Although Julie and Michael got married in Erie in May, they had a small reception/picnic back here at the end of July at a rec center nearby.

(Paul and I kicked off that weekend at a brewery that had this cucumber beer that I absolutely loved and sadly only drank that one time the entire summer.)

We were on cookie duty, as usual–Julie loves these strawberry ones I make, and his chocolate-chip ones are a family favorite–so that was how we spent our Friday night and Saturday morning before heading to his parents’ house for a nice dinner with nearly all of us. Emily’s girlfriend came to town, the two of us plus Jacob and Katie headed over, and we basically spent most of our evening in the pool. It was the perfect day for it, and we were content to cool off and talk.

The perk of having fallen so behind here is that in the couple months since, this information has since been announced officially, so I’m good repeating here.

So we were in the pool, as adults indulging in adult beverages, and naturally, I had to pee. I waited about as long as I could, then sucked it up and headed inside, where Katie and Jacob were, having just arrived. Katie said, “I have something for you!” and handed me this little bag with a smile on her face, and I was suspicious. Inside was a baby’s shirt–Katie’s pregnant! She’d already presented his parents with it, and my timing made me the first of the siblings/in-laws to find out.

And then my torture began. Of course I wasn’t gonna run back out to the pool and tell everybody, but that meant I had to go back, play it cool–which I think I did well, except for the occasional very impatient utterances of, “They need to get out here”–and wait for them. And they took their sweet time. Not necessarily intentionally to make me squirm, mind you, although Jacob definitely knew I was and definitely kind of enjoyed it.

When they did come out, they were kind of waiting for a good moment, and it never really came. It was kind of fun by that point–I knew and was waiting for when they’d drop the bomb, and if I remember right, Katie was gonna go use the bathroom herself when I was like, “Well, before you do…” so she decided to announce it then, and of course, only half of them were paying attention. Emily rectified that pretty fast.

They since used their anniversary to announce it on Facebook.

Typically, the etiquette would be to not announce this at someone’s wedding, even if it is a relatively informal reception, but Julie would much, much rather know than be made to wait. And she was so excited that even to me, it was worth it.

Paul and I are looking forward to become an aunt and uncle again, of course. In fact, if a sibling could have a baby every year or so until this becomes totally unreasonable, that would be super fun.

As for us, it just hasn’t happened yet. Not actively trying, not actively preventing, but I am a little surprised that so far, nothing.

The wedding party–they weren’t really calling it a reception–itself was laid back and fun with great food Julie and Michael made themselves. The favors were bottles of their homemade wine, which we still haven’t opened, but I look forward to when we do. I’ve spent a couple nights at their place drinking far too much of that wine.

And because I’m me, I had tickets to see The Struts that night. In my defense, I didn’t plan it that way. Julie was originally aiming for the following weekend and I already had the tickets when it got moved up a week, but because it started early in the afternoon so they could hit the road back for Erie before it got late, we had plenty of time to head home for me to cover myself in glitter to prepare. Turns out it probably wasn’t enough glitter.

Brandon was gonna go with me originally but ended up having drill, and Kelly was welcome to but didn’t, probably because of Eliana. So I got Paul to go instead. The Struts put on such a good show that I’m confident taking people who aren’t super familiar with them.

I’ve sung the band’s praises before and then did it again on my Medium blog, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but shit, do I love that band, especially live. They’re so fun, so energetic, and have just the right amount of glam, hence my glitter quest.

And then, a few days later, Meri was back in town, so I went out with her and Marissa.

Every year, my mom goes to Hallmark’s Christmas ornament premiere–which falls in early- to mid-July, woof–and I typically go, too. In the past, this was to spare my dad from going and my mom from listening to him complain, and this time, it was more because he was mid-chemo and certainly not up to it.

So I got up, made the drive out, and of course my mom was with my Aunt Gina already in line, so I stood with them like I have pretty much every year I’ve gone.

So, I usually do get a few Wizard of Oz ornaments every year, but my mom would grab them regardless. My being there is less about me participating in the thing and more about keeping my mom company. I’m not on the hunt, it’s not a huge thing for me, it’s more of a shopping trip than anything else. But the woman right behind my mom and Aunt Gina went off on me for cutting in line, adamant that it was unfair. I admittedly didn’t do a great job of explaining that I was with my mom and not really, like, cheating her out of whatever ornament she wanted, but she was rude and unwilling to listen from the start–one of those people who has a tone with you immediately but then the second you call them out on that, they insist they “asked nicely,” aren’t being rude in the slightest, and are actually speaking normally, despite a clear increased volume and attitude.

