Amanda’s Visit at Christmas 2016

Three hours north and then a half hour west in the middle of nowhere, was about all I knew of the road trip I was taking to go get Amanda from the Sanford Airport. Although not in the middle of nowhere, much of the two-lane road ran right through the St. John’s River.

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And right through a fish camp.

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Arriving at the small airport just north of the Orlando International reminded me of middle-school pickup back in the day. Almost immediately, traffic came to a complete stop, where, for about ten minutes, I waited.

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Traffic started moving slowly and I inched my way closer and closer to the terminal. Then Amanda called, she had retrieved her luggage and was on the curb waiting. It was just like middle-school pickup.

The next day, back in our neck of the woods, I spotted a new sign I thought might interest someone:

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One day, Amanda and I went downtown to take Dave to lunch. We went in to see the tree he had been telling us about, and of course, get a picture.

wp-1483302734740.jpegOur tree at home is a bit less traditional. Dave did all the decorating and I love it. “Dreaming of a black-light Christmas” is our song this year!

 

Presenting the Raffey Family Christmas Tree of 2016:
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The “pilot” Blacklight Christmas

For Christmas, we went to Ft. Myers, where, Dave and John carried on Gus’ tradition of hosting a Prime Rib dinner on Christmas Eve, followed by opening presents. Fourteen people got their fill and there were leftovers. Costco came through once again.

Dave said Gus’ traditional grace, to which Jeff and I traditionally tacked-on, “Rub-a-dub dub, let’s eat this grub!”

wp-1483303257394.jpegThen we opened presents. Here, Dave is reading the tag – To David From Santa. At some point, he looked at me, confused. “You sure this is for me?” “Yes, finish reading the tag,” I told him. Because you will always be David first here, he read. And our gift tags confirmed this.

wp-1483317210859.jpegSanta got him cookies – Butter Pecan Meltaways – to be exact. In a round tin with the cookie maker’s name written across the top it and, “a bite above the rest,” I had to try one. The name of “David’s” was a plus.

wp-1483303310748.jpegMan, am I glad that Dave does not enjoy them nearly as much as I do. We would have to fight over them. But as luck would have it, or his big, kind heart, he allowed me to eat almost the entire tin of cookies.

On Christmas Day, we did the traditional get-together at Dave’s cousin’s house. After lunch we played games and then sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

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Visit my site on Shutterfly to see more pictures.

The following day we came home and planned out Amanda’s last few days here.

To be continued…

Big Block Party of Birds

I took this video on Christmas day in Ft. Myers. Not a rare sight for those whose yard we were in; however, I was amazed. It was really something to be standing in the middle of! And I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother. Ha ha ha!!

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Saturday, In the Parker – Part Two

Exactly a month after Dave’s dad passed away, we were at his house, just Dave and I, on a Saturday night. Earlier that day, we had attended a celebration of life for Dave’s cousin, Peggy, then went to see the sunset when we “accidentally” wound up going over the bridge on to Sanibel. Since we were already there, we made the most out of our six dollars and drove down the island. We stopped at The Love Boat Ice Cream Shop where I ordered a Turtle Sundae and almost ate all three scoops by myself. It was the best ice cream.

So, back at the house after the six-dollar sunset, Dave was in the living room watching television and I in the master bedroom reading, when a lady walked right in and greeted us.

“Well hi there,” I heard a lady’s voice say just outside the bedroom door. I walked to the entryway where a lady who appeared to be in her 80’s stood in bare feet and a nightgown.

“Hi,” I said, walking toward her, “can I help you?”

“Yes, please,” she said, as she reached out to me. I came closer and she grabbed my arm. Instantly, the look on her face changed. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “He is so mean,” she said, and then started to cry.

Somewhat shocked, Dave and I both prompted her to tell us what was going on; who was she talking about? All we got was how he is so mean and says she can’t do anything right. The strong smell of alcohol coupled with the slur of her words spoke volumes to me. Of course, her choice of words – blaming her husband for all of her woes and ensuring her spot as the victim – prompted me to pray for her while at the same time, thanking God for removing such a mindset from me. While she was spinning it one way, I was seeing it another. I was seeing what I looked like just a little more than seven short years ago.

We let her go on, understanding ourselves that this had more to do with an insecure drunk woman than anything else. We asked her to come sit down and she refused. I wanted to get her a tissue but she did not see the need. “I’ll be fine,” she said, as she gripped my arm tightly with one hand and used the other to gather a fistful of her nightgown and wipe her face with it.

After a few more minutes, I suggested that we walk her home. “This is my home,” she said with assurance. “No… this was Gus’ home,” I said. She looked at me confused. I continued, “Did you know Gus? This was his home, and this is his son,” I said, motioning to Dave. She looked at Dave, threw her arms around him and busted out crying, “Oh, I loved Gus so much!”

A different kind of cry than when she originally appeared at the door, this unknown woman went on and on about how much she loved Dave’s dad and is going to miss him. I listened for clues to who this woman might be and where she lived. It had to be close.

