Packed the car, gathered up the dogs, and spent two weeks driving 2200 miles to and from Olmsted Falls. It was a good way to combine my attending my first high school class reunion (45th) with a chance for Mother to visit friends and relatives. “Diary” below, followed by photos.
“We got a late start on Aug. 4 and ran into both rain and Friday afternoon Atlanta rush hour traffic. What should have been a 3 hour drive to Chattanooga took five and a half. The hotel room door could not be locked, but we were so tired we just complained and crashed, depending on our two home grown “securities systems” to alert us of danger. Our late arrival and having to change rooms the next morning limited our time for activities. We did visit the TN Aquarium (I pushed Mother in her wheelchair and she carried the dogs in their tote on her lap) and especially enjoyed the displays of the invertebrates and the butterflies.
The next day was a long driving day—stayed in a nice Holiday Inn in Dry Ridge, KY. Drove to Medina, OH on Tuesday and ate supper in a restored burlesque house/hotel with an upper outside balcony that could have come right out of the Old West—or at least Hollywood’s version thereof. The waiter flirted with Mother and disappointed us greatly by saying the place was reportedly haunted but he didn’t know any details.
The next eight days we stayed with Mother’s friends and distant cousins of mine. We visited her 94 year old 3d cousin (let’s see, that makes me his 3d cousin once removed, but what is he to me??? Oh well…) When we got to Olmsted Falls, she had alone time with friends while I poked around old familiar and greatly changed places.
On impulse we pulled in to the drive of the house on Cook Road my father built in 1943-44 just as the owner was coming out the door. I introduced myself and she invited us in–a once in a lifetime opportunity! The tiny room that had been my bedroom until I was 12 still had the wardrobe, desk and shelves Father had made, and I swear the kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures had never been replaced! Mother had great fun remembering what had been where (as I did) and the lady seemed interested in the stories we told her.
It was strange staying immediately across the street from the house we moved to on Usher Road when I was 12—it is so small! Our hosts were in their early fifties and a lot of fun.
Cindy and I went to the Berea (Cuyahoga County) Fair—which had been a highpoint of my childhood summers. The fries were as greasy and wonderful as I remembered, the animal barns and home collections as disparate and as fascinating, and oh, the smells! On the way out we passed a vegetable stand. The guys had a bushel of beets with wilted tops they wanted to get rid of—for $10. I schlepped those blasted beets from place to place (after washing and trimming, of course) the rest of the trip, cooked them yesterday, and will can them this afternoon.
My father had a childhood (Finnish) friend with whom he remained close. Reino and Tynne Salo had always been kind and welcoming to me. I remember stopping in once when Tom (about 10 at the time) and I had been bike riding. Ray had a new riding lawn mower and showed Tom how to drive it. Those two played the whole afternoon while Tynne and I visited! I haven’t kept in touch much with them—an occasional phone call, Christmas card, that sort of thing.
Ray is now 90 and Tynne three years older—and not at all well. He still plays piano and organ by ear (very well!) and goes twice a week to play for the “old folks” at a couple of nursing homes. He adores Tynne and cares for her tenderly—refuses help from anyone.
Ray bought a used electric organ for their living room so he could play for her, but didn’t like the height of the bench that came with it. So, when he played for Mother and me, he closed the top of Tynne’s bedside potty chair, put a cushion on it, and, pushing the toilet paper to the side, played request after request.
We stayed with some second cousins of mine (paternal—JoAnne and Bob Rupert in Ravenna, OH) and some second cousins on Mother’s side (Barbara Pincomb and Karl Anderson). Had a nice visit with Bill and Lil Danalds. Bill gave me six beautiful teacups and saucers that had been his late mother’s. I was quite moved.
Mother had brought with her 20 slabs of rocks she had cut and polished ten years ago with her equipment in the basement of the Usher Road house. We took them to her favorite rock shop in Cleveland. The owner, who remembered her well, will drill holes in them and ship them back to her here in Athens so she can make more of her lovely clocks.
Turkey Foot Grove cemetery is where my younger brother and sister are buried. It was an emotional visit for her. The caretaker was helpful. She wants her ashes to be buried in the plot with my little brother Tommy (died at age 4 when I was 8—after whom my son is named) and he made good suggestions about incorporating Tommy’s marker into her own.
We drove from Olmsted Falls to Parkersburg, WV, and went to Blennerhasset Island. I had done a paper YEARS ago on Blennerhasset and Aaron Burr—all the seamy stuff about his being executed as a traitor was conveniently forgotten in the tourist hype!
Next night was in Beckley, then on to Morganton, NC. Our day on the Blue Ridge Pkwy was rainy and a bust, except for brief clearing at Blowing Rock. We surprised now Bishop Porter Taylor (our former rector) at a little church Sunday morning where he was preaching on their Homecoming Sunday. What a joy—I haven’t seen him in three years, but he is still the warm, loving pastor I knew and absolutely the best preacher I have ever heard. Even Mother was impressed and told him so! I might never make an Episcopalian out of her, but he certainly made her “sympathetic.” Oh yes, the surprise visit was planned!
We never got to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville—had too much fun shopping and poking around downtown. She loved the 125 year old “Mast” general store with its generations-old penny candy, kitchen implements, toys and books.
Driving home on the 22d in a driving rainstorm was a less-than-ideal bookend to our trip. I’m tired! Loading and unloading the car, pushing the wheelchair, walking the dogs—took their toll. The dogs are great travelers—I’m very proud of them. So is Mother. Almost everything is put away now and after I can these blasted beets I will plunge in preparing for the sequel OT course I’ll be teaching for seven weeks staring the end of Sept.”