This has to have been one of the strangest, most rewarding and frustrating Christmas’ in my memory. For starters, most of our worldly possessions are in a storage warehouse, waiting for delivery to our new house in Leavenworth, KS. Like Gypsies, we took off across the US, all the way to DC before turning back on New Year’s Day. Along the way we have made many wonderful memories, touched deeply on our family histories, renewed faith with our loved ones and gotten on each other’s last nerve.
Our first big stop was Nashville, at my Great Aunt’s house. My littlest one turned 4 and we celebrated in style, finally getting rid of the piñata I carted from CA!
Then we spent the weekend in a cabin on top of Cheaha Mountain, the historical (50 + years) site of my Boy Scout troops annual reunion. Also, the spot where I proposed to my lovely bride over 13 years ago. It was really a wonderful time of catching up with old friends and seeing the new crop of youngsters living up to the wonderful family I remember.
Then we headed to NC and a visit with one of my sister-in-laws whose family situation is “complicated”. I hope we were able to offer her some hope and grace and a sense that, whatever may come, she has our love and support, both spiritual and in every other way.
Our next stop was to another Great Aunt in Birmingham. We really enjoy our visits here, she has 10 acres outside Oak Mountain State Park and the kids can run around in the pasture, shoot BB guns, and generally have fun. We stayed through Christmas Day. This was an important time for me. We pulled down old family photos and I tried to capture as many digitally as I could, also recording who, when and where the photos were taken. That knowledge is exceedingly perishable. There were many people I would have loved to have seen here, or spent more time with, but we were forced to do the best we could.
After the glut that was Santa we loaded up and headed to dinner with my brother near Talladega. He lives on another 10 acre spot and has a lot of irons in the fire. Between a handful of cows, free range turkeys, a long hair sheep and a hog he also processes about 200 deer a year in the evenings after a long day managing 2 farm stores. His 4 girls were a delight and we got to spend the evening with my 91 year old grandfather…quite likely his last. Our conversations that night and the next when we visited him at his assisted living home are exceedingly dear to me. I cannot fully express how precious it is to have a man you respect and adore express his approval of you, your family, your career, your life and the way you carry yourself as a man. I hope, someday, I am half the man he is, or at least that I can live up to being the man he said I am.
We are now in VA, visiting half my in-laws. It has been a good trip, Angela has had time to connect with her mother over a shared love of crafting. Honestly, as much as I am looking forward to seeing my father-in-law for a couple of days, we are all ready for this trip to be over and for us to get settled in our new house.
Unfortunately, we all also know that that will mark the nearness of my departure of A’stan. I am looking forward to this deployment professionally. It will be a blessing after 16 months of language to get back to the “real” Army. But I always hate the separations. The only thing in my mind that can justify it is for me to do the absolute best I can of the job I am given, and use what free time I have to improve myself in every way. I choose to use this time to it’s fullest.