To Chicago, Virginia, and nearby Denton

The sheltering arms of an old pine tree shade the graves of my maternal great-grandparents and great uncle

I was home a couple of weeks. I got up extra-early on Monday, May 17, pedaled 10 miles, and got to work – two consulting-business pitches, one by phone with the U.K., and one near the airport. It was a seriously busy morning, and that felt so good: I need to be busier! After the second meeting, I motored a few miles west, parked, and at 12:30 flew to Chicago, the first leg of a kin-trip – to Cousin Jim’s, then on to Washington to help Robin with the two girls. We landed at 2:45, picked up a Hertz car, and drove to St. Adalbert’s Cemetery.

To me, graveyards are for historical record, and my intent was to see the markers of my four maternal great-grandparents, two from Italy and two from Germany. The office had an efficient, computerized grave locater, but the map only identified a section, which held hundreds of graves. A clerk showed me how to find the Fredianis. It was not easy, and I more or less stumbled upon three flat markers for Enrico, Cesira, and Private First Class Maurice, the man who would have been my great-uncle had he returned from World War I. He died a month before Armistice, and now rests right under and enormous and sheltering pine tree.

I was running short on time, so did not see the Pallucks’ graves, heading instead for Arlington Heights, ten miles northwest, to watch Cousin Jim’s three kids practice soccer. Big fun. We had a good catch-up dinner with wife Michaela, yakked a bit with the kids, and Jim and I headed out for a beer with Mike and Bob, two of the other four cousins who live nearby.

Was up early Tuesday morning, and out the door for breakfast with friend Rick Dow, who was a morning tablemate in February. Rick is the senior marketing guy at Midas, the car-maintenance people. We had a good chat – he’s always been a really interesting fellow, full of insight and varied stories – then motored to Midas corporate offices, to continue the yak and meet some colleagues. A lot of fun. Headed back toward the airport, stopping for lunch on the site of the original (April 1955) McDonald’s. The first drive-in was relocated across the street and has been nicely restored (business is business, and the “museum piece” was sitting on a parcel with much higher traffic!).

The First One, Des Plaines, Illinois

Flew to Washington, jumped on the Metro west to West Falls Church, then a very convenient Fairfax Connector bus to within two miles of Robin’s house, where she and the girls fetched “Pots.” Our modern species are about motion, and here’s proof: two minutes after getting home, Dylan picked up her toy airplane, handed it to me, and said “airplane,” knowing that I would zoom it around the house, to her great delight. She doesn’t know I spent a lifetime in the business. It made me smile, and put even more zoom in the flying demonstration. Robin and I had a good yak (husband Brett was at a two-day training seminar), and lights were out by ten.

Carson Olivia, grinning at two months

I easily returned to the childraising rhythm Wednesday, making breakfast for Dylan, taking her to tumbling class and the park, and helping Robin with Carson, who, like most infants, changed greatly in a month, becoming more alert and less fussy.

Dylan in one of her favorite places!

And I counted seven smiles, which made her grandfather smile broadly in return. The next day was equally busy, and included two trips with Dylan to the park, and Carsy introducing me, twice, to her strong barfing reflex. First time covered only the back of my shirt, but episode two took down shirt and trousers. Then it was bath time for Dylan, then story time, and I was exhausted. Hard work, for sure.

Friday morning after rush hour we headed into Washington to the National Zoo. It was packed, but we saw the big draw – the giant pandas – plus a lion, tiger, orangutan, and elephant. Drove home, lunch, and naps.

As we did every day, after nap time Dylan and I headed to the little playground near their house. After swings and slides, we walked along the edge of the pond, watching the frogs jump in the water. Dylan wanted to see them, and she beckoned them with hand gestures and “come out, frogs, we will help you!” One can only wonder where that sort of thing comes from, but I was howling. After Brett came home from work, he, Robin, and Carson headed out for dinner, and I babysat Dee-Dee, which was a wild rumpus. Saturday morning, I retraced my steps to National Airport and flew home. I am getting into my Pots-helper role!

Four days later, on May 26, a sad, short trip, by car to Denton, Texas, 35 miles west of us, to a memorial service for the spouse of a former boss, who died early and suddenly. Even though Denton is not far, I had never been there. It’s known as home to two large public universities, and far enough from Dallas and Fort Worth to remain a distinctive, freestanding town. I left home early to have a look around before the funeral, and was delighted with the townscape, especially a wonderful, 1896 courthouse and some cool buildings from more recently, including a 1950s-era movie theater. Gotta get back there on a happier day.

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