench, then redoing the floors of his own home, the floors of his parents home, plus the usual work of tending cattle and field, fixing tractors, and so on - all with an injured back. My sister, meanwhile, has a job in a nearby city, plus her own farm and garden work, as well as the odd freelance design job. My sister tries to visit my parents regularly, but there's only so much they can manage.
The most difficult thing about the trip, of course, was the memorial. I visited my brother's grave a few times. Short visits, unfortunately, as we'd be driven away by the mosquitoes. During the memorial, I made sure we were slathered with bug spray!
We had the memorial on Canada Day; the day before my brother died 1 year ago. There was a morning mass, then we all headed to the cemetery. The company that made the permanent memorial stone did a great job. It's quite beautiful. The priest did a little ceremony for the blessing. There where quite a few people, both at the church and at the cemetery. It was mostly family and friends of my parents. My brother's friends stayed away. I think my mother's behaviour had a lot to do with that. My niece made it out with her boyfriend, but my nephew said he didn't want to be there. My brother's widow wasn't there, but that was no surprise. She's cut us off completely. I need to work on not allowing myself to feel very terrible things about her and her behaviour since my brother died. Nothing I'm going to write about here, though!
There was a reception later on, catered by a neighbour. It was a very long and difficult day for my dad, but he made it through okay. Between cane and walker, he got about all right. We drove him to the church, but he found the van too high for him to get in and out of, but he was able to get in and out of my SIL's care much more easily, so that worked out. It must have really hurt for him not to be able to go to the funeral last year, since that was in the city. He wasn't going to miss any part of it this time.
I went back to the cemetery the next day, which was the actual anniversary of my brother's death. Clearly, I was not the only one. Some more flowers had been added, and there were a couple of empty bottles of my brother's favorite beer. My family had left a couple of lawn chairs by the monument (which came in handy during the blessing ceremony) and they were set up in front of the monument together. A candle in a glass hurricane lamp my mother had left was burned right down. At least two people had spent quite a bit of time there. No idea who. My mother swings by regularly to tend not only my brother's grave site, but other family members there as well. She regularly finds things people have left for my brother; everything from his brand of cigarettes, to a bottle of whiskey of particular significance. He's getting quite the collection of solar powered garden lights - something else he was fond of - and a whole lot of flowers, both real ones in pots and fake ones in vases.
My brother's passing has left a huge hole in a lot of people's lives.
The cemetery is in a lovely little spot. There was one time Youngest and I swung by after dark, as I wanted to see how the lights looked. It's in a secluded little spot, surrounded by trees on three sides. It was so beautiful. The garden lights glowing softly (including ones at a couple other grave sites), fireflies blinking all over the place, and a ground fog glowing brightly in a farmer's field across the road. The only down side was the insane amount of mosquitoes!!! My family already knows that this cemetery is where I want to be buried, too.
My own family were not our only visits. We got to see Dh's parents a few times as well. They're just a short drive from my parents, and they have cell phone and Internet service. *L* Thankfully, Dh's brother and his family were able to come out from the city and visit, so we were able to see them as well. Had they not been able to come out, we would have missed them entirely. It's always fun visiting Dh's parents. They're such interesting folks! I have to admit, I'm always struck by how *young* they are. At least compared to my own parents. There's about a 20 years age gap between Dh's parents and mine. I keep forgetting that my parents started a family fairly late in life.
With all the visiting and preparing, Youngest and I were constantly on the go while out there. When it was time to head home, I intended to take it easy and we'd find a rest area to stop for the night again. We took a different route home this time and, while it was longer, it had a lot more rest areas! In the end, the closer we got to home, the more it seemed to just not make sense to stop for the night! It was just a few more hours to home, after all.
It was about 2:30 am when we got home. *L*
You'd think we'd finally get to take it easy after that, but the last week has seen us running around almost as much as while we were away! So much to do. I think yesterday night was the first time I finally got to sleep in! Not tonight, though. I was supposed to have my first crochet class yesterday, but no one had registered for it, so tomorrow I'm doing a demo. Now that I'm home, I'll have to see about drumming up some business and get some students!