Charlie and I just got back from going up to Indiana to see my family this past Saturday. We had a great time and everyone in my family seemed happy to meet her.
On the way we stayed the night in Louisville, KY with an old rugby buddy of mine and her gf. We reminisced and drank [a lot] of bourbon. Slightly hung over the next day we headed on up to stay with my cousin and his partner for a few days. This was the first time I have even been to his newly built house. [Literally, in the cornfield next to his parents, my aunt and uncle’s] Their house was huge. Other than our dogs having to be separated by their overly somewhat dominant French bulldog mix we were pretty comfortable and had a great time there. I originally thought staying for two days would be a lot but when we left I wished we were staying another.
The second day we were there my cousin, J, asked if we wanted to go out to dinner that night and we said, “Sure.” Charlie and I wanted to go running around that day in my hometown. I wanted to show her where the family farms were (two of which are deserted) and go by my mother’s gravesite.
The first farm was where my mother grew up. I have since taken her maiden name as my last name and this farm was initially supposed to be mine and my sisters to inherit. But, when our mother was in the last stages of cancer our father dragged her to some crackpot attorney and got her to sign the farm away so it would be split between the three of us. When the farm was willed to us he immediately fired the contract farmer hired to farm it, said he was going to take over the farming and that my sister and I could screw off. My sister and I never saw any kind of money from the farm until the year I was unemployed and I asked him for some farm income. I said I needed it and if he could find it in his heart to give me my portion that year I would appreciate it. He said he would and I said it would only be fair to give [sister] her portion as well. So, it’s only been three years we’ve received our portions of that farm’s profits. I will not get in to back years that he owed us nor ask to review the books because I am sure that we make well over the amount he gives us. But, that’s not a hill I want to die on right now so I’m just content that we’re getting anything.
Charlie and I pulled up at the farm and parked. The dogs were in the back but we wouldn’t let them out to roam because Dad had the old house torn down and buried on the land. We walked over to the old corn cribs and barn. I opened one of the cribs and my grandparent’s old glider was inside. I wished I had room in the truck to take it back and restore it.
“Wow! This is great!” Charlie was taking off towards the barn.
“Hon, be careful in there. There’s old holes in the floor and I’m not sure how sturdy the loft is.”
We ended up prying some old boards off a wall inside so we could take them home for her paint something for me on them. After strapping them to the roof we took off. We walked the other farm which was in much worse shape. That farmhouse was still standing only because it had asbestos shingles and my father didn’t want to pay anyone to tear it down. That farm is his outright that my grandmother willed to him. I have no affiliation with it unless I have the unfortunate luck of it being willed to me when he dies.
Once back, my cousin said that he’d invited anyone in the family who wanted to come and was that ok? I said, “Sure.” It turned out everyone in the family – both aunts and uncles, both cousins and their kids and my father and step mother were coming.
“Get ready to be overwhelmed.” I told Charlie.
We all met at the Mexican restaurant nearby and everyone got to meet Charlie. It was great seeing my younger cousin, his wife and all the kids. They had grown so much since the summer before last when I was there. My cousin’s partner, Carlos, is from Puerto Rico and I heard him speak in Spanish to the waiters. Later, a sombrero was slammed down on Charlie’s head and they started singing Happy Birthday [it’s her birthday this week] as they slung whipped cream all over her face. Carlos got off a great picture of her with whipped cream on the end of her nose and the hat on. (I will not post because I’m not sure I could handle the revenge she’d have on me for doing that) As I reached over and licked the cream off of her nose and kissed her the people at the next table froze mid-bite with eyes the size of quarters. Oops, silly me forgot that we weren’t inside the gay friendly “fruit loop” of Atlanta anymore.
“I don’t know what was funnier – her getting whipped cream all over her or the looks on those people’s faces next to us when you licked it off.” Carlos said later.
Tuesday, we reluctantly left the boys and drove up to Indy to my sisters. Her house is not quite as large as my cousin’s but it’s in the ritzy horse country of Indianapolis and sits on ten acres of a walnut grove. She’s very particular of her house and cleanliness. In fact, just shortly after arriving she had given me a few things (jars of homemade chow chow, glass bottles, a router, etc) that she said, “Ok, we’re cooking now can you take these back to your rooms?”
I noted the contrast to my cousin’s large island counter in the kitchen we had littered with beer bottles, cigars and chips. Charlie and I had taken up two of her guest rooms – one for sleeping with the dogs kennels set up and the other with just our clothes. I was a bit worried how my sister would take to Charlie but they seemed to hit it off just fine after they got in to several discussions on home improvements and especially after she helped her set the timer on the new lights she had installed along the house.
