22 June 2010


Aunt Margie's cottage

PJ's Peoria Park District waterfall project

There used to be a rake here and you could blissfully arrange the pebbles.

An easy plan for this morning... Actually, no plan at all. We're up at a decent time and World Cup Soccer is already in progress. CA and Gigi are deeply invested in the action. I compute for a bit and when Gigi leaves for her Birthday Group luncheon at 11:00am, I get in gear and begin my 3-mile walk out Mt. Zion Road and into Cruger Township.

It's a winding road first with beautiful houses on one side and farm fields on the other,and  then fields of oats amber and ready for harvest. Soon the fields are corn and soy beans, and there's the tree-lined Walnut Creek in the background. I walk out to Mt. Zion Cemetery, about 1-1/2 miles and then back. A nice breeze gives respite from the noon-day sun. Still, I'm sweated-through by the time I arrive back at Gigi's cottage.

For the first time ever, I conducted a couple of cell calls during my walk. JL and I caught up on baby Rhys and the ever-effervescent Sophie. JL's been staying at the condo in Chicago since just before Rhys' birth. She's plans to go home early next week--back to her lake house and all the summer fun. TL is flying in from Austin next weekend, and JL's family will gather on Indian Lake for some family time.

Then, on return walk, GJ calls to discuss our plans for Aunt Margie. I encourage her to give herself a break today and I'll go visiting on my own. First, to Dad and his wife and then at 5:00pm to Aunt Margie's. We have  letters to write and envelopes to stuff, and stamps to lick--thank goodness we really don't have to lick either the envelopes or stamps any more as they're self-sealing.

I spend two hours in Peoria with Dad and WJ, talking and looking at photos of my grandchildren and our recent vacation to Virginia. Their dinner hour begins at 3:45pm when they clean up and head downstairs for the dinner que. I believe everyone always takes the same chair at the same table, and the disabled residents are always served first. Still, it's important to show up early and stake your claim (even though each resident calls in their attendance early in the day). They walk me from the elevator and we say our good byes.

It's still an hour before Aunt Margie will be available. Her Home Instead friend, Ronnie, comes on Tuesday afternoons and stays until 5:00pm. I decide to take my book to Bradley Park (scenes from my youthful sledding and picnicking days) to find a shady tree and kill the next hour.

I enter at Lower Bradly Park and as I'm driving past the waterfall I watched my brother's work crew installing three years ago, I decide to take some photos. There's a Japanese pagoda-like shelter, a Zen garden, and the waterfall that was inspired when PJ's crew unearthed a huge granite stone that had natural ridges running through it. They were inspired to create this water feature. Very lovely.

There's still 30 minutes to kill, and I'm starving but too early for my dinner. I decide to drive to Metro Center to Hanssen's Le Bakery and buy one of their wonderful white cakes. We've ordered these for several family events in the past few years. The first time I experienced their quality was at G+T M's wedding probably seven years ago. Then, in 2005 we had a pre-wedding party for JE and MA in Peoria at Weaver Ridge Country Club and Hanssen's created a cake for each table. Two years ago when Gigi turned 80, we ordered two large sheet cakes for her event. I am never disappointed. Their white cakes are moist and lovely, and I love the buttercream frosting.

Aunt Margie is surprised and pleased to see me, especially when she notices the cake! We each have a generous slice, although I discourage the suggestion of a scoop of ice cream. YUM!

In 2 hours we accomplish more than I expected. We start out slowing, with Aunt Margie wanting to write a note on every pre-printed letter, but after 6 or 8 (there are over 100 to do), I suggest a magic trick. We sort through the stack and divide into two piles--those requiring just a signature and those requiring (?!) a hand-written note. It's painful for Margie to not write a note on every letter, but she bravely plays along. When I've accumulated 5 or 6 in the signature-only pile, we stop and she signs, we stuff, seal, and stamp. Pretty soon she's excited at how fast this is going. Later on she regresses to wanting to write more notes, but before we're done for the day there are 65 or more ready to mail. SUCCESS!

As we're exclaiming over our progress, I say, "We deserve a reward!" And, Margie says, "We do deserve a reward!" Then I remember, "Oh, we've already had our reward--the cake." Aunt Margie exclaims, "I have ice cream!" We laugh and laugh.

It's time to leave. Aunt Margie is tired and I'm hungry and ready to drive back to Eureka. Aunt Margie offers me dinner--one of her stock of Healthy Choice meals--but I've had so little to eat today that I'm not settling for a frozen dinner. She understands.We'll be together again soon.

As I drive through Washington I decide to stop at Monical's. I have a couple of magazines and a book with me, and I never mind eating a meal alone. It's late enough that there won't be too many people in the restaurant to wonder about the sad woman, eating alone, and reading a book.

I order an 8" thin crust pizza with onions, spinach, and sausage, and a garden salad to start off. It all tastes wonderful, and dining alone gives me a chance to unwind and relax.

CA and Gigi are glad to see me. They're watching the College Baseball World Series again, and routing for their favorite of the hour. I'm ready for bed and soon wander away, taking my book for comfort and companionship.

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