Seizing the opportunity… Part 2

This the second post in a three-part series. My trip took place June 18-21, 2022.

So much anticipation, and now it’s here! My trip to Chicago for Father’s Day and Juneteenth weekend, and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Flying into O’Hare International Airport is an experience… one which many Southsiders choose to forgo if they can fly in and out of Midway. In this case, the price was right, the departure from Austin was good, and it offered a unique opportunity to start my adventure. My plan was to take my time getting to the Airbnb house to meet up with the family, to see some of the city via public transit, and ease into the trip. While many would avoid public transit at all costs, I eagerly awaited my chance to live like a native again.

Once my plane landed and arrived at a gate, I found my way out of the airport and onto a Blue Line train. Let the walk down memory lane begin, or The This Was Your Life tour, as I jokingly called it.

Photo by Albany Capture/Unsplash.com

My grandparents lived on Montrose and Kedzie when I grew up, and the Blue Line passes the Montrose exit on the Kennedy Expressway. Along the way, messages started pouring in from the family and they were in awe of my choice to take many modes of transit rather than an Uber ride to the house. I enjoyed the sunshine and the beauty of the Northside – memories of visiting my grandparents, concerts and comedy shows Husband and I enjoyed, the wooden porches, window box gardens, travelers and natives just going about their day. Thank God for sunglasses while I let a stream of feelings come and go.

Before I knew it, the Blue Line train arrived at the Thompson Center, which made for an easy transfer to the Orange Line. As rode the trains, all the news stories of crime and chaos on public transit and in Chicago came to mind. I saw none of the on this ride nor on the trip, not to say that it didn’t happen elsewhere on the trains or in the city. I was really enjoying this beautiful day, and I hoped many others were too. I took in the view of downtown as the Orange made its way south and west, all the way to Midway Airport – the one I didn’t fly to.

I soaked in the city as the train rolled on, and I thought about the countless times spent downtown and about all the great memories throughout my life. Always something new and exciting to see or do, good food to eat, and way too many choices… Art, music, the lakefront, sports, shopping, architecture, freedom, and escape. I know what Chicago has become in many ways, but I know what it still is and what it can be – corrupt, violent, nasty, the worst of the worst and yet, good, kind, hard-working, full of opportunity, beautiful, and the best of the best. There is nothing like it, hands down.

My ride on the Orange Line took me through many areas from my past life (before Texas), including past McKinley Park, one of my favorite places in the city. Lots of areas looked the same, save for a new Dunkin Donuts or other small changes, but I saw new construction many places, too – it almost looked like areas that needed opportunity were thriving. I hoped so. Stops at 35th St/Archer, Western, Kedzie, and Pulaski all reminded me of different times in my life and people nearby. Friends from high school, old co-workers, things that made me the hardy person that I am. As I neared Midway, I called Weber’s Bakery to see if cakes on display were still available – yes, they were. I excitedly hopped on the Westbound Archer bus, and I reminisced about late nights drinking, playing board games, and eating Villa Rosa Pizza with old friends… I loved seeing familiar businesses and news one I wouldn’t have time to try, at least not on this trip.

A Weber’s Cake to help us celebrate, and a clean slate to start fresh.
Photo by Chrell

I thanked God for the nice weather for my travels and was grateful the heat wouldn’t melt my Weber’s cake – whipped cream with strawberry filling – while I waited for my Uber to complete the final leg of my commute to the Airbnb house, mere blocks from my family home in Mt. Greenwood. I mentally prepared myself for the occasion – I would finally get to meet my nephew and reunite with my family, though unfortunately Husband was able to join us. I was excited and grateful, though I also reminded myself that people are complicated at times, and I can only control myself. All I could do was try to best the best version of myself and, while I was optimistic others would do the same, I would not put unrealistic expectations on this experience.

I will soon write a Part 3 to complete my story, but I will tell you that I am glad I took the trip. There are many moments that will stick with me forever, including the first time I held my nephew and made faces with him. No matter what apprehensions we all came in with, we hugged, laughed, and acted like a family – a rare and unexplainable feeling of love and belonging that I don’t know when I last experienced with them.