My mom’s reaction was basically, “Just get out of line to shut her up.” I’m more stubborn than that, but I listened to my mother and just stood against the wall to wait for the doors  to open, go in after everybody else, and meet up in the store. You’d think this would’ve made it obvious that I wasn’t a threat to her precious ornaments–if I’m not even bothering to get in the line, then I don’t really care and it doesn’t really matter. And it would’ve been one thing if that had been the end of it, but she kept on going at me until the doors opened, just wouldn’t leave me alone, asking how I would feel if someone cut in front of me in line, at which point I said I wouldn’t care if someone was just meeting up with someone else like I was. I’ve seen it tons of times in just about every scenario where a line is involved, and so have most people. It’s just a thing most people accept.

It ended when the doors opened, but because I’m me, it bothered me the rest of the day. This is why I pay a therapist, although we never did discuss that fact that I dwelled on this enough to have been able to write this blog a few months later. We’ve mostly discussed, you know, the fact that my dad died in the months since.

I hung out at my parents’ house after. I had this sense over the summer and post-diagnosis in general that I ought to hang around while I was in town, with this looming thought of, “In case our time is limited.” I feel like there were a lot of unspoken moments like that. So I spent some time there.

Back home, Paul and I met up with Brandon, Kelly, and a tiny Eliana for the Whiskey Rebellion Festival in town. We mostly got food and checked out the vendors and hung out at our house for a little bit–the cat was very interested in the baby and ran to her when she cried.

The following weekend brought Julie’s wedding reception.

I have already mentioned this, but I decided to start writing about music over on Medium, and although current inspiration over there has run dry temporarily, I’m only just now getting around to the last few months, when I kind of dropped off other posting here.

One of those things that overlaps, though, was going to see Rocketman, which was very good, and driving to Ohio for Anberlin’s reunion tour.

I cover much of this in my post on Medium, but it went like this: my brother and I have loved Anberlin since we were teenagers, but they called it quits a few years ago and we never made it to the farewell tour. It never came to Pittsburgh, and neither of us was really in a position to travel for it. But one day, Brandon happened to notice that they’d mysteriously updated their social-media pictures, which these days only means one thing. Sure enough, they eventually announced a reunion tour, but like the farewell tour, there was no Pittsburgh date.

We missed the farewell tour. We weren’t gonna miss the reunion. We narrowed down a few cities within reasonable driving distance but settled on Cleveland, in large part because it was July 3 and we’d both have the next day off of work. It’s also a pretty short, easy drive, considering.

My only concern was that by the time the show rolled around, Brandon would have a baby just over a month old and would have just returned from a nearly month-long military training trip, and although Kelly gave him the go-ahead and only asked that we not get a hotel and stay overnight, I thought maybe she’d change her mind, and honestly, if she had, I wouldn’t have blamed her. She was well, well within her rights to say, “You’ve been gone for almost a month and we have a new baby, you are absolutely not going to a concert with your sister while I stay home.” I even made sure to only do e-tickets in case she did change her mind, that way I’d have a much easier time reselling them. Not that she’s that type, just that, again, new baby. But bless her, it didn’t happen, and Brandon came to my house the afternoon of the show, we grabbed some supplies, and hit the road.

Now, ticketing apps haven’t been great with differentiating between when doors open and when the first band hits the stage. Generally, doors open an hour before, and because I couldn’t find a time listed elsewhere, I assumed that the time listed was the start time and that doors were an hour prior to that. I was wrong. The good news was that our supply run took longer than expected, so we got there later than expected, and rather than arriving after doors opened like I thought, we were actually there a half-hour before. I was pretty happy about this.

The show was amazing. We sang every word, we screamed, we danced, we gaped at each other with every beloved song in the set–including those really early ones that got us into Anberlin to begin with. It was a perfect night, really. We had so much fun, we were back in front of a band that defined our teen years, truly, and that we’ve never stopped loving, and it felt just like we were there again. And that’s not a matter of nostalgia or wishing we were still teenagers, because believe me, I do not wish I was still a teenager, but rather a statement about just how much Anberlin has meant to us over the years and how not only has that not changed, but the band played like they’d never been gone. At best, I was in my early 20s the last time we saw them, maybe even my late teens, depending on the tour, and here we were, both there again, this time with me newly 30, both of us with spouses at home–in my case, in our house–and him with a baby, too.

