My flight into Houston arrived fairly late, and fortunately, my friends Debra and Sandy Sandoval live not too far from the airport and had prepared a room for me. I had not seen them since their visit to Destiny while we were in Fiji last June. We stayed up even later chattering away until none of us could keep our eyes open. I awoke the next day at noon! I had no idea how jet lagged I was. They let me snooze away thinking I must have needed the rest, and they were right. My body clock was way out of whack. The entire time I spent in Houston I could not seem to get to sleep before the wee hours. 10 PM in Houston was only 3 in the afternoon Fiji time. So you can only imagine how loopy I seemed to everyone who saw me. I just ran around with big black circles under my eyes and feeling like I'd walked into a wall. But that did not slow me down. No sir-ee! My time in Texas was a blur.
On Friday I drove over to my parents' house. My mom always cries when she see me, so we had a weepy hug and a nice long visit before I got back on the road with all the crazed Houston drivers to negotiate my way the 60+ miles south to Seabrook. Jen was home from work by then and after I got settled into my guest room she gave me a tour of her new home. I can with good conscience say that her home is stunning! Impressive! Spectacularly larger than my starter home. I am so proud of her I could split myself in two and not be able to hold all the joy I feel for what my little girl has accomplished. It isn't just about the house; it is about her overcoming enormous obstacles, moving forward with a tenacious determination and working hard for what she wants, in spite of what she has endured in her short life. She has achieved much but has only begun the journey. Buying this home speaks volumes. She is my little fighter. And she is a delicate flower at the same time. My one regret is that I am so far away from her and from our precious grandson, Trace. My hearts swells not only with pride for her, but with an ache I cannot quell that whispers "You should be here for her and your grandson, not tens of thousands of miles away". Yet I realize Jen is most assuredly better off not having me there to meddle and comment, suggest and urge her to do it all the way I would do it or want her to. But I cannot still the pain and guilt in my heart each time I see her and watch my grandson grow a year at a time in the minute that I saw him last.
My dear friend Sharon had flown in from Reno and on Saturday, she and Maureen drove down (from NW Houston) to visit us at Jen's. They toured her salon and her house and then we had a special afternoon and evening with them.
Because Jen's salon is closed on Sundays and Mondays, we wanted to spend some quality time together and so on Sunday Jen, Trace, Jacob – Jen's fiancé - and I drove up to Mom and Dad's house. We enjoyed a long visit, all had lunch together and then in late afternoon we stopped by Debra and Sandy's house where Trace was in Seventh Heaven! Debra and Sandy's home is filled with little boy delights. They have a fully stuffed, standing bear in the office, toys and gadgets, and all sorts of interesting bits and baubles from all of their travels to various parts of the globe, and the piece de resistance is the blow-dart "gun". Sandy has had this thing since Jennifer was a little girl. She used to love to go blow darts at Sandy's house, and was so enthralled with it I bought her a smaller version for her birthday when she was around 9 or 10. Sandy's blow tube is nearly 5 feet long Jen's is only about 2.5 feet long. Trace has never seen Jen's set. And so he was hooked! He loved it so much that Sandy actually sent it home with us. We ended up staying at their house for hours while Sandy tempted Jacob with taste-testing several of his home brews and various other libations. Finally when I declared that I would be cross-eyed driving all the way back to Seabrook and that Trace was beyond his bedtime by a millennium, we bid the Sandovals good night (or was it morning?).
Monday was my day with my girl we spent nearly the entire day at her salon trying to strip the blue/black/purple/burgundy out of my hair that had been colored in New Zealand. It was a bit of work, as whatever they'd used to color my hair over there was industrial strength and actually glowed, iridescent in the sunlight. My poor girl stripped it three times and then tried to re-color it back to a more natural brown. I think my hair will never be the same, until I just let it go naturally gray. What is it with the female ego that won't allow us to age gracefully? Or ungracefully – I just wish that it was OK to wrinkle, gray, plump and jiggle without society telling us – "Oh, girl, you've let yourself go!" I am very close and very tempted.
During the workweek, Trace normally attends summer camp, but I got to steal a couple of days with him – just the two of us. I have to re-introduce myself to him each time we are together because I am the grandma who always goes away. I'm not altogether sure he understands where I fit into the picture but we give it a go sparring around measuring one another up and test the waters a little at a time. I got to take him to Space Center Houston, and shopping for shoes and to the bookstore where he go to pick out a basket full of books and things.
I drove back up to the northwest part of Houston again on the 28th not just to see my parents but for a reunion lunch with some of my classmates from 35 years ago. My high school had held our 35th year reunion in May (during our passage from NZ to Fiji), which I'd missed but being contacted about it had put me back in touch with friends I'd not seen or spoken to in decades. A couple of those friends arranged a lunch for us. My girlfriends who were able to show were (former names) Karen Kleb, Melanie Angel, Luann Simms and Brenda Parks. We had a hoot catching up and my face hurt at the end of the day from smiling so much. What a special day that was! Brenda and I actually stayed beyond the "lunch", on into dinnertime long after the others had left us. I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to reconnect with them after all these years.
Friday was my day with Marianne and dinner with Sally. And then on Saturday Jen, Trace and I drove up to Seagoville (south of Dallas) for a couple of days with my sister Bev, her husband D and their son Tre. Trace and Tre were inseparable. Again, my grandson was a very happy boy getting to spend this very special time with his cousin and Uncle D. Bev, Jen and I just drank each others time up, and before we knew it we were getting back into the car Monday morning for the 6-hour drive back to Seabrook. That was a teary goodbye! My little sister is my best friend. We never seem to have enough time with one another.
The rest of my Houston visit was spent with Jen, Jacob and Trace. On August 3rd I hugged my baby goodbye, drove back up to my folks house to spend my final night with Mom and Dad. It was much more difficult to say goodbye to my parents than to anyone else. No matter how old I am, I am still their little girl about whom they worry and fret and spill tears. I felt that familiar ache in my heart as I got into the car on August 4th to head out. I made one final stop at Debra and Sandy's house to check on Deb. She had just come home from the hospital after having a hip replacement. Not surprisingly, she is getting along very well. More hugs and goodbyes and promises to see one another "down the way", and then I was off to return my rental car and board my flight to Denver.