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.
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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.

By Saturday, most of the in-laws had arrived–or rather, all of us kids.

And Erie, whose weather forecast before we left had indicated the temperature wouldn’t get above the 60s all weekend, decided fuck that, 80s on Saturday it is. Paul and I decided to start the day with another walk on Presque Isle in the same manner–walk for a bit down one side, then cross and walk back along the beach. We parked the car a little farther down this time to see a little bit more of the peninsula than we had on Friday, and we ended up taking a bit longer than we thought. But on the upside, we spent more time on the beach than we had the day before, and although the water was still really cold, it was hot enough outside that I decided to walk for a bit along the water so that the lake’s tiny waves could at least hit my fit without actually, you know, walking through freezing water.

We also started joking that you could tell we were the oldest siblings on the trip because at 7 a.m. we were awake and ready to go, texting everyone else about going for a morning walk on Presque Isle only to be met with either crickets or “Nah, we’ll see you for lunch.”

Julie and Michael were making lunch for everyone while finishing up some wedding prep, so we had a nice little cookout at their place and then we all trucked over to the wedding venue, a coffee shop Julie and Michael frequent, to decorate. For the most part, we were done quick, and the part that took the longest was steaming curtains Julie was hanging in the front windows. Strangely, Katie and I found that we kind of enjoyed it.

I’m sure the place made decent money off of all of us, too, because almost all of us got drinks. I sprung for a mango bubble tea, and we discovered that only four of us like bubble tea at all–Paul and I, of course, Michael, and Katie, who had it for the first time. Everyone else not only dislikes it but actually thinks it’s weird and gross. Opinions were very strong and very divided.

When we were done, we decided to temporarily go our separate ways. Paul and I joined Katie and Jacob briefly on a nearby beach, then left to go run some errands–I needed dye-friendly shampoo, and Paul managed to get a sunburn the day before, so I figured might as well find something for that, and then I decided to get disposable razors and a small thing of shaving cream to shave my legs for the wedding the next day. And then I forgot to do it. Oops.

We have a rule of no chain restaurants when we travel, but that proved to be a strangely difficult thing to pull off Saturday night at Erie’s mall. On top of that, by the time I grabbed everything I wanted in Ulta, we were both really hungry and not in the mood to either find something different or risk something not being good. And that’s how we ended up at a Primanti Bros. in Erie. Not only did we break our no-chain rule, but we sprung for the most typical Pittsburgh food ever as though we couldn’t just get it whenever the hell we want back home. The only thing that would’ve been dumber? Going to the Eat ‘N’ Park. Hell, we probably could’ve even rationalized the Mad Mex, but nope, we can’t resist those sandwiches.

We had planned to go to Katie and Jacob’s hotel for a bonfire, but by the time we were done shopping and eating and by the time we’d get there, there’d be less than an hour left of bonfire and drink specials to enjoy. And we were tired, so we decided to call it a night and go back to our hotel.

And so all that was left was Sunday, wedding day.

Not too long ago, Paul’s sister Julie decided she didn’t really want to wait long to get married and didn’t want to plan a big, huge wedding, so rather than getting married next fall as planned, she pushed the whole shebang up to Memorial Day weekend. And so just like two weeks after her bridal shower, we took an extra day off of work for an even longer weekend, packed up Thursday night, and made the 2 1/2-hour drive up to Erie.

Not surprisingly, lodging that weekend is expensive and in demand, so we compromised and stayed 20 minutes away from the wedding venue to save some money, which ended up being just over the state border in New York. It was kind of funny to be crossing the state lines pretty much constantly all weekend. Jacob and Katie and Emily and her girlfriend, Chelle, all ended up staying in New York, too, and Jacob and Katie lucked out hard when their resort overbooked and didn’t have a room for them and upgraded them to a condo, complete with champagne.

