The Midwest definitely has its pretty on. All the rain and sudden warmth have greened everything. All the lawns need mowing and the mosquitos have not yet arrived.
I highly recommend the Month of May for a road trip.
Today we get to the halfway mark of the journey as well as to the goal which is Michelle’s hometown of Indianola, Iowa. It’s just south of Des Moines and not a long drive this day, just a few hours.
We stop in South Minneapolis to visit my cousin Mary who is not doing well physically and hasn’t been for a long time but is rebounding a bit from a fall. She can walk and has a dog to walk with, what more can a person want? We meet in the alley behind her house, alleys which all the old neighborhoods have in the city, alleys where we used to play football and burn trash and run down to the corner store with bottles. The meeting is brief because like so many distant but close family the close is a was and the distant is a now. It’s more of a feeling we shared than a possibility of a future and it feels very good, but it only goes so far. We don’t say much like, “See you soon,” because that’s pure BS and she was in the military so has most BS worked out of her. We just hang out and like one another. Mo and her pup get along just fine.
Back on the road and Michelle has a tough drive. We stop a lot to let her stretch her legs. I change her at a roadside rest, not in the bathroom, that shipped sailed long ago, just right there by the bus, but I discover a hack on this day! The bus has a perfect curtain rail inside the sliding door that one of our blankets hooks over and then I put the other end in the window and roll it up and we stand on the platform comprised of stacked exercise matts in pretty good privacy, our heads sticking over the covering but no longer out there bodily for all the world to see. I love new hacks.
Then we arrive at Cindy’s house on the outskirts of Des Moines and I feel my expectations disguised behind a facade of ease. I hope that these next three days will bring some peace and happiness to Michelle, but I don’t know, they might make her sadder, but these are the real dice I’m casting on this whole trip, not the dice of a collision on the highway or a breakdown in searing heat or rain, not tornadoes and bugs, the real gamble is will this help her, will there be an awakening even if only for a moment. If not, I will likely just head home.
And Cindy and John come out to greet us, help us bring Michelle in. They have put in a handicap ramp in their garage for Cindy’s parents to visit, both of whom passed in the last year or so, her father Chuck just a week ago. They were like family to me and my heart is heavy for her and this is one of those rare moments where I’m happy for Michelle because I know she wouldn’t get the loss of Chuck and Bertie so there’s no reason to tell her. If she still had her faculties this loss would tear her in two. They were like parents to her, Chuck in particular because Michelle’s father died when she was just five and Chuck took on the mantle of a father in many ways. He loved Michelle like one of his own, I would say. I have seen Michelle grieve and she grieves deeply, with all of her heart and soul. She still grieves for her father.
And the healing begins. Their place is wonderful for walking and Michelle begins to walk and walks more every day. The weather is kind.
And this is Mo’s hometown too! He was born just outside Indianola almost exactly three years ago in May and we hope he can see some of his brothers and sisters and play.
And this is where Michelle’s extraordinary mother passed just over two years ago. Genelle. She was… she was truly the most wonderful person. To know Genelle was to know the perfect recipe of integrity, generosity, intelligence, courage and just flat out funny. She was a master storyteller, a professional one at that. She changed my life, my entire life, not just by raising her staggeringly lovely daughter but by being frank with me and then allowing me to take a look. Genelle made you feel seen.
All those memories will come face-to-face with my hopes and expectations tomorrow.