The last of my days in Iowa were quickly flying away. I wanted to see my Kiley grandparents, my former professor Nadine and Unkie and Helen. I wanted to spend more time with my cousins, too, if possible. Monday, I was supposed to visit Grandma and Grandpa, but I was running late. I was trying to pack my bags before my road trip (as I’d be cutting it close by returning the night before my flight), but airlines are so strict now about the weight of bags, and I’d acquired more things during my three months at home. Also, I was tired of hauling huge suitcases across New York City, bruising my legs and nearly throwing out my back as I lugged them up and down too many flights of stairs. I wanted to use my big backpack instead, but it holds about 20 lbs. less stuff. Somehow I managed it, but I ended up arriving at my grandparents’ house later than I anticipated. Sigh.
I drove for hours, but I finally made it. We went out to dinner and had Mexican food. It was quite yummy. I showed Grandpa Russ and Grandma Lenora my award-winning picture and a few others they might like. Grandma Norie and I talked about some redecorating options. Grandpa and I watched a documentary on TV. It was nice to see them, talk to them and hold their hands. The next morning, we had some lovely oatmeal. Then Grandpa was off to help a friend, Grandma Norie was off to work and I was off to Nadine’s house.
At Nadine’s, I was amazed to learn that her boyfriend (manfriend?) of more than a year has moved in. Surprise! Well, he seems like a great guy, and seems to make her happy. Nadine made me a gorgeous shrimp supper. It was unbelievably good. I shared some of my new poems with her, and Nadine showed me what she’s working on.
We both set some writing goals for the new year. Neither of us submits for publication enough, because we’re afraid of rejection. We decided to have a rejection slip contest. Whoever gets the most rejection slips in a year wins. Even if we lose (by getting selected for publication) we win.
The next morning, I went to see Nadine’s mom, Sarah, in the nursing home. She is an amazing nonagenarian. I had fun talking to her, but had to get going. Soon I was on the road. On the way home, I stopped at Unkie and Helen’s house. Unkie was out mowing, so I talked with Helen for a while. Eventually, I went out to flag Unkie down. He didn’t see me until I got right next to him, and he laughed that I’d snuck up on him.
We went back to the house to chat. When Karen got home with Hannah, they came over, too. It was good to just sit and talk with them and give them hugs. I miss them. All too soon, I had to go…before Connor could even get home from football practice. I still had packing left to do. In fact, I ended up packing until the wee hours of the morning. It was hard to drag myself our of bed at the alarm the next morning.
Mom and I ended up basically running out the door in order to get me to the airport without making her late for work. I gave all the pets a last pat, and threw Hooligan a hand-made baggie of catnip I’d bought at Prairieland Herbs, our neighbors’ store. (I would later learn that Hooligan liked my gift so much that he ate a hole in it while Mom was at work. Oops.)
After a brief visit with my friends in New York, I would be back in Norfolk…back to school and to work. I knew it would be great to get back to teaching and writing, but it would also be hard to leave my family behind. Goodbye again, Iowa. I’ll miss you. I’ll miss all of you in Iowa until I make it back again.