We got in a little late and just missed the delivery cutoff for a restaurant near our hotel, so we drove a few minutes to the closest and most reliable option–McDonald’s, back over the Pennsylvania border and kind of close to where Julie and Michael live. I had a salad and a milkshake because that’s about all McDonald’s has to offer vegetarians, and then we went to bed.

We were the only ones who went up that early. Lately, traveling just isn’t a great idea for us. We’re trying to be careful with money with the way Paul’s job is up in the air, and between a new baby in the family and my dad’s cancer, it’s also not the best time to be going far. So we’re kind of taking advantage of excuses to take a day off here and there and make a longer weekend out of something–it’s exactly what we did when we went to Virginia Beach in the fall for another wedding. And since it was just us there that Friday, we spent the morning walking Presque Isle, a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie.

What I love about Erie is that if a trip to a proper beach isn’t doable, it’s a good close second, especially if you live in Pennsylvania. It’s a pretty big lake, it has sand, and it even has waves, even if they’re really little. If you need a beach fix, it works. It wasn’t a super hot day and in fact wasn’t supposed to get above the 60s, although it did feel hotter, strangely, even at our hotel in New York. And the water was freezing. I insisted on at least getting my toes in the water and sitting in the sand for a little bit before we turned around and went back to the car from the other side.

We consulted Julie for a lunch recommendation and eded up in a restaurant in a hotel lobby situated right on the bay, so Paul had a walleye sandwich. I, by some miracle, ate pretty healthy and opted for just a salad, but if you tell me it has goat cheese, strawberries, and champagne dressing, I’m gonna want it. We did have drinks and split dessert, though.

And then we headed back to the hotel, ended up both falling asleep for a couple hours, then got up, showered, and went to Julie and Michael’s for dinner, where Michael was feeling pretty good and being very entertaining after a couple glasses of wine. They make their own, and we sprung for a pretty great bottle of homemade tropical wine before cracking open peach wine I’d given Julie for her birthday a few weeks ago.

We hung around a little bit after a nice homemade pasta dinner, then went back to our hotel and passed right out for the rest of the night.

 

I am officially an aunt!

In short, my sister-in-law was induced Friday morning, and Eliana Mae was here by about 5:30 evening.

Me, being the genius I am, decided to go ahead and shower as soon as I was done with work, thinking that way I’d be ready to leave when we got word, and it’s probably the only time in my life I’ve been smart enough to prepare.

Paul’s car was scheduled for maintenance in the morning and we were gonna drop it off on our way, and then he realized he had neither his insurance card nor his registration. So instead, it took us forever to get through the South Hills and to the hospital.

We spent some time waiting outside the room, first for Kelly to get cleaned up and changed and out of bed and then again to try to feed the baby, but the two of us, my mom, Kelly’s mom and sister, and her brother and his girlfriend all spent some time at the hospital and held the baby. She’s tiny! But adorable, and of course, we all adore her.

My dad wasn’t able to go due to being fresh off a chemo treatment, and so my mom didn’t stay too long. We hung around a little bit, and then because we hadn’t eaten dinner and had already been gone a few hours at this point when all was said and done, we had a late dinner at Primanti’s down the road. That’s the great thing about the Pittsburgh area–you know you can shove a sandwich in your mouth after 9 p.m.

Most of Saturday was pretty chill. I ran some errands and made muffins to take to the new parents, and we headed back out in the evening again with a brief stop at the mall in the South Hills on the way, because why go by a Lush and not stop? Jacob and Katie were at the hospital visiting, too, and we had a nice time hanging out with each other and Eliana for a little bit before we left. No Primanti’s this time.

Sunday brought my cousin’s new baby’s baptism, so we hung out there for a bit, then hung out at my parents’ place for a bit, then headed to Paul’s parents’ place for a bit, partly to pick up some pans Julie needs for her wedding this weekend.

And now it’s back to scrambling to get the grass cut between rainy days again this week. At some point, Eliana is going to meet my dad and Paul and I would like to try to be there, but that all depends on timing and schedules. If we don’t see her this week, I’m inviting myself over to their apartment next week.