Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Walking in the Past

Saturday my friend Linda and I drove down to Ste. Genevieve to see some artwork that was on special display, and to look at the old buildings. While it was a little cool and windy, at least the sun was out to make the day more inviting. We decided to go on a tour of three of the buildings in addition to going through the museum where the art was displayed. Our tour guide could have been better (she admitted that it had been a long time since she had conducted a tour), but seeing the old buildings on the inside made up for it.

We had lunch at the Cafe Genevieve. It is located in an old hotel, and while the decor was cool the food and service were just so-so. Following lunch we headed off to the Catholic Church, which was amazing! The outside of the church is not all that remarkable, so when you walk inside you are not expecting to be blown away. I'd love to attend mass there some Sunday.

Our last stop was the cemetery in town, which is proclaimed to be the oldest cemetery in Missouri. I guess since St. Genevieve is the oldest town in Missouri, that makes sense. I was disappointed that I did not see any headstones older than 1812. Since the town was founded in 1735, I expected to see some older stones. Perhaps the early settlers were buried elsewhere? The town relocated in the late 1700s due to flooding. All in all, it was a fun day and great to be with someone who likes to take as many pictures as I do.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

College Tuition? Check!

I wrote the final tuition check for Katie last week. Well, if I am being totally accurate, I authorized our MOST 529 plan to write a check to the college for her last semester tuition. It is another one of those parent moments that marks the passage of time and transitions in our children's lives. In some ways it seems like only last year that we wrote our first check to Columbia College, then packed up all her stuff and delivered her to the dorm in Chicago. Since that time she spent nine months in a wonderful condo-like apartment in the city, five weeks in Prague, two weeks in Seoul and nearly four months in Shanghai. She wraps up her final semester in Los Angeles, with semester being defined as a five week time period of attending classes all day, five days a week. (The school knows that no college student - or their parents - could afford to live in LA for more than five weeks.) When she returns the latter part of February it will be time for her to begin the job hunt. She seems to feel that she will not have any problem getting a job. I admire her confidence and pray that she is right. It is still such a tough market out there right now.

Due to the fact that Katie is graduating in less than three years, we have money left over in the 529 plan. That is a great position to be in, but we don't want to withdraw the money and be penalized. So, what to do with it? Do I hear a PhD calling my name?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Ice Man Cometh

Friday morning we packed up the car and Kathy and I drove to Cincinnati for Uncle Mick's funeral. Kathy did well on the drive despite her aching broken shoulder. We arrived at our hotel by 3:30 and unloaded the suitcases in our room. Quite a few people were at the funeral home by the time we arrived. I spoke to many cousins I knew (and several I don't know), and enjoyed looking at the slide show and photo boards Mick's kids had put together. His casket was closed because he hit his face when he fell. I was surprised that the funeral home wasn't able to work around that by putting the injured side away from the opening of the casket, and working their make-up magic. I found it really hard to say good-bye when I couldn't see his sweet face.

There was no autopsy done, which also surprised me. I thought that they always did one when the cause of death was unknown. Did he simply fall and hit his head just so on the window sill? Did he have a heart attack, which caused the fall? Did he have a stroke first? I would want to know. What they do know is that he was out on his screened in porch in his winter coat (it was cold last Saturday night) listening to an Italian opera and smoking a cigar. His son and daughter-in-law found him at 3:00 Sunday afternoon. They could hear the opera playing as they walked down the hall of the condominium complex. I'm surprised no neighbors complained if the music played all night.

We stayed at the wake until the funeral home kicked us out around 6:15. Ten of us then went to the Price Hill Chili Parlor for supper. I spied chocolate covered baklava on the menu, so I had a bowl of soup so I could indulge in dessert. Awesome! Kathy and I got back to our hotel room around 9:15. It was beginning to mist as we drove back to the hotel, and that was just the beginning. The forecast was for an inch of ice to develop. Great...It brought back really bad memories of my dad's funeral in Cincinnati in 2004. We had rain, ice, sleet and inches of snow all within a 24 hour period. Hardly anyone could get to the funeral, and fewer still headed to the cemetery for the military burial service.

The funeral director had advised that we arrive early Saturday morning for the funeral because a) the church is in a really bad neighborhood and b) parking is a problem. Kathy and I took him at his word. I went out to scrape the ice off my car at 8:10. Twenty minutes later I was finally able to see out of the windows. I picked Kathy up under the overhang of the hotel and we crept across one of the bridges over the Ohio River to downtown Cincinnati. We arrived at the church at 9:00. The funeral was to begin at 10:00. We were the first ones there. We even beat the immediate family. This is why we were so close to the beginning of the funeral procession, which becomes important later in the story.

