When my mom first booked our hotel rooms for Ohio, she was trying to decide between two–one was more expensive, but it had a pool. And guess which one we sprung for?

I would’ve liked to have used the pool the night we got in, but it was evening by then and the pool was packed with kids. That would’ve been another advantage had been able to go earlier, but we at least used it Sunday first thing in the morning.

My parents have been swimming pretty consistently to lose weight, and to pretty good results. I’d love to do more of it myself, but our options are kind of limited where we are. I definitely get a good workout from it, seeing as how I can only go across a pool a couple times before I’m tired.

And that was about it for hotel adventures in the morning. We packed up and checked out, then spent a little time at a beach on Lake Erie. I would’ve liked more time there, too, although you could plop me on any beach and leave me there for days and I’d still say I wanted more time there. We drove around the area for a bit, then headed over to my mom’s cousin Colleen’s for the big anniversary party.

A good bit of family from Pennsylvania came, like Aunt Elaine and Uncle Del and Aunt Gina and Uncle Richard, so we all had a good time socializing and hanging out. I kind of had to pull Paul into it–we were both tired and he was withdrawing a little bit, but I hate to go to Ohio and then not spending time with the family I went to see. I think part of it is Paul’s family dynamics, because there’s a sense with them of being together without being together. Sure, they get together, but no one really talks or truly spends time with each other. A lot of times, people sit in front of a TV instead. It’s like getting a family together only to sit in a room and barely acknowledge each other. You can say you spent time together, but you really didn’t. He did discover later, though, that he liked talking to Uncle Bill about his working days.

As for the whole “surprise” part of the party, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Bill were led to believe they were just coming over for a barbecue with friends. Everyone was more focused on how Aunt Shirley would react because we all knew it would probably be pretty great, and we were right–they drove up to us all standing in the driveway and she was really, genuinely surprised, more so than I’ve ever seen anyone at a surprise party, especially when she saw all of us Pennsylvania kids there and with a wedding in less than two weeks. Her reaction alone made me glad we made the trip, along with how grateful she was later and how clearly moved she and Uncle Bill both were to have everyone there celebrating their anniversary. Even Colleen, their daughter, got a little choked up thanking everyone for coming.

It was also fun to look at old pictures of them and my grandparents, and of course at things like this, people start breaking out the old stories that I still love to hear. One of the things I’ve always said I regret about my grandparents’ deaths is that we never sat and wrote down their stories or recorded them telling them themselves, but it’s not the kind of thing you think of doing at the time. On the one hand, you kind of take it for granted that they’ll be here forever, and on the other hand, it’s just tough to get it done. But these are the kinds of things I love hearing even more now–it gives you different perspectives of the family you know, and you hear about them from people who had entirely different experiences than yours. It’s like when you’re a kid and you ask your parents about before they were married and before you were born and thinking about them as individuals with experiences and identities separate from you. Some of my favorite stories have always been the ones that surprised me, like how my grandma was supposed to elope with another man who never showed up to meet her when he said he would or how when my mom told her she was pregnant with me, she said, “Well, you’ve done it now!”

But I digress.

We had some good food, some drinks, and good conversation before hitting the road back home and grabbing the week’s groceries on the way.

And I’m glad I had those prior two days off–made the weekend feel less full and rushed and more like I got some leisure time, which I thrive on these days because it’s so rare lately. Fortunately, it’s looking like I’ll have a good bit of it this weekend before we delve into Brandon’s wedding week. It’ll be a short week for me as I’ve taken off the day of the rehearsal dinner, but come on, how much of a day off is that really gonna end up being?

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