Seizing the opportunity… Part 1

I started this post at the beginning of June and did not have a chance to post it before my trip to Chicago. Below you will find the intro to my trip.

white airplane on mid air
Photo by John McArthur/Unsplash.com

I will be boarding a plane to Chicago in two weeks and a day, and it will be my first trip since September 2019. That trip, although great in many ways, was complicated and emotionally charged. The high points in Chicago: seeing Off With Their Heads and meeting the lead singer, going to the White Sox game, and visiting a few friends and family. The high points in New York: going to the US Open, spending time with my brother and his wife, and eating at various places. However, those positive moments were offset by the blowout with my dad at a suburban train station after he abruptly ended the visit at my aunt’s house and decided he was taking me to the train immediately. This, after he pouted and made many embarrassing comments in front of my relatives.

three assorted-color joy signage
Photo by Tim Mossholder/Unsplash.com

The short of that situation is that I let someone (my dad) not only get the best of me, but I allowed him to ruin what was otherwise a nice time for my mother and I with her extended family. There is/was tension, bad blood, etc. between my dad and my aunt (God rest her soul, she died in April 2021) to an extent of which I am not fully aware, I just know what has manifested in the past and continues with the remaining family members… I try to stay out of it the best I can, and I will not revisit that experience during this trip. My hope is that we can move on, and that we all take the opportunity to enjoy time together along with my brother, his wife, and their baby before life prevents another opportunity. With the ongoing insanity of crisis after crisis – real, imagined, or exaggerated – we all need to realize that life is short and so much is out of our control.

Complicated…

No one looks forward to uncomfortable conversations. Some people do anything and everything to avoid the person and the conversation as long as possible. Others user a “bring it on” attitude and dive right in. Another camp talks to people they know about the impending conversation so they can prepare, all the while trying not to drown in anxiety and sadness because there is no real way around it. 

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

The holidays will bring about the uncomfortable conversation for me and my family, and it sucks. My brother, his wife, and their baby will go home for Christmas to see the family and introduce him to friends and relatives. The baby will get to see his father in his old neighborhood and will experience the other side of his family. There will be a few people missing from this holiday experience – my aunt, two of my cousins (one died, one is in a care facility), me, and my husband.

Holidays should not be complicated. They should be joyous and celebratory, which is usually the opposite of our experience.  I love my family in spite of the holidays. Many of my most enjoyable holidays were spent with friends and their families around college time or have been peaceful because Husband and I were not the family, except for the Christmas my brother and his wife spent with us in Texas. When we still lived near our families, Husband and I had a hard time seeing both families for the same holiday because of the inevitable energy drain, conflict, etc. Over time, his remaining family is more or less nonexistent, and mine is best in small doses. The last time I was in the presence of my parents and overlap with relatives a little over two years ago, and it did not end well after we left the family gathering. My parents and I have recovered the best we can from the debacle, a story for another post, and I enjoyed the rest of my trip with friends and time to myself. My relatives were happy to see me and I feel fortunate to have spent time with my aunt, our last in-person visit before she died earlier this year. 

Photo by Marina Shatskih on Pexels.com

This brings me to the currently approaching holiday season. After close to two years, the COVID thing is still lurking and is complicating people’s lives. Many people have natural immunity, while others insist on getting vaxxed and that everyone around them be vaxxed. Like many people, I fall right into the middle of this debacle. Most, if not all, of my immediate and extended are on one side of this while we are on the other side. I know a few people in the same situation but they, like us, have a few people on their side as well.  I don’t feel comfortable traveling during the holidays and leaving Husband alone, especially with the airlines in chaos, my job having legalized discrimination policies related to traveling and quarantining (punishing healthy people who make individual medical decisions), and the fact that one of parents shared that my brother and wife has already inquired about the status of family members. Oh, and they scheduled my parents for all of their shots. I have already expressed some thoughts on the matter months ago before this whole situation continued to progress and escalate to mandates in different cities and states, and even at the federal level. I have noticed communication with some members of my family have dwindled after a certain conversation with one person, um… so much for freedom and individual opinion. The unsaid uncomfortable conversation just hangs out in the atmosphere for now. It just sucks. Good time to use radical acceptance skills.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

As I’ve gotten older, my childlike glee for holidays has greatly reduced but does flare up around Christmas. I’m not a big decorator, but having little get-togethers with co-workers and festivities that make work enjoyable won’t happen again this year because my agency has decided against it. I have an office now, that doesn’t usually see more than me or a few colleagues due to back-and-forth restrictions. I’ve debated with myself about decorating for me and to contribute a bit to the building-wide décor or to skip it, but I’m still not sure… wait a minute, people can decorate several trees in groups but not have parties or meals together?