The Old St. Mary's Church is absolutely amazing inside. It was built in 1841 and is reminiscent of the churches in Europe. Apparently Uncle Mick had done some of the painting on the ceiling (just like Michelangelo, he would joke) during the restoration of the church, as well as behind the altar. He also helped author a book on the history of the church. (You can begin to see why he and I had so much in common.)

The priest who conducted the funeral was of Spanish descent, and to be honest I only understood about half of what he was saying. At one point I thought he said something about "release the cocktails". I puzzled on that for a moment until I realized he said "release the captives." Then I thought I heard him say a "hologram to heaven" - never did figure that one out. Irreverently the Saturday Night Live skit with Father Guido Sarducci (wrong country, I know) popped into my head during the service. Find the pope in the pizza contest... I was disappointed that the there wasn't a little more personalization to the Mass considering all that Uncle Mick had done for the church. The man who did the second reading - a cousin to Uncle Mick's deceased wife - tried to make that happen. When he approached the microphone he said, "I'd like to make an observation..." and then he stopped. Apparently the second priest, who was seated behind where he was speaking said, "No! No observations!" It was an awkward moment. One thing that was interesting about the Mass is that for communion we all came up and knelt at the communion rail, and you took the host on your tongue not in your hands. (Okay, that kind of sounds like an M & M commercial.)

Following Mass we went in procession to Spring Grove Cemetery. This is the same cemetery that my cousin Gina and I had photographed when I was in Cincinnati in August. It is similar to the Fort Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis in that it is beautiful, hilly and filled with the who's who of city founding fathers. The first thing we saw when we drove through the gates was a sign that said something about hazardous driving conditions, and enter at your own risk. Not good. We were the fourth car in the procession following the hearse. Things were going okay until we came to a steep hill and the vehicles ahead of me came to a stop. My first thought was no! Don't stop going up the hill; I'll never get started again. My second was that this is where they expected us to park for the graveside funeral, and that we would have to walk up an icy hill. Not happening! Then I noticed that the hearse was sliding sideways. The driver got out of the vehicle and waved the car behind him around. He got back in the hearse and tried again. This time he slid off the side of the road. You can see in the picture where the other cars are in relation to where the hearse ended up. As the funeral director and his assistant were contemplating what to do, I noticed that the car behind me was right on my back bumper. Really? There was no way for me to even try to turn around with him so close.
After consulting on their phones, they decided we all would have to back down the hill and they would conduct the service at the chapel. I don't do backup well. Even on a straight, dry area. Now they want me to back down a steep, curving, icy hill? I gave the bumper parker plenty of time to get down the hill before I began my descent to a flat area where I could turn around on the side street. By now there were only two vehicles ahead of me and one behind me from our procession. The blind leading the blind through this huge cemetery. Which chapel? There are at least six in the cemetery. You've heard of the wedding crashers? We were the funeral crashers, as we weren't the only ones trying to bury a loved one on an icy, miserable January day.

We finally located cars with our particular funeral flags on their roofs and hurried in to hear the priest speak his last words over the casket. (I later learned that they were going to start without us until one of my cousins informed the funeral director that Mick's two sisters and her out of town cousins were not present yet.) Here was the personalized eulogy I had been hoping to hear. This priest obviously knew my uncle well, and shed tears with the rest of us. The marines came in as Taps was played, and the military burial service was conducted. Not a dry eye in the house.

Following this final service we all headed over to the club house of Mick's condominium complex for a reception. It was very nice, and you couldn't help but think how much Mick would have enjoyed seeing everyone. It broke up around 5 and Kathy & I along with Aunt Margie and her son Pat, daughter Mary Ann, and Mary Ann's daughter Gina decided to go out to supper. We told stories and had some laughs, and I think it helped take Margie's mind off of her brother's death for a bit. I had told Mary Ann that we would give Margie a ride home because it was out of her way to take her mom home and she had to pack for a business trip. Anyway Kathy and I had not had any time alone with Margie and normally we get to spend a lot of time with her when we are in town. Aunt Margie will turn 90 this summer, but she still lives at home and drives herself everywhere. Except when the iceman cometh.

