This will not be one of my typical blogs about running, although it will certainly be mentioned. Occasionally I have something else on my mind that I have to get in writing. Today happens to be one of those days. I am in Northwest Indiana with my friend Kim. She is presenting professional development at Merrillville High School, and since I am from this area, I came along to show her the area, and to keep her son company while she teaches during the day. What an adventure Spencer and I have had!
Yesterday I took Spencer to Notre Dame to see the campus. I know my way around Lake County WEST of 65; east of 65, not so much. It looked relatively easy – take the 80/90 east. I did that. Or so I thought. Spencer was snoozing in the back seat, oblivious to our surroundings. I was cruising along, happy as can be to be back in my hometown area. Suddenly, a large sign appears before me: Welcome to Michigan. Notre Dame is in Indiana. How the hell did I get in Michigan? My chest began to constrict; my head began to pound. Fortunately, there was a Welcome Center just across the state line, so I zipped in to consult my map (and pee because when I am nervous I have to pee a lot). Spencer awakened briefly, but never noticed all the Michigan signs in the parking lot. I didn’t want to alarm the young lad, so I just made like it was a potty break, figured out how to get back to Indiana, and ventured on. We eventually made it to Notre Dame, and enjoyed touring the picturesque campus.
We made it back to our hotel, but not after accidentally going through a rather rough section of Gary. If you have never been to Gary, let’s just say when I was a kid, my parents would tell us to lock the doors as soon as we hit the city limits of Gary. It’s scary. And Spencer and I were driving through. I instructed him to avoid staring at people, though there are some interesting people to stare at. Seriously, you do not look at anyone. Ever.
So, after explaining to Kim about my errors in judgment, and telling Spencer he had been to Michigan, it was time for dinner. I had plans to meet two of my childhood friends at Joe’s Crab Shack. The three of us had not been together since I moved when I was eleven! I was excited, but nervous that it might be awkward. Let me give you some background that might make the rest of this blog make sense (or not).
When we lived in this part of the state, we were members of Southside Christian Church. That was our family. My parents belonged as teenagers; all of their friends were from church; and we spent much of our time at church. When my father died suddenly, the members were there immediately. And they never left. The men and women of the church cared for all of the children of the church, and we respected all of them. I have never belonged to another church like it. It really is hard to describe how important our church family was. Karin, Nancy, and I talked about how we were at church Sunday morning for Sunday School and church, Sunday evening for recreation, Christian Endeavors (youth group), and Sunday evening service, and Wednesday evening for services. Many weeks there were also skating parties or youth events. I did not keep in touch with school friends from elementary school; I kept in touch or reconnected with church friends. So meeting up with Nancy and Karin last night was just wonderful. We picked up where we left off 34 years ago. With the miracle of Facebook, we knew some things about one another, so the conversation flowed easily – for three hours!
Today was another day to visit my past. I don’t know why, but it has always been so important to me to keep those connections to my early years. The experiences I had – good and bad – and the people who have been part of my journey made me who I am today. The men and women of Southside taught me and loved me and nurtured me for eleven years. I so appreciate that part of my life. I began the day by visiting the cemetery where Dad is buried. It is a large cemetery, and is divided into gardens. In this part of the state, they do not use upright headstones like we have in Tell City. They have brass plates that are flat on the ground. This makes it very difficult to locate a grave if one doesn’t know exactly where she is going. I knew Dad was in the Garden of the Last Supper, but had forgotten where. I was wandering, and beginning to panic (I don’t know why. It wasn’t as if he were lost!). The very kind workers asked if they could help, and the began looking, and then called the office to have them look up the location. They stood and talked with me as we waited, and were just so kind and compassionate. I was blessed. They took me to Dad’s grave, and then I was able to locate my grandparents. Even after all these years, it is still tough to visit the cemetery. I feel as if I revert back to that seven year old when I stand there.
Enough sadness…I had a great day, and I want to share it! My next stop was Southside to pay for some books I had ordered and to wander around. As luck (which I normally do not have) had it, two of my mother’s best friends were there! I was so excited to see them, and they were happy that I had come in. They were preparing a meal for the Senior Saints, and asked if I would come back to visit some more. I didn’t know how the day would progress, but told them I would try. I then dragged Spencer back to the car, drove by my old house in Munster, and proceeded to Hammond. I drove by my old house on Van Buren, and then went to another of my mother’s friend’s houses to surprise her. She wasnt’ home, but I found out she was going to the Senior Saints luncheon. Then I went by my grandma’s little house and checked it out. Afterward, it was time to meet my friend Kim for lunch at my absolute favorite burger joint, Miner Dunn. It is an old, old diner, and looks pretty much the same as it did when we lived there. The burgers and fries are awesome, and when one orders a deluxe platter, she also gets a cup of orange sherbet. Yup, I got the platter just like I always did as a kid, and I dipped my fries in the sherbet. Why grow up? After a wonderful visit with Kim, Spencer and I struck a deal (this kid was a trooper). He wanted to go to a fireworks store we had seen, and I wanted to go to Senior Saints (gosh, I never thought I’d type those words!). We hit the fireworks store where, I might add, the saleskid gave Spencer a bunch of free firecrackers that had come out of boxes. Spencer was all smiles the rest of the day!
We were then off to Senior Saints. I have to admit, it was a blast to visit with the Southsiders of my youth. Mrs. Meisner always brings up that when I was about four, I would call her and ask her to go to lunch. This lady is 87 years old! She helps her daughter care for her 16 year old twins who have Aspergers. Mrs. Meisner told me all about their diagnosis and what they have been through. It made me tired and I am half her age. I spent time talking with Mom’s friends, Josie, Bonnie, and Bernie. They were so much fun. Bonnie knew my whole family, even all of my uncles and my grandparents. What a blessing to hear about them.
To be back in my church, where my heart will always be, and to spend time with the ladies who helped raise me, was truly a magical experience. I love those people, and won’t wait so long to go back. I have spoken with my sister a couple times today, and we decided we are going to bring our mother up for a visit. My brother even said he would consider coming with us.
I know this is exceptionally long, and might not be of interest to anyone, but in order for me to ‘process’ my days, I wanted to get it all down. I have run the last couple of days. Our hotel has a great workout facility, so I have run on the treadmill. I was emotionally drained after today, so I cranked up my Jesus music (contemporary Christian) and ran like a gazelle. Not really. But it felt really good and helped relieve some of my anxiety.
Who in your past would you like to connect with? What’s stopping you? Take the time to start a conversation – or play bingo at the Senior Saints! It is so worth it!