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It was worth the excitement, the money, and the drive. Worth the wait? Nah, I’d have much rather spent the last few years hitting Anberlin shows once or twice a year like we used to. But whatever. I’m glad they’re back, one way or another.

And look, it was a nice sibling night, too. I mean, outside of the show, we had a couple hours in a car each way and over an hour waiting in line, so plenty of talking was done.

We got in around 2 in the morning, which is honestly not terrible under the circumstances, and Brandon told me the next day he was still too amped up to sleep when he got home. As for me, I passed right out.

Paul and I spent the 4th chilling at home and running errands, mostly, and spent the next few days getting dinner in Washington, hitting brunch in Pittsburgh, shopping, and tending to the garden.

Some Post-Funeral Thoughts, in No Particular Order

  • I’ve been pretty up front about the fact that my dad and I never had a great relationship. A lot of people talk about how in the face of terminal illness and death itself, they make amends or regret the past. I don’t, at least not right now–I concede that I may one day. But he could be difficult and frustrating, and we got along better when we weren’t under the same roof. That’s just how it is, and I don’t see any sense in devoting emotional energy to dwelling on other possibilities. We did exchange “I love yous” once in the midst of all this, and I did give him a hug when I left the house the last time I saw him awake a few days before he died (I’d been there the day he died, as I said, but he wasn’t awake at all). And I think for whatever our relationship may or may not have been, saying that and expressing that kind of affection did what such things are supposed to.
  • I did lose my foodie buddy.
  • I appreciate my family’s attitude towards death. Years ago, when my mom’s coworker’s son was killed in a car accident as a teenager, conversations inevitably came up in our family about things like life support, and I think those conversations then paved the way for blunt and necessary conversations now. No one avoided them and no one shut down when they happened–they were matter-of-fact, and I’m glad.
  • I was getting really aware of the reality of it lately, even in the little things. Our new siding was going up on the house while he was declining in the hospital, and I remember thinking, “He’s never going to see it.”
  • The little things do matter. Kind of. I’ve known this since my grandfather died. Those little shared moments are the things you remember and miss most. One of my favorite quotes from The Crow is, “Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of…trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial.”
  • It still doesn’t feel real, and my best friend, who lost her dad a few years ago, said sometimes for her it still doesn’t feel real. I know enough to know that grief is weird and there’s no “right” way to do it, but sometimes I just sit and think, “My dad is dead,” like I can’t really grasp what that means just yet or I’m trying to see how I react and if that reaction is changing. And yes, I’ll be calling my therapist. It was just luck and good timing that I met with him a week before all this, too.
  •  It’s weird to say that a death in the family and a funeral make you feel loved and supported, but…it’s hard to ignore when people show up for him but also for your family. Our friends and family kept us fed, people reached out directly to express their sympathy and ask what they could do even when the answer was, “Nothing,” or, “Take me out for drinks when this is all over,” there was a line out the door of the room where he was viewed of people coming in and talking to mostly my mom but my brother and, I too, people donated hundreds of dollars to the organization that flew him to his treatments for free, people did a round of shots with us, people stayed at the house and got food ready between viewings and made sure that everything was taken care of and tackled what they could so we didn’t have to.
  • I’ll be blunt, we thought some of my dad’s opinions of the afterlife were dumb. We used to tease him about it. He believed that when the second coming of Christ happens, the dead would need to be intact. So we respected it. He’ll have his glasses and even his cufflinks when the time comes. We also figured if his suit wasn’t arranged exactly the way he would’ve worn it in life, we’d all be haunted.
  • I couldn’t help but think about the fact that when he deployed, we were a trio at home faced with the very real possibility that it would stay that way, and if not for a few seconds and him reacting fast enough to throw a grenade out of a tank, it absolutely would have. And we’re a trio now.
  • Speaking of throwing that grenade out of the tank, the passing of time and return to, you know, our everyday lives in the 15-ish years since made it easy to forget how big a deal that actually was. Guys who were in the tank with him came to the funeral–guys who would be dead if not for him–and one of my uncles really wanted to meet them. His awards were on display in the casket and news clippings were among the pictures of him we put out. It really hit me at the burial, though. Of course, he always bragged about how he was eligible for a full military burial, but actually seeing it was another thing. His casket was draped in a flag that was presented to my mother, he got a gun salute, they played “Taps,” the whole thing, and I had a moment of, “Oh, shit, this is kind of a big deal.”
  • My mom always used to say she was gonna outlive him because she had so much stress as work she figured there was no possible way she wouldn’t go first.
  • When I looked at all the flowers around the casket and who showed up and, in some cases, how they were taking it, I thought about how my mom told me once that he used to think her side of the family didn’t really like him on account of the fact that I was, um…a surprise, as my mom likes to say. And I know he did send her siblings and their spouses a lengthy, heartfelt text after he was diagnosed. I wrote this essay once in middle school about him, which naturally turned into a whole to do because, you know, no one saw that coming, but it fit the assignment. It was about how he didn’t really care what people thought of him, for the most part, and kind of just did what he wanted to do–and yet it bothered him to think that maybe he was disliked in the family when it probably wasn’t true. And I realized probably for the first time that that’s me to a T. That’s where I get it, although I’m sure there are other factors. But I do the same thing. I present myself in a very give-no-fucks-way, and for the most part, it’s genuine. I can’t be bothered to consider outside opinions about how I dress or what I enjoy. I love that about myself, and I respected about my dad–obviously, or I wouldn’t have written about it as a pre-teen. But if I feel like someone doesn’t like me? If I think they’re an asshole or I don’t like them, by all means, I do not care, but if I do like and respect them? It bugs me. Funny how it’s probably our biggest personality similarity and I only just now figured it out.

