(This is the first item in my catch-up list. More will be forthcoming.)
My grandmother’s memorial service was held in northeast Iowa the weekend of October 4th to 5th. I, being without a car, had to find a way to Jonas’s place in Peoria. This turned out to be easy in theory, difficult in practice, with the answer being the bus. I'll spare you the details here, but you can see the details below.*
Arriving late at my husband's town, Jonas had made a wonderful dinner. We had our first homemade guacamole, which was phenomenal (even when we made it a second time recently, it just didn’t compare), as well as burritos with lots of wonderful fresh ingredients. Then we drove to stay overnight at my parents’ place. My dad was already asleep, so we just got there and promptly crashed for the night.
The next day we drove to northeast Iowa, arriving at ~9:30am, where we greeted my grandfather at the door. He seemed quite distraught, with tears brimming in his eyes. After quickly changing, we then walked 1 block to the Lutheran church where the memorial would be held.
There was a pre-service prayer for the family and Jonas, not knowing whether to come in, stayed out with Sarah soon joining him (because Xander was being pretty talkative). I was later told that they were approached by some distant relative who introduced herself and asked if Jonas was one of the grandchildren. He said no, he was Topher’ partner. To which she immediately turned to my sister, said “Topher, is that one of Susan’s daughters?” My sister, momentarily flabbergasted, glanced at Jonas and then back at the woman, saying, no, Topher is my brother. The woman, still not glancing at Jonas, patted Xander on the head, said what a cute boy he was, and then promptly walked away.
The memorial service went well. There were three speakers: my mom’s cousin, me, and my mom (in that order). I had forgotten the print-out of my speech at home (stupid me!), but I had uploaded an earlier version to gmail, so I accessed that with my phone and I used that instead. It wasn’t until the closing song that I started crying … sobbing might be closer to the truth. It’s weird how I can hold it together for a long time and then it comes out strong and quick.
The other weirdness of the weekend (beyond Jonas’s encounter with some distant relative) was when my mom and I took my sister’s son Alexander to the park just another block beyond the church. A strange guy in his mid-50s wearing a hard hat came up and started chatting. He then asked if we were married; my mom, somewhat taken aback, said no, she was my mother. After she wandered away with Xander, the conversation went like this:
Stranger: Is that your wife? (pointing to woman on nearby park bench)
Stranger: Where is your wife?
Me: I don’t have a wife.
Stranger: But you have a wedding ring?
Me: (spooked out, because my hands are at that point in my pockets) I don’t have a wife.
Stranger: So it’s like a promise ring or something?
Me: (somewhat annoyed at this point) No, it’s a wedding band.
Stranger: You’re engaged?
Me: (finally at my wit’s end) No, I’m married to a man.
At that point the man, probably subconsciously, continues staring off in the distance as he had, but shuffles uncomfortably over to a position about 10 feet further away from me. At least it gave me a minute until the shock wore off and he decided to bug me some more.
My mom's side of the family hadn’t been together for a while, so after returning from the park we all sat down together and chatted. I learned that my grandmother was amazing at auctions, barely giving a signal, but enough of one that the auctioneer could tell. I also heard about some of the dastardly deeds done by my relatives when they were teens in small-town Iowa.
The ride up had been me, my father, and Jonas, and on the way back it was the three of us plus my sister's son Xander. It was a good time, with my dad getting some time with us (usually at home, we only get to have a few tens of minutes with just the three of us). Once back, we stopped to return Xander to my sister, and then we went to have dinner. We had some nice beers, some excellent food, and some interesting conversation. My dad is quite good at coming up with random topics to talk about. Plus, he likes my husband a lot.
The next day we stayed around for lunch (brats and sauerkraut), then drove back home. Unfortunately, I had to prepare for an upcoming conference and began my two-week long cycle of minimal sleep.
* I had never ridden on this busline, arriving about 30 minutes ahead of departure. Or supposed departure, as the announcement soon came out that the bus had broken down east of town and would be running about 1 hour behind schedule. Once the bus did arrive, I discovered that any luggage to be stored underneath would have to have a special tag on it, so I rushed inside to get the proper tag; this moved me from in the first third of the line to the second-to-last person. This matters because once on the bus we discover that it’d been overbooked … by 5 people! So for the next 60 minutes, I and 4 other people have to stand in the aisle while we ride from Champaign to Peoria. As soon as others got off the bus, I was able to sit, but I was lucky, as we picked up new people, and by the time we left Bloomington we had 11 people overbooked! I have no idea how this busline can do this and stay in business.