Unlike my cousin’s, the dogs got along famously with my sisters bitchy cocker. I really can’t stand the dog since one Christmas he attacked me and sent me to the hospital to get two stitches put in my lip. Fortunately, he’s old now and has lost most of his testosterone. The first night she made cheese fondue and had friends- Iko, Kevin and Sondra over. It had been years since I’d had fondue and couldn’t imagine making a whole meal out of just cheese and bread (honestly, I think I’m still stopped up from it but at least we had a salad to go with it) Fondue reminded me of “cheesy” dates in the early 90’s when people tried to act suave and take their dates to a dinner of fondue (I never did this, of course). Now it just seemed so fattening. I don’t think my sister ever got over having cheese as a main staple when she was in Switzerland.
Iko showed up with a 35 mm camera and started snapping pictures of the dogs. He was acting all Brain Duffy-ish and snapping pictures left and right of Bailey who is afraid of them and was barking and growling. Thinking it was funny he kept on. I personally wanted to slap him. I’ve known this guy for years and have always thought he was a bit odd and a little on the obnoxious side. My sister just loves him and directed every aspect of the dinner conversation towards him. Sondra showed up with two six packs of craft beer which I immediately liked. We had put our dogs up during dinner in their kennels with bones and they were perfectly quiet while sister’s dog whined and scratched at the dining room door and then later barked if he wasn’t getting scraps.
The next day we ran errands and helped make food for Thanksgiving. Late afternoon, Charlie and I had a long walk with the dogs in the park, watched boaters on the lake and the sun go down. The weather was beautiful most of the time while we were there. That night we stayed in and had chili. I told Charlie that I was ready to go home and it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet.
Thanksgiving we went down to my father’s farm and most of my stepmother’s family was there. These are people I have no affiliation with nor will I ever. I’m polite and tolerate them. My stepmother’s oldest son lives with them and it’s not lost on me that here my father takes him in when he hasn’t done anything for my sister and I for years. It seemed everyone stood on the porch while we were there. Charlie and I drinking beer on the porch since my stepmother doesn’t allow it in the house and everyone else except for my sister and father were smoking. We all ate dinner downstairs in the basement on card tables.
“Lanie found some old letters to pa-paw Jay [my father’s father] you might be interested in. Did pa-paw have a brother named Victor?”
“No, Victor was my grandfather. He didn’t want Jay to have this farm that he gave me me after Katey and I got married.” He mentioned our mother by name and not “your mother” which, I found odd. He then went into this whole, long story about it. I glanced over at Charlie and she was listening intently while she ate.
My sister and I know very little of my father’s side of the family whenever we asked either of our grandparents, father or uncle about our great aunts/uncles they would either shake their heads or say something mean that gave you the impression no one got along in the family. Finally, as he was wrapping up the story of land fighting I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “And, even today the family continues to fight over land.” Instead, “Dad, why don’t you show Charlie your scrap metal collection and the corn drying process?”
I’m not lying – he does have a huge scrap metal collection along with every possible piece of metal fabrication equipment imaginable. I went along and listened to him give Charlie the tour. We moved out of the barn that housed several tractors and into the sheds that housed more. He told her what each tractor did and details about the engines. We finally moved down to the grain bins where he explained the process of corn leaving the wagons, filling up the wet bin and being dried before moving into the regular storage bins. At this point it sounded like “Blah, blah, blah-blah-blah” in my head. I looked at my watch ready to go.
Originally, we were going to leave on Friday but I managed to get in touch with friends of the family who wanted to come by and visit. They were great friends of my grandparents on my mother’s side of the family, therefore, like family to me. They adored both of my grandparents and we always share great memories of them when we’re together. In fact, they brought with them some of the old slate shingles from the house and their iron mailbox sign that had both of their names. I felt a lump in my throat when he showed them to us. Here was a man who was no blood relation to us who thoughtfully saved something for us to have. Far be it from our own father to ever think of anything but having an axe to grind with my mother’s family and seek nothing but profit over the land.
Saturday we headed out. On the way we took a very long side trip off the beaten track to Maker’s Mark distillery for a tour. I highly recommend it but be prepared to drive down windy roads through the countryside for an hour both ways to get there because it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. On the way back to the highway we go behind an Amish horse and buggy. Sadie was looking out of the windshield at the horse and barking. It was a long drive home and we made many stops only to roll in around 11 on Saturday. But, it was nice having that family stuff out of the way the trip behind us and to be home.