So I’ve been quiet over here lately, mostly because I decided to start writing about music over on Medium and have been focusing my writing time and attention on that. I’ve been meaning to pop back over here and talk about what I’ve been up to for the last month, but unfortunately, I’m here to report pretty big but sad news.

My dad died on Saturday.

He’s been battling cancer all year, of course, and something told me back when we got the news that I’d be sitting here writing this post before the end of the year.

First, within the last couple of months, if that, we got the news that the chemotherapy he’d been doing wasn’t working and that the cancer had actually spread. He started immunotherapy instead, but he’d only done one session–surely, not enough for it to do much–before the cancer really started to take its toll.

My cousin Meredith was in town for a weekend a couple weeks ago, so I met up with her and Marissa that Friday night for dinner in Pittsburgh. I was even saying that night that if the immunotherapy didn’t go well, there was no way he was gonna make it through the year. We stayed out pretty late–I got in around 2 a.m. and woke up to my mom calling me at 7 to let me know that my dad had gone to the hospital overnight, likely right around the time I was finally going to bed, and that they were talking about the possibility of hospice care.

He was in the hospital for about 10 days after that, with a number of ups and downs along the way–first, things turned around and they were prepared to discharge him Saturday night, but he’d been in pain so neither he nor my mom had been sleeping well and they both thought they’d rest better if he stayed overnight. Somehow, things declined after that, and one day he’d be doing okay and close to getting ready to go home and the next, he was on oxygen or having fluid drained from his stomach or a lung. After the first couple of days, he slept almost the entire time, and when he talked, we could barely hear him. Paul and I spent the bulk of a visit just sitting talking to each other while he slept. He was awake maybe a few minutes, if that.

His doctors in Philadelphia, where he was being treated for the cancer, were still confident that they could help him and said they wouldn’t have even started the immunotherapy if they felt that it was time for hospice, so the goal became to get him strong enough to get out of the hospital and back into treatment. Despite feeling pretty ready to give up, he’d agreed to it, almost definitely because we were using Eliana, his new granddaughter, to encourage him.

The problem was getting him to that point. His Philly doctors may have thought they could’ve helped, and they probably could have, but he was just too wiped out at that point and finally decided to go home to do hospice care and got that set up. I drove out to my parents’ house last Tuesday to help my mom and Uncle Eric, a former army medic, get him situated. He looked awful–he’d lost a lot of weight over the course of the year and probably longer, when you consider when the tumor developed versus when he was diagnosed, and his face and shoulders especially looked really, really thin, while his stomach looked bloated, almost definitely from fluid and tumors.

I stayed to listen to the details the hospice nurse went over, thinking about how weird it was to basically be talking about someone dying when they were right down the hall, and popped in to give him a hug before I left. That ended up being the last time I saw him awake.

