Sabbatical- Day Nine, Love American Style

We are staying in a house in Grover, WY that is owned by a hunting guide.  I have counted 69 heads, pelts, and pairs of antlers.  Last night, I had to untie some sort of tail to close the curtains. But outside, it is green stacked upon green.  There are horses grazing in a field, and cows crossing in the middle of the roads.  There is a small pond with a tiny beach attached.  The boys have already stripped to nothing, covered themselves in sand, and splashed in the pond to remove it.  I love watching them have those kinds of adventures.  Simple, without planning, and filled with wonder.

We camped the previous night in Steamboat Springs.  A CO native who spent thirty years living in the state, I have no idea how I have never visited Steamboat before.  Ben mentioned that a lot of the mountain towns come across as a little hoity-toity (technical term), and maybe that has something to do with it.  Breckenridge, Aspen- there are a lot of displays of opulence there.  But Steamboat was just a sweet little town.  I stopped to fill our growler at an outdoor brewery, and there were at least three dogs wandering the pub, greeting the guests.  Some might find that annoying, but I loved petting them and saying hello.

The best part about steamboat is the contrast of snow capped mountains and neverending meadows of wildflowers.  Wildflowers as far as the eye could see!  The snow was a reminder of just how vast this trip really is. I left a state with temperatures soaring into the triple digits, and now I am looking at snow!

It hasn’t all been perfect.  We have had a lot of long driving days, wondering when or if we would reach our destinations.  The car is a nightmare of toys, stickers, coloring books, etc.  I keep foisting new items on the boys, hoping to keep their attention until the next rest stop.  Sometimes I wish I had taken a more active role in the planning- as if MY looking at the map would make the distances shorter.  But I didn’t.  Every time Ben asked for my input, I replied “Whatever you want.”  So I have no right to complain.  And whenever we arrive at our destination, the frustration falls away, and I am thankful to have a husband who put this trip together for us.  If it were up to me, we would never have embarked on this adventure.

And it is worth it.  So worth it.  It is cliche, but if you want to fall in love with America, drive and see it.  At one point, gazing over a particularly beautiful mountain setting, Ben jokingly started to sing “America the Beautiful.”  I joined in on the joke, singing in a goofy tone.  But my heart was belting it out in full voice.

Prior to WY, we stopped in CO to see family and friends.  The best was seeing my grandmother.  I have been worried about her for months, hearing about her condition via phonecalls and emails.  A couple of days prior to our visit, she had a bought of dimentia and had to be put on medication to calm down.  I wasn’t sure who we would be visiting.

There is no substitution for seeing with your own eyes.  She is the lady I remember.  As soon as we walked in her room, she was asking my boys for hugs and convincing them to climb in her lap for a snuggle.  While they were sitting with her, she gave them rides in her wheelchair.  She mentioned her center having dance classes, and I said I remembered her tap dancing in her kitchen.  She got a twinkle in her eye, and said “Now, you keep that to yourself.”

She’s frail.  Over the last couple of months, she’s lost thirty lbs.  Her hands shake when she eats.  After a few bites, she gets tired and stops eating.  Her confusion kicks in when I mention her home- I am referring to the one in Littleton, CO, but she sees her home in Bloomingdale, IN.  But even the confusion is not as bad as I thought it would be.  I imagined her getting very upset when she got confused, but she seemed to realize her error after a minute or two and come back to the present.

She is lonely and it breaks my heart.  I guess I took comfort in that maybe if she was confused, she didn’t fully grasp her situation.  My aunt and I got her to her table for lunch, and then stepped outside to talk.  A few minutes later, my grandma came through the door being wheeled by another resident.

“She’s been looking for you,” he said.

“I thought you were coming back to sit with me,” she pleaded.  We ended our conversation and returned with her.  My aunt described putting her to bed the night before, and my grandma begging her to stay.  She is lonely.  I hate it.  I wish I could be there more.  I’m planning another visit after this road trip, just to spend a little more time with her.

I’ve been spending a lot of time drawing in the car.  At Kartchner Cavern, the guide impressed upon us the accumulating effect of water- little drips over time forming gigantic formations.  I’ve been looking at the landscapes, and trying to determine what forces created them- how I can mimic those forces in drawings.  I have always struggled with shading.  Having so much time to simply look and gather information, it is starting to make sense in my mind, but I still struggle with putting it on paper.  I guess I will have more time to practice.

The boys are asking to play Uno and Candyland, so I better wrap this up.  Today is our day to rest and relax before hitting the road again.  Next stop, Yellowstone.

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