My mom and I flew to Chicago and before we went to see my grandfather in Orion, we spent the night at her boyfriend Paul’s house. In addition to Paul’s company, we enjoyed the company of Paul’s cat Seven and Paul’s assortment of aquarium fish. When I posted a picture of Seven on Facebook and said it was my mom’s boyfriend’s cat, a friend commented that any guy who owns a cat must be a good guy. I tend to agree.
The drive from Chicago to Orion, which we made in our rental car, was about three hours. In the course of our conversation on the journey, my mom revealed that a few years ago she had eaten a box of dog biscuits and enjoyed them. I looked at her like she was crazy.
Along the side of the road she pointed to a large building and said “That’s the mental hospital I went to.”
“You mean the mental hospital you volunteered at in college or were you put in a mental hospital?”
“The mental hospital that I volunteered at. You think I was a patient at a mental hospital?”, my mother replied incredulously.
“Well, I don’t know. You did reveal that you ate dog biscuits…”
I had no desire to eat dog biscuits but about halfway through the journey I did get hungry for human food. We stopped at a rest stop, where my mom handed me a ten dollar bill and headed to the bathroom. I decided to go to Sbarro. The pizza looked good, so I decided to get two slices of it and the breadsticks looked good too, so I got two of those as well, and of course I needed a drink. It ended up being more than ten dollars and I was left in the embarrassing situation of not having enough money to pay for my food.
I called my mother over and she came to my rescue….shouting at me in front of the cashier, “You spent more than ten dollars? How much did you buy, Fatass?!” Of course she just made an embarrassing situation even more embarrassing but perhaps she had a point, since I ended up not being able to eat all the food I got.
Perhaps it was my mom’s turn to be embarrassed when in the homeward stretch of our journey to Orion, she rammed in to another car. The car stopped and when I saw that the man who got out of it was wearing an NRA shirt, I felt nervous but thankfully there was no damage to the car.
Before we arrived, we had to figure out our hospitality arrangements. Uncle Jeff and his wife were staying at my grandfather’s house so there was no room for us there. My mother discussed the situation on the phone with my Uncle Chris. Afterwards she discussed the conversation she’d had with Chris with my Uncle Jon, who lives with my grandfather. She reported that she’d dropped all kinds of hints to Chris that she wanted him to let us stay at his house (i.e, “I just spent all this money on renting the house in Wisconsin. The last thing I want to do now is spend money on a hotel”) but he hadn’t bitten so we would have to stay at a hotel.
Although I’d never stayed at the hotel we were staying at before, it was familiar to me because it was attached to a Friday’s restaurant we always go to when we visit family. This trip was no exception.
At this dinner the family had some scholastic achievements to talk about. In August my cousin’s wife Lexi had graduated from nursing school and I had graduated from college. At around the same time my Uncle Jeff decided to go back to college. He’s such a dedicated student that he was doing his algebra homework at the restaurant table. I wish I could have helped him, but math is not my strong suit.
Unfortunately there was also some less pleasant conversation around the table, such as political disagreements and my Uncle Chris’s rage over Fridays not having baked potatoes. As for me, I was pretty satisfied with my dinner. I’d gotten my usual Friday’s dish of steak with sides of mashed potatoes and broccoli. For dessert I decided to try something new. I can’t remember the name of the dessert I ordered but it was some kind of S’mores drink that included chocolate and marshmallows. It looked delicious but it was disgusting.
Even more dismaying than the drink was the discovery that I had a cold. Colds in September and colds when you’re on vacation feel especially miserable and unfair.
The next night we celebrated my grandfather’s birthday at Red Lobster. My grandfather has hearing problems and restaurants like Red Lobster are loud, so he didn’t say much of anything and he isn’t smiling in any of the pictures we took that night because he has no fucks left to give when it comes to pictures, but I think the celebration made him happy. Having to pay the bill for everyone at the table did not make my mother happy.
The next morning my Uncle Jeff called the hotel room to ask us to meet the family for breakfast at a diner. He said the specified diner was about fifteen minutes away from our hotel but it ended up being more like forty-five minutes away, which also did not make my mother happy.
After breakfast, it was time for my mother and I to go to Wisconsin.
“Where are you going?” my grandfather asked as we prepared to exit the diner.
“We’re going to the house we rented in Wisconsin”, my mother replied.
“Oh”, my grandfather replied with what seemed like a twinge of sadness and regret.
“It’s not too late for you to come with us. Do you want to come?” my mother asked hopefully.
I knew it had been a long shot.
My mother and I said goodbye to the family, got in to our rental car, and headed to Wisconsin.