We rented a car for the drive. Both of our little cars get great mpg; however, they are on the small side and not too comfy for long rides. We got a Nissan Altima again (we had an Altima when we went to Washington) which was just right.
On Thursday 1.5.2011 Eric left work early and met me at Hertz to pick up the rental. We came home and loaded up the car and got on the road around 3 p.m. We stopped right outside of Baltimore, MD, to eat dinner and walk around a mall to let the little ones stretch their legs. Hindsight being what it is we stayed far too long there -- we should have grabbed something quickly and kept driving. Eric drove for a while longer, then I took the wheel for the last 150 miles into Charleston, WV. We arrived around 1:30 a.m. I was so sleepy for the last 50 miles. It was very strange: I felt wide awake inside my head but it was physically difficult to keep my eyes open. I prayed a lot! I stopped at a rest area to walk around in the cold and wake up, and to get something with caffeine. Eric woke up and offered to drive but he'd been awake far longer than I had that day and it made me more nervous to think of him driving. We made it safely, praise the Lord.
We stayed in a Best Western in Charleston and while our room was fairly clean, the bathroom needed some attention. By the time I realized it, the girls were both in bed and we were exhausted so we didn't ask for a different room. The breakfast was good and when I checked out in the morning I mentioned the un-clean bathroom. The girl at the desk apologized and thanked me for letting her know. All well and good. Then she went on to say that the lighting in the bathrooms wasn't very good and made them appear dingy. Really? That just annoyed me. There is a difference between dingy, and actual dirt and hair on the floor and mold in the shower.
Because of our late arrival the night before, we got on the road a little later on Friday morning, and took our time driving the rest of the way to Louisville. We checked into another Best Western (bigger, cleaner, nicer than the one in WV), quickly changed our clothes and freshened up, and went to the funeral home late Friday afternoon for the viewing.
It was bittersweet to be there. On one hand it was so good to see my parents and Washington family; to see my Mamaw and have her meet Peabody and see the Boogie; to see so many other family members whom I haven't seen in years. But my Papaw ... he didn't look like himself, at all. All of my life he had a neatly trimmed beard and mustache, but the staff in the nursing home shaved his beard. He was so, so thin. I thought that once I saw him I would have some closure and feel that he really was gone, but it still felt unreal because he didn't look like the man I remember.
Lots of people came and went at the viewing. That part was nice. There were flowers everywhere, and some folks brought food. I even got to see my friend Kristi and meet her husband -- her family lived next door to Mamaw and Papaw for years, and I've known Kristi for longer than I can even remember. I saw aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins and third cousins once removed or however that works. The Boogie met a new cousin (actually the daughter of one of my cousins), Little B, who is five years old. They became instant BFFs and played constantly whenever they were together. We stayed until the end of the viewing time, then picked up White Castle and went to Mamaw's apartment to spend time with my folks for just a little longer.
The funeral was Saturday 1.7.2011 at noon. The weather was beautiful, a mild sunny day. I don't know how many people came to the funeral but I would guess 60-70? Vee and I sang "Be Thou My Vision" before anyone got up to talk about Papaw. It's a good thing we went first because if we had waited I think I would have been crying too much to sing. My brother Ben told some funny stories about Papaw. I want to write this one down because it just personified the Papaw we knew.
We kids got to visit Mamaw and Papaw a lot when we were young. For a while we lived in Columbus, OH which was within driving distance, but even after we moved away we would fly back to visit. Ben said that when Papaw would pick him up from the airport they would drive back to the house and after riding in the car for a little bit and chatting, Papaw would look at Ben and ask in his Kentucky accent, "Ben, are you a bozo?"
"No, Papaw," Ben would answer, "I'm not a bozo."
They'd drive a little more and talk a little more and then Papaw would turn to Ben and ask again, "Are you a bozo?"
"No, Papaw," Ben would answer again, "I'm not a bozo."
They would continue on to Papaw's house and pull into the garage and unload the luggage. As they would head toward the door into the house Papaw would ask Ben one last time, "Ben, are you sure you're not a bozo?"
"No, Papaw!" Ben would assure him, "I'm not a bozo."
"Good," Papaw would reply, gesturing to a sticker on the window of the outside door, "because there's no bozos allowed."
|I can't remember exactly what that sticker looked like, but I think it was a lot like this.|
The hardest part of the service, for me, was at the end when just the family gathered around while the lid to the casket was closed. We drove to the cemetery where Pops said a few more words, and one of the funeral home directors pulled roses out of the arrangement and handed them around to the family. Then we drove over to a church for the reception. Ours was one of the last cars to leave and as we drove away I could see the little excavator driving toward the gravesite to fill in the hole. That made me feel very strange ...
Many people stayed for the reception and there was SO much food! It was nice to see friends and family.
|Mom with her brother and sister|
|Me with my auntie|
|Me with my uncle|
After the reception we went back to our hotel to change our clothes, then headed back to Mamaw's apartment again. Poor Mamaw and Mom and Pops -- they were surely exhausted but they graciously put up with us! The girls just loved seeing grandparents and aunts and uncles. One wall in Mamaw's hallway is covered with pictures. I love to look at them. Can you guess who this is?
The next morning we went to Mamaw's church for Sunday morning service, then back to Mamaw's for lunch. B&D had a series of unfortunate events and weren't able to make it to church; they thought we were leaving immediately after services. Meanwhile we went back to Mamaw's for lunch and more time with family before hitting the road around 4 p.m. We never did get to say goodbye to B&D but were able to spend a little more time with Mom's sister, 4 of her kids, and Little B.
|Mamaw's nesting dolls were fun for little fingers|
|Peabody could not get enough of her Pops. She was constantly climbing up to sit with him.|
|Mom drew a skeleton for the Boogie|
|The Boogie with Papaw's Dodger bear|
|It was fun to play with Auntie Vee!|
|Peabody climbed into Pops' lap and passed out!|
|Mamaw & the Boogie|
We drove back to Charleston on Sunday night and did NOT stay in the same Best Western, but rather in the Fairfield Inn right next door where we paid more money for a smaller room with smaller beds. That hotel had the tiniest elevators I have ever seen! There were 3 of them side by side, and we could barely squeeze ourselves and the luggage cart into one. It's a hotel, people have luggage! Wouldn't it make more sense to have two larger elevators? But at least it was clean and the breakfast was pretty good.
On Monday we drove the rest of the way home, stopping plenty of times for small people to stretch their legs. That was probably the hardest day for the girls. They had spent so much time in the car already, and it was a good 8 hours of driving on Monday, plus the time for stops. They did so well, though. Peabody insisted on removing shoes and socks and would play with her toes endlessly. Such a strange child. I am beyond grateful for our portable DVD player! We had to make an emergency Walmart stop to buy some velcro for it, but I was able to strap it to the back of my headrest and both girls could see it. They watched hours and hours of Curious George, Dora the Explorer, Backyardigans, and Mary Poppins.
I'm really thankful for all of the electronics that made our trip easy: the GPS, Eric's iPhone, my Nook, the DVD player. When I was a kid my mom sewed these sort of aprons that fit over the back of the front seats in the car. They were covered with pouches which were filled with books, coloring books, crayons, toys, travel games. The glove compartment was full of paper maps. Now we take multiple electronics. I'm not sure if it's an improvement but it certainly makes things nice for the adults ...
It wasn't an easy trip in many ways, but it was worth every mile driven and every dollar spent on gas and every fast food burger to be able to see my family.