Sunday, December 07, 2008

Visit To Pennsylvania

Yesterday I made my long put off trip to Pennsylvania to visit Mom. The trip is a 2 ½ hour drive one way for a total 5 hour plus trip. I always come back the same day. Yesterday posed a problem because it gets dark at 5 PM. I didn’t want to drive back in the dark. I don’t do well driving in the dark. Everything is headlights and taillights. I find the older I get the more difficult I have navigating the multi lane highways. Thus, the goal yesterday was to leave by 2:30 PM. That didn’t happen.

Listed below are the six things I wanted to do:

1. Return my elderly cousin’s pictures to her that I had borrowed to scan in my genealogy reports
2. Take pictures of some family graves at the Hopewell Methodist Church Cemetery and the Northwood Cemetery.
3. Visit Mom and give her Christmas presents to her.
4. Have lunch at the Brickside Grille (they make the best Chicken Quesadillas.)
5. Stop at a fabric store to pick out ribbon to finish the curtains that Bill made for the sunroom.
6. Shop at Wegmans.

My cousin’s home is located just off of Rt. 896 (Jennersville Road) on my way to my Mom’s. Originally I told her I would see her at 2 in the afternoon (her suggestion) but I thought I would see if she was available in the morning. I was by her place at 9:30 AM. I called. No, she said she wasn’t even dressed and said 2 in the afternoon would be better. Already I knew that I would have a hard time keeping that schedule.

Barreling on down the road to Rt. 10, then the Rt. 30 bypass, we soon arrived in East Brandywine Township. As we always do when we visit my Mom, Bill and I take a ride past the “old props” (as we call where we used to live.) We can’t see the house from the road (that’s the way we designed it but now it is to our disadvantage because we can’t see the house.) Our house is located one road over from my Mom’s house. Bill and I drive down the beautiful Crawford Road, which has now been repaved. First thing we see are two large trash cans. The new owner keeps two trash cans near the entrance to the property so he doesn’t have to haul them down every week like we did. I am immediately disappointed because I see the bank that I lovingly cared for over the years by planting ivy, pachysandra and vinca minor, is now covered in dead leaves and branches. What a shame. I had a multi-year goal of eventually covering the front bank of the seven acres of woodland that comprised our former property in neat ground cover instead of the former mixture of poison ivy and weeds. It is what it is. Bill and I would love to see our old house and the landscaping surrounding it but we dare not venture up the driveway. I don’t think the new owner would appreciate it. Judging from the way he has treated the front bank of the property, maybe it’s just as well we don’t see the house. It’s probably best that we remember it as it was. I’ve often thought of what happened to my wintering over goldfish in my three ponds. Some of those gold fish were 5 years old. So sad.

Stopping over at my Mom’s, I found she had almost fallen a few minutes before I got in the door. She doesn’t get around well. Christmas Eve she will be 85 years old, bless her heart. She lives with my divorced brother. I have a place for her in my house as does my other brother, who lives in South Carolina. We’ve been trying to talk her into moving to a safer environment but she doesn’t want to leave her home of 50 years. She also doesn’t want to leave her two cats, Molly and Rusty. I understand why she feels this way. She is comfortable in her own home. My brothers and I have to respect her wishes. We’re hoping she will come to realize soon that she will be safer living at my brother’s house in South Carolina, which has a handicapped accessible mother-in-law suite. We’re working on this.

During our visit, my Mom and my brother had just returned from Wegmans. They said it was a “madhouse.” Wegmans; that is the one thing I really miss about moving from Pennsylvania. If any of you readers have experienced a Wegmans, you know what I’m talking about. There are super markets and then there are Super Markets. That’s Wegmans. I know in year’s past, during the holiday the crowds were jammed in Wegmans. Bill and I decided not to go today to save time.

Instead I talked Bill into having lunch with me at the Brickside Grille. Bill would rather eat at the Chinese buffet at Wegmans (which is excellent but on a crowded day, the screaming kids are even too much for me.) Bill doesn’t like sit down restaurants. He says they’re too hoity toity. The restaurant I wanted to eat at is located in Eagleview, a planned community. No traffic highways outside the restaurant. It is located in the heart of the residential area of Eagleview. And, they serve the BEST chicken quesadillas ever. One touch they put in the filling which I love is the toasted pumpkin seed. Also, the fresh salsa served on top of the quesadilla pie slices are fresh and have just enough hotness to satisfy my palate. All this means nothing to Bill. He sits there with his baseball cap on, tolerating the whole situation just to please me. There weren’t many people in the restaurant on this Saturday afternoon. Maybe this was a reflection of the down economy. Even so, we were soon served and I wasn’t disappointed in my Chicken Quesadillas.

On the way back we stopped at the Northwood Cemetery. That’s were our plots are located. Bill had never seen his. I knew the general area but I couldn’t find the “T” granite marker in the ground. Finally, after about 20 minutes of searching I found it covered over with grass. I ditched the grass away with my foot and showed Bill the nice view he would have of the Downingtown valley. The “view” is a family joke. My Mother picked out her grave at the Hopewell Methodist Church Cemetery because of the “view.” Well, the view is now blocked by a row of white pine. The white pine was planted on the border of the Asbury Village development so those nice folks wouldn’t have to look at a cemetery from their back decks. I won’t have that problem with my view. Our plots are located on the side of a very steep hill overlooking Downingtown. Northwood is a very large cemetery and there are many graves between my lot and the road that runs by Northwood Cemetery, which is Rt. 113.