After we ate I went to move my car as close to the restaurant as I could. Gina got her grandma settled in the front seat and Kathy got into the back. Because of her broken shoulder she cannot fasten the seat belt by herself. Mary Ann tried to help her and she couldn't get it to work. Then Gina opened the other back door and tried to approach it from that direction. She slipped on some ice and barely was able to catch herself. By now we were all laughing so hard we couldn't see straight. I asked the question, "How many Crushams does it take to fasten a seat belt?" They finally got her buckled in and we headed over to Margie's.

When I pulled into her driveway, it was a sheet of ice. She opened her garage door and I pulled as close as I could to the back of her car. I still had to slowly walk around my car holding on for dear life to get to her car door. After getting her safely into the garage I then had to get Kathy from my back seat into the front for a slip-slidey trip back across the river to our hotel. I was never so happy to get to a hotel room as I was last night. The drive home today was accomplished not with ice but with fog instead. Ei, yi, yi! But we made it, so that is all that matters at this point.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Road Trip

Early tomorrow morning my sister and I will head over to Cincinnati for Uncle Mick's funeral. I got the car all cleaned and gassed up today so we can hit the road as soon as she gets to my house. The wake is from 4-6 p.m. tomorrow, and with the hour time change we need to roll early. I have built in extra time due to Kathy's broken shoulder. Because it still pains her quite a bit, I want to be able to stop frequently for her to get out and move around if need be. I also want to check into our hotel first if we have time. I have learned the hard way that even with a guaranteed room you will get the crappy location if you check in late.

The funeral itself is Saturday morning at the Old St. Mary's Church. As mentioned in my last post, Uncle Mick was a long-time volunteer there. I expect that the church will be full between our large family, the Cincinnati Museum folks and the parishioners of St. Mary's. I always think at these things how much the deceased person would have enjoyed having everyone together.

We will come home on Sunday. Normally we spend an extra day in Cincinnati, but since we will see everyone we want to see on Friday or Saturday, there doesn't seem to be much point in hanging around. Especially since we are paying for a hotel this trip. Now I will just pray for good weather so that no one has to worry about traveling.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

And Then There Were Two

Today my uncle Mick died. He was the youngest of eight children in my mom's family. His twin brother Jim died in 2008. Now only Betty and Margie remain. We have not yet heard how Mick died, only that his son and daughter-in-law found him in his screened-in porch. It was cold in Cincinnati today, so it is strange that he was even out there. Mick was a very young nearly 82 year-old. He was active as a docent with the historical museum downtown, conducted tours of Cincinnati, and was instrumental (pardon the pun) in the restoration of the organ at historic (1842) Old St. Mary's Church. He also liked to travel, and was scheduled to go to Cancun next week with another widowed friend.

It is ironic because I have been scanning old photos and documents and putting them into my online family tree. But I have also been posting pictures up on Facebook for my family to enjoy. Last night I added photos from the 2008 and 2011 family reunions. Uncle Jim is in a couple of the ones from 2008, and Uncle Mick in some from 2011. One of my cousins commented that there were only the three siblings left. Now there are only two.

I don't know if I will be able to attend the funeral. We don't know the arrangements yet. But I know that Kathy cannot go with me due to her shoulder injury. She simply cannot ride in a car that long. Or miss physical therapy for that matter. I'll have to decide if I want to make the six hour drive by myself. But I would like the opportunity to see my aunts and my cousins. Because it is all too sad that it seems to take a funeral to get us all together. Even the family reunions don't see to do it anymore. RIP, Uncle Mick!

Aunt Betty, Uncle Mick & Aunt Margie

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition

Sunday afternoon we headed downtown to the Da Vinci exhibit. The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition, on loan from the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci in Florence, Italy, contains over sixty hand-crafted inventions built from Leonardo's 500 year old designs and is the life work of three generations of Florentine artisans, who have painstakingly brought to life the creations and concepts devised by the brilliant scientist, inventor and artist Leonardo Da Vinci. The exhibit has been extended to February 28th, which was helpful since I purchased two tickets through groupon last fall and we had not used them yet.

I will confess that I had only thought of Leonardo Da Vinci as a great painter. I had no idea that he had come up with thousands of inventions in his lifetime. It is hard to conceive that many of his ideas are utilized in things we take for granted today. The exhibit is very well done, and we were lucky to be there around the time that a guided tour was being offered. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and so enthusiastic about the exhibit. I later found out that he is the brother of one of my friends in the St. Louis Publishers Association. Small world! At any rate, I highly recommend seeing the exhibit.