I recently calculated that it's been almost 20 years since my father passed away. In that time, I haven't had much contact with his side of my family. They live in the Paducah, KY area and I can think of two times when I visited as part of larger road trips with the family. I remember one visit from my Dad's folks (Grannie and Melvie) to our house in Cedar Rapids when I was in high school. I remember each visit being a bit awkward which is reasonable considering that there was so much time in between them and the fact that Mom remarried shortly after she and Dad divorced (which was shortly before he died).
I did make one short trip from Nashville to stay the weekend on my own when I had a stopover on a work trip about six years ago.
Anyway, early last week I got a call from my Ran, my Dad's older brother, that my Grannie wasn't doing well following an emergency surgery earlier in the week. It sounded like a less than 10% chance for survival and he advised me it was now or never to visit. Hope and I took Friday afternoon off and made the 5.5 hour jaunt through southern Illinois to Western Baptist Hospital.
Grannie was in rough shape but improving. She wasn't able to speak because of all the tubes and medical equipment attached to her but I could tell that she knew I was there. I held her hand while they gave her a "breathing treatment" which looked terrible but I'm sure is good news for the long term.
We were able to spend several hours with Melvie and my Dad's sister Barb. Barb's oldest son, my cousin Rustin, also stopped by for a bit. We could only see Grannie in ICU every two hours so Barb gave us a tour of Paducah and a good family history lesson. It reminded me of the Kirsten Dunst/Orlando Bloom film "Elizabethtown". In that movie Bloom's who's character lives in California loses his father and takes a solo trip to see his father's family in Kentucky. Like the movie, I was totally unaware of important elements in my family history and it was great to learn a few of them. For instance, I knew that my Dad lived in Dayton as a child but didn't have any idea that Grannie grew up in Cleveland. I had always known that my Dad's Dad, a man I never met but am middle-named after, had lived in Iowa as a child but didn't know any of the specifics - like the fact that he grew up on a farm near Ainsworth. We also discussed the Wood family connections in Cedar Rapids - maybe there's something more to that familial Elijah Wood connection I've often joked about?
It was definitely good to see everyone and I hope that Grannie pulls through. I feel terrible that I haven't made it down there sooner since the distance is quite a bit less than from Iowa but will certainly make the effort again this summer.