My mom had a hair appointment Saturday morning and asked me to come sit with him, so I headed out early. I forgot I needed to stop for gas, so I texted her to let her know I was doing that and would be a few minutes later than I said. She said she was afraid his lung had filled with fluid again and called a nurse, and by the time I got there, she’d canceled her hair appointment, too, since the nurse hadn’t arrived yet. When she did arrive, things actually seemed okay–she did some things to make him more comfortable and make things easier and got him drugs to help with a small amount of fluid, and although he sounded bad, it wasn’t so bad that anything needed drained.

Uncle Eric checked in, too, the nurse left, and I helped give him some meds and hung around a little longer, until almost 3 in the afternoon. I poked in the room–my old bedroom, actually–and noticed his breathing was really slow and let my mom know.

Paul and I were planning to spend the evening seeing a movie, and I’d only been home a few minutes and we were about to get ready to head back out when my mom called his phone. I glanced at mine and saw I had no missed calls or texts, and when he answered, I could hear her voice cracking asking if I was home yet and for him to put me on. I pretty much knew, even as soon as his phone rang and not mine, that he had died and she didn’t want to tell me while I was driving.

It turns out that he’d probably died at most a half-hour after I left. My mom went back to check on him and noticed he wasn’t breathing. She called Uncle Eric and the nurse, but Uncle Eric was closer and got there with a stethoscope. He didn’t hear anything. It was probably about 15 minutes later that she called Paul’s phone.

I had barely eaten all day, so we got some food delivered, sat out on the deck a little bit, and then packed overnight bags and drove back out to the house. We were tearfully greeted by my my mom’s best friend, Lisa; my Aunt Gina; my godmother; and her mother, plus my brother, his wife, and the baby.

The extended family cleared out pretty quick, I assume to give us time and space. Lisa hung around and we all shared some wine–Brandon already had a beer in his hand when I got there. We spent the evening watching one of my mom’s favorite movies, ’70s crime parody Murder by Death, and us kids, our spouses, and baby Eliana spent the night.

Sunday, Brandon, my mom, Uncle Eric, and I went to plan the funeral, and Kelly and Paul hung back at the house with Eliana in case anyone showed up with food, and show up they did. I think by the end of the whole mess, we had two sandwich rings, potato salad, macaroni salad, pasta salad, actual salad, rigatoni, fruit tarts, cookies, and cake from family, friends, and neighbors. And it was useful. It kept us all fed through Wednesday, pretty much.

We decided to do a short viewing Monday and a longer one Tuesday with the funeral Wednesday, so the whole three days was basically a whirlwind of sitting in the funeral home and talking to people. Monday I was having a fair bit of anxiety about seeing him in the casket from the first time, but other than the final goodbyes before processing to the cemetery, I was pretty okay. Well, except for when the Honor Guard, who stands by the casket, came in line and individually saluted his casket before the start of each viewing.

One of my mom’s aunts tried to talk her out of doing a two-day viewing, which I can understand, but the three of us–Mom and kids–all felt that a lot of his military connections would want to come and that a two-day viewing would give them more time to make it. Judging by the line Tuesday night, we were right. A whole line of guys from his various support groups came in, as well as the guys from his unit and guys he deployed with, even most of the guys who were in the tank with him years ago when he threw the grenade out of it. Friends of all of ours came over the course of the three days, plus some extended family and the occasional, “Do you know who that is?” met with a shrug.

Monday night, we went out for drinks with Uncle Clark, and Brandon’s sister-in-law Katie, her boyfriend, and a friend of theirs joined us. Of course, we did a round of shots. Tuesday night, I wasn’t really feeling it and lounged around my parents’ house for a bit instead.

Brandon and I were both thinking of speaking at the funeral, and I wasn’t sure I was gonna do it pretty much until the pastor called me up. I even told her there was a chance I’d change my mind at the last second, but weirdly, it was easy. We both got through our bits calmly–I talked about how I watched Star Trek with him as a kid and how we shared a love of food and music and closed by saying when we all get up there, we’ll meet him for a concert and buffet dinner once again like we’ve always done, and Brandon talked about how he was basically Peter Griffin and Stan Smith combined. We used to joke that we could sue Seth MacFarlane for stealing material from our own damn house for his shows.

The final goodbyes were difficult, and figures that I put more mascara on, totally forgetting that his coffin would be draped in an American flag and carried out by the Honor Guard. The ceremony at the cemetery was really nice, though, and he would’ve liked it, especially as someone who’s been saying for years that he was eligible for a full military burial. There was a gun salute–not technically 21 guns, but seven guns fired three times–and “Taps,” which can make me teary on a regular day, so I knew that it was gonna get to me like it did and was probably my most emotional moment of the whole few days, maybe with the exception of when my mom first told me. My mom was presented with the flag from his casket and a plaque.

