Last week I took a short vacation from all of my many day jobs and went to visit some long-neglected family down in Texas. I should probably include my wife and kids in that “long-neglected” category, but I spent five days doing my best to make up for that.
Before we left, I wasn’t terribly excited about the trip. There’s a reason I’m always working: I really have that much important work to do.
But it also wasn’t negotiable. I missed Christmas with a cold, and this trip was meant to make up for that. Also, as I mentioned, my wife and kids needed some attention. So I scrambled as hard as I could for the last few days at work, then on Tuesday I logged off, crossed my fingers, and headed for the Red River.
Our first stop was in Longview to visit my dad’s dad. We hadn’t seen him in several years, so we really introduced Annabelle and Alexander to him as though it were the first time.
For me, it was more like a homecoming. Granddad has lived in the same house for as long as I’ve been alive, and when I was younger, I visited there at least twice a year: once for a major holiday, and once for a week-long stay (by myself) over the summer.
I have so many memories in that house and its sprawling back yard. Alexander raced me past the garden sprouting with Granddad’s onions. Annabelle scraped up her leg climbing (and getting stuck in) the same trees I always climbed and got stuck in.
Granddad played an excellent host. He’d planned for our trip, so he took us out to all his favorite dinner spots (which included some excellent Tex Mex), and he made gifts of some classic movies that he’d picked up for the kids. Alexander got Home Alone, and Annabelle got Annie.
Amazingly, the kids had never seen either movie, so we watched Home Alone on Wednesday night and Annie on Thursday. The kids loved the movies. Annabelle has been singing songs from Annie ever since.
While we were reminiscing over dinner, I asked Granddad if he remembered taking me up to the office back when I was very young and sitting me down in front of the typewriter just to keep me busy.
He’s the one who taught me about the quick brown fox and when it is that all good men should come to the aid of their country. He loaned me an old high school textbook on touch typing. That’s where I learned to use a keyboard (which is now my primary profession).
It’s also one of the earliest memories I have of storytelling. After all, I needed something to do on the typewriter.
Of course he remembered. He said that even as a small child I was typing 60 words a minute while composing stories. Something about knights and dragons, to be sure. I can probably thank Granddad for being one of the first people to push me toward being a writer.
Friday morning we woke up early, had a hearty breakfast, then packed the car and headed back to Dallas. We met my Grandma Darlene (or, as the kids call her, Gigi) for lunch at El Fenix (more excellent Tex Mex), and then drove over to the thrift shop/food bank where my aunt Darla works. We bought some clothes for the kids and took a tour of the charitable operations. It was exciting to see the work she’s doing and to hear how much it’s grown in just a couple years.
Then we went back to Grandma’s and talked for a couple hours while the kids played. I told her all about the exciting developments (good and bad) at Draft2Digital over the last year, and she filled me in on the successes and struggles of her tech startup down in Dallas. And we both expressed how nice it was to finally take a day off, while very much recognizing that we’re the only reason we don’t do it more often. It might have been the closest I ever felt to my grandma.
Friday night, she watched the kids while Trish and I had a belated anniversary dinner at my favorite restaurant in the world. Texas de Brazil. There are no words to describe how exquisite an experience that place provides.
Afterward, we did a little recreational shopping at Target before returning home to watch Annie with Annabelle again. That made two nights in a row, and I doubt we’ve seen the last of it.
Saturday afternoon we went down to the harbor on the lake and walked around a bit, took some pictures of the kids, then Gigi took us to the movies to see Muppets: Most Wanted. As soon as that was over, we had dinner with my aunt Darla and uncle Jason. Eric and Shelley joined us, along with my cousin Lauren, and for about an hour there it very nearly qualified as a family reunion.
Then we said a bunch of heartfelt goodbyes, piled into the car around 8:00 pm, and headed home.
It was wonderful to reconnect with the family I have in Texas, but I think my favorite part of the trip was swinging on the swings with Alexander or hearing Annabelle guffaw in a crowded theater or talking to Trish with nothing to distract us but the long road ahead.
I am surrounded by a rich constellation of some of the most amazing people in the world. I forget it far too often, but whenever I slow down and notice, I am both awestruck and humbled.
To all my family, to all my friends, to everyone who helps me be the man I am: Thank you. You’re precious. I love you.