I took pictures of several headstones, recognizing many of the names from my childhood. I think it is so sad that all these people have gathered at this location. Nobody has to ask this gathering to be quiet. They are.

On the way back I stopped at the Hopewell Methodist Church Cemetery and took more pictures. I got just about all the pictures I need for my next posting to Find a That is another one of my new passions, taking pictures of headstones for this web site. For years I’ve been taking pictures of headstones, now I can share my largess with the masses.

Now it was time to head home. Already it was 2:00 and I had yet to visit my cousin and return her pictures. I was also to pick up a picture of her father taken when he graduated from college. We arrived at her place at 2:30 PM. Her niece was there. This was an unexpected treasure because I could gather information from her niece about her mother who died in 1929 (when she was 8 months old.) With Bill waiting in the car, I spent over an hour with the two ladies. During our visit I mentioned that I wondered what happened to that grand old picture of her Mother that was taken around the turn of the century, standing out in front of her house, with five of her small children, in the mountains of North Carolina. The niece told me that another aunt of hers had that picture. This was an unexpected jackpot! She said her aunt was only three miles away. So, out the door we go, with my tote back containing the picture of her father, a copy of his obituary and the guest book from his funeral. I was going to take these home with me and scan them into my computer. I follow her car to her 89 year old aunt’s home down the road. Her aunt was a delight. This was really a banner day for my genealogical research. Bill was out in the car growing impatient (he has no interest in my genealogical research) and it was getting cold. With the knowledge that darkness would arrive in about an hour, I cut my visit short.

The niece got in her car and back out to lead me back to the main road. However, when she backed out, she knocked over her aunt’s birdhouse which was on a pole. This was the first casualty of the day. I try to be so unobtrusive during the genealogical forays, but sometimes it’s hard not to leave damage in my wake. She got out and looked at the now downed birdhouse to confirm that indeed, she did knock it down. What was that bird house doing there anyway? I suspect it was placed at that location so the aunt could see it from her dining room window.

After some confusion (I took the wrong turn out of the driveway – to me left is right, and right is left), I followed the niece’s car out to the main road and thus on my way home. The overcast skies were growing darker by the moment as I entered Newark Delaware. Winding my way through Newark on 896, I exited on the other side, past the now closed Chrysler automotive plant (another casualty of global trade), light snow began to fall. By the time I got on Rt. 1 (which is a straight shot down to my home in Delaware, just off of Rt. 1), visibility was poor. The light snow was having the same effect as fog. My worst nightmare is driving at night in a fog. Many years ago, I brought my first car (1954 Mercury) home from Ft. Meade, Maryland. My brother, who was stationed at Ft. Myers, Virginia, drove the car (his MOS in the Army was as a driver, this was my first car and I didn’t have driving experience). The fog was so bad that Friday night I had to get out and put one hand on the hood (actually, on the unknown chrome plated wing goddess hood ornament) and lead the way through the heavy fog that enveloped Wilmington Delaware. That night is forever branded in my brain. Some experiences you never forget; the first time you learned how to tie your shoe laces and the first time you lead a 2 ton vehicle through fog so thick you could slice it. I felt like I was leading the Titantic through glacier clogged waterways. Now, whenever I drive at night in the fog, I am reminded of that experience. Last night was one of those experiences. An experience that is indelibly etched in my brain for life.

The ride home was Nightmare Alley. Bill is getting more and more nervous about my driving. I’m tired. I can’t see. I can’t judge distances. I’m wondering to myself, “How did I get myself into this predicament?” Finally, after two nerve wracking hours, I drive in my driveway. I get out of the car, stiff of limb. Going around to the back I unload what items I had brought back. Then I notice, I’m missing my tote bag! The tote bag that contained that grand old classic picture of my cousin’s father was missing! That picture was one of the main reasons I made the trip. All the rest were extras except the visit to my Mother. I go into the house and place a call to my cousin. Yes, she tells me that I did indeed leave my tote bag on her kitchen chair.

Ever have that feeling that you just went through the wringer for nothing? Well, that’s the way I felt. But do not dismay. I will turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse. I’m going up again the week after next. I’ll stay overnight at my Mom’s. This way I’ll have more than an hour with her. The next day I’ll take her to visit her sister who resides in the dementia unit at a care facility in Downingtown. She hasn’t seen her sister since I last took her there about two years ago. Her sister is 90 years old now. Her other sister lived to be just two months short of her 90th birthday when she died in 2006. I don’t have a lot of slack time when I’m dealing with my older relatives. Already I’ve missed out on several relatives who couldn’t wait for me. They departed before I departed to visit them.

Maybe during my next visit I’ll call one of my old school friends with whom I am still in touch and we’ll do lunch at the Brickside Grille. I have to stop all this rushing around and make my next visit a nice leisurely visit, enjoyable for all. Of course I’ll have another Chicken Quesadilla.

On my way back I’ll stop at my cousin’s place again and pick up that picture of her father, which seems to have a hex on it. It's almost as if I was fated not to have this picture. This time I travel alone, no external pressures. But I will travel home in the sunlight. No more night driving for this traveler. I’ll leave that to Batman and Robin.

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