Seeing a good opportunity to see if we can see her home, we walked out the front door, down the walkway, and onto the street. “I live over there,” the lady said, and pointed to a particular house. As we walked up the driveway, I said, “Oh, did you guys put up Christmas lights today?” “Well no,” she said, as it dawned on her that this was not her house. “Silly me, I mean, that’s where I live,” and she pointed next door. We cut across the yard and a dog started to bark. “Do you have a dog?” I inquired. “No,” she answered. “Well then that wouldn’t be your house either,” I informed her.

It was getting cold out. Dave and I decided we would take the woman back to his dad’s house while we figured out what to do. The three of us walked back down to the street where the woman abruptly said, “Shhh… someone’s coming,” and stopped walking. “Stay right here until they pass,” she instructed us, and then appeared as if she were trying to huddle into herself and roll-up into a ball.

“There you are,” bellowed the man walking toward us, “I have been looking all over for you!” It was the woman’s husband. Witnessing their back-and-forth was like a flashback of me carrying-on about anything I could to get attention off of me and my wrong doings. This man seemed to be sober and sincerely care about this woman. He pointed out to me their house and I walked the woman home while he and Dave stayed on the street and talked.

“How long have you two been married?” I asked her, as we walked up their driveway. She exclaimed, “Oh gosh, 60 years!” I took a big chance and said, “I’m sure he really loves you.” “Yes, I’m sure he does,” she replied, then turned to me, grabbed both of my arms and said, “I won’t remember this tomorrow, but I want you to come tell me.” I laughed and said, “Tell you what?” I did not really expect an answer, and she said, “Just come and say hi, promise me you will at least come and say hi.” “Okay, I will come and say hi,” I told her.

The next day, I walked by and she was sitting on her front porch. I said, “Hi.” She smiled and returned the gesture. “Beautiful day,” I exclaimed, as I carried onward with a wonderful walk around the neighborhood.

The Six-Dollar Sunset

Heading west, Dave made an impromptu move, and changing lanes said, “Let’s go over to Sanibel and watch the sunset.”

“I don’t care,” I said, with no enthusiasm.

“Okay good,” he responded, as if I had said, “Yeah, wonderful idea!”

I sat there amused at first, that he chose to take my “I don’t care” statement as – I don’t care that we’re not doing what I thought we were (going back to the house to nothing) – instead of – I don’t care if we go see the sunset – which, clearly, is what I meant.

Of course I care that we are not doing what my mind was set on doing. Deviate from our plans of doing nothing? No way! My mind has very little room for change sometimes. If I think it’s going to be one way, then by golly darn it, it better be that way, or else. Even if your way is better. I was totally aware of this and wanted to be able to “go with the flow,” yet some part of me refused to give-in and go with it.

My amusement quickly downgraded to annoyance and grasping for excuses, I added, “As long as we don’t go over the bridge. I don’t want to pay the toll.”

“Me either,” he replied.

We soon found ourselves in a ‘no turn around’ predicament and before we knew it, we were being asked for six dollars. I was shocked. Six dollars just to get on to Sanibel? Damn it, we didn’t even want to go to Sanibel. Or so I thought.

I felt myself getting mad and then remembered that if I was mad, it was because I was choosing to be mad. I asked myself, “Do I really want to feel anger? Is this the feeling I really want right now?” I decided that it was not the feeling I desired for myself, and therefore, I would not be mad. Instead, I chose to focus on happy I am that Dave is nowhere near angry whenever my actions don’t line up with his expectations. Instantly, I felt my load lighten.

After fumbling for money and handing it to the attendant, Dave looked at me apologetically and before he could say a word, I joked, “What a topic – the six dollar sunset!” He smiled. I rolled down my window and started taking pictures.

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Saturday, in the Parker – Part One

Two memorials in three weeks with the Raffey clan – In 2016, November was a month of mourning. First, on the 5th, we had a funeral mass for my father-in-law Gus, and then on the 26th, a memorial for Dave’s cousin, Peggy. Emotions ran the gamut on that Saturday. Funny and sad were both had at both – Dave’s cousin’s house and at Parker Lakes.

While Dave was fixing the bike Saturday morning, the three of us started talking about the stuff they had at the St. Columbkille thrift store, where John had taken their dad’s clothes. I started telling John about how I had wanted Dave to take a particular pair of pants and before I could even describe them, John knew which ones I was talking about. Dave’s brother scolded me for not taking them or telling him that we wanted them. “No, we really don’t,” Dave was trying to interject. I won.

On our way to the thrift store, I shared how I could not believe we have never been to it. Gus had talked about this thrift store many times, and although we had been the the K-Mart many times, we had never walked next door to the St. Columbkille thrift store, run by the church Gus loved and served with all of his heart. And then there we were, buying back his pants for five bucks.

I knew I wanted the pants their parents had bought in Hawaii over 40 prior, though I did not realize how much until I could not find them (and I am still wondering why). After scanning the “men’s pants” rack twice, my heart sank a little. And then Dave, a couple of isles over, hollered, “Found them,” and I skipped over, excited as all get-out. Right next to them was a fun, colorful pair in my size – I just couldn’t resist. Of course you couldn’t, Dave was thinking. So now we both have a fun pair of pants from the greatest thrift store in Ft. Myers, Florida.

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Ironically, Dave’s dad was very much a minimalist, yet he held on to these pants for over 40 years. Here are his parents in 1972, his dad wearing the pants.