For the few people who might read this, I realize my opinions will stir up a myriad of feelings – how insensitive of you, how irresponsible, you selfish #!%&*(&,  f#ck those stupid Covidiots or good for you for standing up to the medical tyranny, and everything in between. As someone who has been sick only twice in the past two years, (right before the virus was unleashed and again right after jabs were widely available), I believe that I have a healthy, functioning immune system and that the most irresponsible people are those who perform ongoing medical experiments on a naively trusting public with no idea who this will turn out. However, I believe in personal freedom, mine and yours. All that keeps happening is that people allow themselves to be divided along the newest line in the sand that someone else draws and broadcasts it 24/7 on cable news until the world panics. 

On that note, I hope people can find some holiday cheer and that they can remember why holidays exist (other than to generate revenue for retail and travel industries) – family and friends celebrating and sharing. I pray for an end to the manufactured conflicts and emergencies, and for a resurgence of common decency, critical thinking, and humanity. I hope it’s not too late, or too complicated… cards hanging on Christmas tree

Tragedy strikes when you least expect it…

I went out with Husband the night before, enjoyed some food and drinks, and laughed while listening to a country rock band we couldn’t understand. I was up late but I slept well, better than I had in weeks. I got a message from my cousin to call her, as I missed her call while checking on our garden with Husband. Before I returned that call, I had been drinking wonderful coffee, enjoying a sunny, spring morning in the low 70’s. I was smiling and feeling really good, that is, until I heard my cousin say that her mom died hour an a half ago. She kissed her husband after getting ready to drive one of her grandsons to work, then mentioned she didn’t feel well. Seconds later, her mom collapsed on the floor.

I spoke with my aunt on Easter evening, almost a week before her death. She was in good spirits after spending the day with her adult children and grandchildren, before visiting her second oldest in the hospital. I’m glad I had that brief conversation with my aunt, our last conversation. My aunt is dead… so hard to believe, but true. She is someone who lived to care for others, so full of go-go-go, passionate, a fighter who God must have needed for a very special reason… I hope. She had a few health problems but you still thought she would live forever through her endless pursuit of helping large family. My heart is broken.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

There a few reasons I wasn’t able to attend the funeral, but I’ve made peace with it. I spent the night before the funeral writing about my aunt, all the things I would have said if I had gone to the funeral and been give a chance to speak. It was cathartic and healing to write about her, and it helped me remember so many happy moments with her and my extended family. Not wanting to burden my cousins, I sent my comments to my father with a request to read them on my behalf if there was an opportunity. I knew that in asking him I was putting my father in a position to say things that may come off disingenuous, excepted that they were my words rather than his. I found out later that he did not deliver my comments, there wasn’t a chance, he didn’t feel well, etc. I wasn’t there, so I can only take him at his word but experience tells me that it’s something he didn’t have in him to carry out. The comments were forwarded to one of my cousins to be posted on the family Facebook page, which one of my cousins confirmed recently.

They say that life is short, and that things can change in an instance, so you need to hold those you love near and dear while you can. I wonder why tragedy continues to strike the best of us, while those seemingly deserving of punishment and suffering for all of their wrongs, and I’ve been told to leave it in God’s hands. From what I know, it seems that my aunt died from a massive heart attack, a few weeks after she received a COVID vaxx and was subsequently taken off of several medications, including blood thinners. I shutter to think that many families may suffer a similar fate at the hands of far-reaching medical negligence, fraud, and manipulation by powerful people around the world. This happened after one cousin died from cancer treatments that she became too weak to endure, and another cousin suffered misdiagnosis and painful medical negligence, with all three events occurring in less than three years.

cross silhouette on mountain during golden hour

I hope that God brings swift justice to the evildoers in the world, and that He brings peace, hope, and comfort to those who have suffered.

Chicago on my mind…

I was scrolling through my photos and reminiscing on my trip to Chicago last August before traveling to NYC.

Overall, I had a great trip. There were a few rocky family interactions, but lessons learned. I saw extended family, a few friends, one of my favorite bands, my White Sox, and got to eat my favorite foods. Best of all, I got to soak in the city, walking, taking the “L” (elevated trains, it’s what we Chicagoans call it), and enjoying beautiful, mild summer weather.

Even though I moved away and I have a life in Texas now, I doubt I will ever feel as free and as comfortable as I do hanging out in Chicago, whether downtown or in other parts of the city.

I love you, Chicago!