The cemetery is closer to where I live and work than my mom and most of the rest of the family, so when we were making plans, myself and my cousin who’s nearby were asked for some input on where we could eat afterwards. We settled on this nice place we’d both been to separately called Juniper Grill, and my mom said that from the second she called them to ask about it, they were so nice that that alone won her over and she almost didn’t even want to call other places. I helped pick out the food, and we had a really nice dinner, under the circumstances, with this cornbread my dad would’ve loved. When the pastor gave the blessing and she asked us if there was anything we wanted her to add, I told her to tell everyone to eat as much as he would have.

Near the end, when everyone was getting ready to go, we did one more round of shots–we ordered 20 and had 17 participants, from us youngins to great uncles to even the pastor. Brandon and I took the three remaining shots, turned them into just two, and did them on our own, just us two kids.

I’m exhausted now, mostly physically, but some of that’s probably emotional weight, too. All in all, we’re all doing okay–the thing about all of this from the start of his treatments to now is that when I’m at home, everything feels normal. My day-to-day life is mostly the same. But I know that’s not gonna last and that some of the weirdest, hardest parts are yet to come. Lisa said to me Saturday night that nothing will be quite the same, that I’ll be going about my business and just think, “My dad is dead,” that things will remind me of him. I know the first time I go to share something funny in our group text, I’ll have to stop myself and remember Dad’s not in it anymore. That though we expanded to a family six when Brandon and I got married and now seven with Eliana, when we go to sit at a restaurant or buy concert tickets, we’re down one.

 

It was a weekend full of parties.

On Friday night, we kicked off the weekend with a small party at our house as a double birthday celebration for me, on my 30th, and Paul’s friend from work Andrew, who turned 31 on Sunday. We seized the opportunity to use our deck and had good food and lots of wine and hung out for a few hours. Ringing in 30 was a great success.

But of course, there are a ton of summer birthdays in our family, so on Saturday, there was a surprise party for my cousin Casey, also turning 30–her actual birthday is today. So we spent a few hours over at my aunt and uncle’s house, and Casey was sufficiently surprised. She didn’t even know that Sammi, who lives in New York, was in for the weekend and didn’t find out until she walked into the house and saw us all there.

After the party, we made our belated Father’s Day rounds, starting with my parents’ house for a little bit before heading over to Paul’s parents’ place just in time for dinner. After another couple hours there, we headed home.

On Sunday, the miraculous third consecutive day of sunshine after never-ending rain, we got some yard work done when we could before heading out to a party again, this time a graduation party for one of Paul’s cousins. We had a good time hanging out there until the evening, at which point I, still feeling under the weather from my cold last week, got Paul to squeeze in one last round of cutting grass at the back of the house before the sun set.

And now, somehow, I’ve managed to get sick again, except this time the trouble is mostly digestive. I almost feel like I have a mild flu–I was really tired all day today with body aches, and although things seem to have improved at this point in the evening, I’m frustrated. Things need done and I don’t have the energy, and I’ve already not seen Eliana for a few weeks and am worried that if I’ve come down with something new that’s  not short-lived, I’m not gonna see her for another week or so yet. I was really set on making it happen this weekend, too, so I’m not gonna be happy if it doesn’t work out.

Other potential weekend plans include a small get-together at our house I like to call “We Had a Party Last Weekend and Everyone Brought Wine, So Now We Have Too Much Wine, Please Come Drink Some,” or maybe a trip to Phipps, or maybe a trip to the art museum. They both have things going on right now I really want to see, but the good news is both are ongoing through the summer, so I’ve got time.

I think I’ve found the one downside to working from home, at least for me–venturing out into the world makes me prone to illness. I was gonna say “makes me sick,” but…

But it’s true. For the second time in the last few months, it would appear that I emerged from weekend festivities with a cold. The annoying thing is calling off doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense because if I’m not sitting at my work computer, I’m just gonna be sitting on my laptop, so other than having to be clocked in and working for eight hours, what difference does it make? Besides, I can take a nap instead of a lunch break. And let me tell you, some days, that’s perfect.

