sometimes memorial day weekend means a camping trip to the lake. sometimes memorial day weekend means a backyard barbeque. for me, this memorial day weekend meant a road trip with my dad…a trip down memory lane.
a few weeks ago, my dad asked me if i would like to come with him back to his hometown…one of his cousin’s granddaughters was getting married. and it would be a good opportunity to visit family that i hadn’t seen in probably 30 years.
now to be honest, i really had no expectations of the weekend. mostly i was looking forward to spending time with my dad. maybe seeing some pretty country side. getting to know a few relatives a little better.
we left bright and early friday morning. as we made our northeast on i-44, daddy shared lots of stories about his truck driving days. and so naturally our first stop was for breakfast at one of his favorite truck stops right outside joplin, missouri.
both of my parents were born and raised in missouri. and even though i basically knew what brought them to oklahoma, i found myself curious about the actual specific events that led to them moving here. as we drove along, deeper into missouri, i listened with newfound interest about the stories of my young parents.
if you were to ask my dad, he would tell you that he knows these the roads and these towns like the back of his hand.
once we made it to festus, my dad’s hometown, our first stop was the sacred heart catholic church and school.
my dad basically had two goals for this trip. the first was to show me where his grandparents were buried. and the second was to find the grave site of his twin who died shortly after birth.
i will be the first one to tell you that i am not fond of cemeteries at all. but. there is something especially sacred about being in the presence of those that came before you. these people are not just stories anymore….in way they become more real if that makes any sense.
family history becomes personal.
next my dad took me through town. he showed me his grandparents’ house where he and his parents lived from the time my dad was about five to the time he was around twelve years old.
and then where they moved on woodrow street. where my dad lived as a teenager. where he brought his highschool friends over. where he said goodbye to my grandparents when he shipped off for the air force.
after our drive through town, we made our way over to the home of my dad’s cousin joyce – her granddaughter was the one getting married. i vaguely remember coming to visit joyce and her family once ages ago when i was little girl. and being at joyce’s house had away of taking me back deep into my childhood where everything smelled like my sheets hanging outside to dry and honeysuckle and peonies.
as a sidenote…i would just like to add here that it is indeed possible for folks to live without the internet.
anyway, after getting me and my dad settled in, joyce headed out for the rehearsal dinner. and that’s when daddy asked me if i was getting hungry. which i was. and he suggested one of his favorite places. which i happily obliged.
because when in rome right?
and then later that evening, daddy drove me around crystal city – the twin city of festus (known as just ‘crystal’ to the locals).
this place is idyllic…it’s no wonder that my dad remembers his childhood so fondly.
as we drove around, we talked about more about his childhood. he took me to the park where he spent summers playing baseball. he showed me the air force recruiting office where he enlisted. he showed me where his best friend warren lived. it was a walk down memory lane for him. but for me it was putting a place with name.
that evening we sat outside on joyce’s porch. not really talking about anything. just enjoyed the perfect late spring weather. the setting sun.
on saturday we got up bright and early and headed out to breakfast.
i can tell you now that my dad’s standing breakfast order is two eggs, over easy. sausage patties, hash browns and white toast.
saturday morning we also took the time to check out downtown festus.
listening to him talk i could totally imagine he and his friends riding their bikes up and down the main street. walking the cobblestone sidewalk, it was like being transported back in time fifty years.
later that afternoon, we got ready and dressed for the wedding. and look who i finally convinced to take a selfie with me!
the wedding was an utterly lovely event with the venue being right along the bank of the mighty mississippi.
as another sidenote, it’s been a long time since i’ve been to a wedding. and i was so moved by the overwhelming love and hope and youthful optimism that was present there that day.
also present at the wedding were some of my dad’s cousins…many of whom that he had not seen years and years. yet another reason to love weddings. i loved hearing their stories of growing up with my dad.
this is something that even as i sit here typing this, still stands out to me. and that is how my dad grew up surrounded by family – aunts, uncles, cousins. and not only that, but this extended family wasn’t just relatives that he went to visit, they went to church together, to school together. his family and extended family were he and his parents’ social circle. it doesn’t seem to be that way much anymore. and truly, i’m not casting judgment about one way being more right or better…i’m just saying that i can see how this shaped the man that my father grew into. especially his devotion and commitment to his own family.
i know that traditionally, memorial day is set aside to honor and remember the men and women of our armed forces. and i am blessed to have several in my family – both of my grandfathers served in the army and of course my dad in the air force. not to mention my dad’s best friend warren. He was a marine gunner and was excellent with AR-15 rifles. His helicopter got shot down in viet nam.
but i think it’s also appropriate to celebrate the lives of my family members…many of whom i never knew. and especially for me this weekend, getting to know this man that i call dad. because the amazing thing i found was that in getting to know my dad…i learned an awful lot about myself too.
i would just like to close here by saying if you ever have the opportunity to spend one on one time with your parents….to go back to where they grew up. to hear their stories. to share their favorite hamburgers….you need to do it. even if your weeds are out of control and your laundry is piled high. even if that means time away from the family of your own….you can’t imagine the profoundly wonderful memories that you will make.
trust me on this one.
happy memorial day friends. love, kelly