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Linda and I travelled to Mississippi in August 2015 for her grandson’s birthday and a small family reunion.

I got to meet part of her family, and a granddaughter even she had not met to that point.

It was a good trip!

Our Mississippi Trip

The last trip of any significance I had taken was in 2007 when I talked Mom into a road trip to Illinois for Erin’s graduation from Basic Military Training. It would be a trip of finalities: a last chance for her to see her two aunts, her only living uncle, and her sister-in-law.

This trip would be different in many ways. Not only were we flying to Mississippi, it would be a trip of beginnings: I had not met Linda’s daughter and son-in-law, nor their two children. Her son and daughter-in-law were going to meet us down there along with their three children, the youngest of whom even Linda had not yet met.

We left early Thursday morning, and, with one stop in Dallas, arrived at Jackson mid-afternoon. Josh and Tina planned their road trip well as they drove into town within an hour of our arrival. We met at the motel. It was substandard, so we cancelled our stay there, and got rooms at a nicer place that was also closer to Richland, where Andrea and Billy live.

Andrea and Linda plotted a little scheme to have Zach, the birthday boy, in his room when we arrived, and to have him come out blindfolded to see one of his gifts from his Nannie, Linda, which, of course, was all of us seated in the living room. He was definitely surprised, and the three minute hug he gave Linda was enough to bring tears of joy to our eyes.

We hung around until Billy got home from work, and then we treated the family to dinner at a local pizza and spaghetti buffet.

School starts early in Mississippi, but Andrea allowed Trinity and Zach to skip school on Friday so they could stay with us Thursday night at the motel. Trinity is quite the artist, so I brought her a 3-D pen as a non-birthday present. She played with that until way too late, sharing it with Jurnee and Justyce who also wanted to stay in Nannie’s room.

We got up Friday morning, and donned our swimming suits so we could play in the pool. There were four minor children, and two big kids: Josh and me. Josh was helping the young ones shoulder dive, and even tried to show off by having me shoulder dive. It worked okay. I showed the children the proper way to cannonball, and, more impressively, how to belly flop like a pro!

Linda and Andrea had some things to get ready for the birthday party the next day, which was not only Zach’s day, but would also serve as a celebration for Jhenesis turning one year old two days later. Trinity went with them. Tina took the baby to see her mother who lives near there. Josh and I hung out with Zach, Jurnee, and Justyce, and had lunch at the Cracker Barrel. As evening neared, we all got ready to go to a Mississippi Braves baseball game courtesy of Billy who had scored enough tickets for all of us.

After the game, it was time to get some rest before the big birthday party on Saturday.

It was quite an event! Andrea and Billy had arranged for a combination bouncy house and water slide for the children. The ladies had prepared some tasty side dishes. Billy spent much of the party making burgers, dogs, and steaks on the barbecue.

I met Billy’s parents, Tina’s mom, and a whole bunch of neighbors and friends who came to celebrate the occasion. That was all nice, but hanging with the kids is more my style. I went down and placed myself near the landing pool of the water slide, and played the old curmudgeon yelling at the kids as they got me wet, and eventually soaked. After a while of that, I decided to head back up to the carport for second helpings of the food.

I hadn’t been up there for long before some of the kids asked me to come back down and yell at them some more. Some of the parents told the children to let me be, but I guess they don’t understand that the one thing more enjoyable in life than a kid soaking some old guy, is an old guy knowing he can bring smiles to the faces of children allowing them to live out the fantasy of soaking an old guy who yells at them for getting him wet.

Once the party ended, we broke down the tables and chairs while the ladies did the real cleaning up.

Sunday came too soon. We all knew it was our final full day there, and we would be leaving on Monday before Zach and Trinity got home from school. My job was pretty simple: do anything everyone else wanted to do. I certainly was made to feel much more than a tag-along, but this was not a day for me to push my presence upon anyone. This was Linda’s day to reconcile everything she felt she needed to get done with her entire family, for it would be the last day her family was gathered for this trip.

Apparently, they appreciated that enough to let me pick where we would eat dinner that night. I told them I wanted to eat at the place Billy chose, because they may have appreciated my willingness to do what everyone wanted to do, but I sure appreciated that Billy allowed us to invade his life without a single complaint. He chose a Japanese hibachi restaurant. It was a good choice. It was a great meal. The children all enjoyed watching the talented chef flip the knives and spatulas, and especially enjoyed the fires!

We would get the picture above of Linda and me with her grandchildren outside the restaurant. The goodbye that night would be our final farewell of the trip to Billy, Trinity, and Zach.

I spent much of Monday at the laundromat so that Linda could hang with her children, and the grandchildren who were not in school. There was a whole lot of laundry for four days, but eventually it was washed, dried, folded, and packed into our suitcases. There was not much time between returning with the laundry and leaving for the airport. There were more tears, and, this time, they were not tears of joy.

We boarded our plane, made the connection in Dallas, and landed at Seatac about midnight. Our main conversation on the flight back was how we would need to make this trip as often as possible in the future. As much as I enjoyed our trip to Mississippi, I recognize that it is more important to make sure she gets to make trips to visit her children and grandchildren that I may not be able to swing for myself.

Those tears of joy upon our arrival, and tears of sadness upon our departure, make that recognition impossible to ignore.

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