So I’ve been taking it easy for the last half of the week, hoping to get the damned thing out of my system to varying degrees of success. Some things feel better, some worse, but I am more functional than I was when it started. Not only did I nap for lunch on Wednesday, but I conked right out once I was clocked out.

We did venture out to Pittsburgh today for the final day of the annual arts festival. When we went to brunch last week, I’d invited Marissa along at the last minute, but she wasn’t around, so I told her maybe she could join us this weekend. And that she did, along with her mom. Paul and I had left earlier than they did and took the T and were hungry, of course, so we grabbed tacos at Condado, a place we fell in love with when we stopped by their Lawrenceville location some months back.

And after that, the four of us had a nice afternoon of enjoying the festival. Marissa and I were both hoping to get some nice little art prints for our respective bathrooms–she succeeded, I did not–and I know Paul picked up some jewelry I not-so-subtly mentioned would make nice birthday gifts for me.

Paul and I ended the day with a short walk to get some macarons, because they’re probably my favorite cookie and aren’t abundant closer to home. So we loaded up and splurged on two dozen of the things.

As for Father’s Day, we told both of our fathers we’d see them next weekend instead. With me not being 100% over this cold, I don’t want to take something over to my parents’ house and get my dad sick, since he’s going through chemo, and so we figured we’d hold off on both sides of the family and do it next weekend.

Of course, we’re not ones to miss the local Greek food festival, so Paul mentioned it to a friend at work and he and his wife joined us for a nice evening of delicious Greek food. All were happy.

For dessert, we headed into town. For starters, the city’s monthly First Friday was underway, and although I wanted to check out the vendors, I didn’t make it in time. But we did get to enjoy ice cream at a little deli right in town that smartly stays open whenever something like that is going on in town. Downtown was also featuring a car show through Saturday afternoon with most of the same vendors as First Friday, so I figured I’d hit it then, but I ended up getting there just a bit too late for that, too.

So in need of a haircut because I can’t get to Emily for a little while, I went and got that taken care of. I’m glad to have it tamed a little and my undercut freshly buzzed for the summer months. Paul ran some errands while I was in there, and then from there, we headed to a graduation party for one of his cousin’s, where I mostly spent my evening hanging out with his sister and drinking much wine.

It’s been a good few weeks, maybe even a month at this point, since we made it to one of Dom and Tina’s brunches, but they did one on Sunday so we ventured up into Pittsburgh for very delicious breakfast sandwiches and a great selection of season iced teas. And to drop off recycling, of course.

In between all that, there was cutting grass and planting a few new veggies in the garden. This weekend, it’s back to Pittsburgh for the arts festival…and maybe brunch again. Who knows?

With most of the big, busy stuff over, we have much of our weekends to ourselves. So I talked Paul into a trip to Ikea for recycling bins I saw online and sweetened the deal with dinner and a trip to see the new Godzilla movie.

We both liked the movie, I think, as far as summer action movies go, but Paul is something of a Godzilla connoisseur and has a list of complaints. Doesn’t matter to me. I was entertained for two hours while monsters destroyed cities fighting each other.

Meanwhile, we hadn’t really seen baby Eliana since the weekend she was born–we don’t live far from Brandon and Kelly, but it’s enough that between work and things that need done around the house during the week, heading out their way would take a lot of time and would be better left for the weekends. And of course, we were in Erie last weekend. So I was planning on asking my brother anyway if there was a good time to stop over when he beat me to it and said that Eliana was asking when Auntie Nellie and Uncle Paul were gonna come see her, so we made plans to go over. That eventually changed to us all going to my parents’ house instead since they have more room, and my mom made one of my grandma’s soup recipes and we all spent our afternoon passing around the baby.

I headed back over yesterday to watch Seger for the evening. My parents were off to Philadelphia for the day for my dad’s chemo and Seger wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go to doggie daycare, so Brandon stopped over for a few hours in the morning and I went over after work, hung out until they got back, then headed home.

This weekend, we had a graduation party and hopefully more Eliana time.

If any bride can handle throwing together a wedding in a few months, make chocolates and cheesecakes for it, and entertain and feed out-of-town guests the morning of the wedding before her hair and makeup get done, it’s Julie. She had a packed house the morning of the wedding on Sunday, and we stopped by for a little bit for some of the breakfast she made and to see if she needed to put us to work. And she did–we got sent to the venue with a car full of food, wine, and anything else we hadn’t taken over the day before that needed to be there. So Paul and I drove over and hauled in a few boxes of things, then sat down and enjoyed more beverages. This time, I went for a raspberry chai.

Emily and Chelle had left the house around the same time we did and had some time to kill, too, so they joined us at the coffee shop for about an hour before we all parted ways again to get ready for the wedding.

When we all saw each other next, we were all prettied up, and we tackled the last-minute prep in the final hour before the wedding–Katie and I were steaming things again, this time tablecloths, and final decorations were put up. Some of us, and by that I mean me, even took the last 15 minutes to paint our nails.

And pretty much right on time, Michael and his groomsmen lined up while my father-in-law went up to a little loft area and escorted Julie down.

Katie and I were excited to watch and kind of felt more emotional than we did at our own weddings, maybe even each other. I can’t speak for her, of course, but for me, marrying Paul was just kind of the next logical step. We’d been together for several years at that point–and in fact, this summer marks nine years together, despite only two of marriage–and it was more a matter of making it official. Even watching Jacob and Katie get married, it was exciting, but they’ve been together just a smidge longer than we have, to the point that the four of us have basically been around as couples the same amount of time and there’s no real clear point marking, like, before we were dating and after. Katie was there the night I met Paul, and I’ve pretty much been around ever since. And Paul and Jacob are the two oldest, and we met at Jacob’s high-school graduation with my brother, when Julie was still in high school. Katie and I may have shown up around the same time, but we’ve pretty much watched Julie and Michael’s relationship go from the early days of dating to moving up to Erie a few years ago to now.

And, of course, there’s a difference between seeing the boys in their tuxes and seeing Julie come down the stairs in a beautiful wedding dress with her dad on her arm. I have so many mixed feelings about the wedding industry and the whole concept of marriage, but man, you can’t beat that image.

The ceremony was short and sweet, with Jacob officiating–Julie asked him to do it earlier this year and he got ordained online. We’ve been joking for months about him wearing a slutty nun Halloween costume. But him officiating was another really sweet part of it, and it didn’t hit me until he was actually having them recite vows. We’d been asked (by Jacob on behalf of the couple) to put our cellphones away, but Katie slyly filmed the whole time and I can’t blame her.

And then they were married!

Since it was a pretty small wedding with immediate family and close friends in a small coffee shop, there wasn’t really any dancing, just food and wine, but that was fine. There was a pretty simple seating arrangement and us two already married couples were together next to Julie and Michael’s table, and Katie and I took the opportunity to chant “One of us!” at Michael. He hated it, and he said so.

We had great food and homemade wine, and I think I tried a little bit of each kind they had. Michael also had a bottle of tequila he’d brought back from a recent trip to Mexico, and fearing it would be strong, the four of us did a tiny, tiny tequila toast to Michael and found that it was actually quite smooth. And we may or may not have given a tiny bit to the family’s youngest sibling, who may or may not have hated it. That’s how you can tell the seasoned drinkers–we all went, “Ooh!” after we finished it and talked about how smooth it went down and had just a slight kick to it.

Everything wrapped up pretty early, so we decided to head back to Emily and Chelle’s Airbnb a few minutes away but, like our hotel, over the New York border. Paul and I waited around awhile while everyone else was with Jacob and Emily, who had to sign the marriage certificate as witnesses, and then I guess it was somehow hard to figure out where to sign and also totally different than Katie and Jacob’s marriage certificate, so after a while, I guess they gave up.

Mostly, we hung around bullshitting all night. You still can’t get us together without some degree of swapping stories and complaints, but things have been really calm and really good for a while, which we were sure to tell Chelle so as not to scare her off. Emily had also bought a cigar from a store across from the coffee shop, so she wanted to smoke with Jacob, who almost always has cigars on-hand at special events. Paul joined, and that’s how all of us significant others ended up sitting on a dark porch in an unusually cold night while the three siblings all smoked.

Katie and I were also pretty wound up and had each other, but perhaps most of all ourselves, in tears laughing. We started calling ourselves plus Michael The In-Law Club, which somehow escalated to a very formal, British-esque organization with code names, and we thought everything we came up with was hilarious. Even Paul the next day was like, “Well, you two certainly had a good time.”

As with all late nights with good company, it was hard to pull ourselves away, and we ultimately left around 1 a.m. I kind of enjoyed all the driving through the back roads of the two states, too. It’s not like I was homesick, but it felt like home all the same, and there’s something about summer nights driving through the countryside that just feels good. I’d say nostalgic, but it’s not quite that.