Going Home Again – 2013

I have written, and scrapped, at least five different drafts of blog posts about my most recent trip home. It was far more than just a vacation. It was a much needed respite from the ten months which preceded it. What I didn’t know was just how much I needed it, and from where some of the help would come.

It was my first time back in Kalamazoo since the passing of my father. It was my first vacation since October of 2012. It was my first time back home for pleasure since the August before that. One could say I was in dire need of some time off.

I knew it was a trip I needed – not just physically – but especially from a mental and emotional aspect. It had been five months since I had seen my mother, so I set aside two days to spend with her, just the two of us. It had been over a year since I stood on the shore of Lake Michigan, so I saved time for just myself to go to South Haven alone. And there were some people with whom I needed to talk, so I set up times to get together with each of them. I was going to be in town eight days, and I had everything planned out perfectly. Yeah, you know how well that usually works out.

Making The Best of Bad Situations

Sure enough, several of the people I wanted (in a couple cases, needed) to see and speak to, for one reason or another, cancelled. But out of those missed opportunities arose some unexpected and precious moments. One such moment was my friend, Gail, who took the time to drive to Kalamazoo to have dinner with me when someone else couldn’t make it. She has more than enough going on in her own life right now, so the fact that she took that amount of effort to be there for me was very touching, and meant a great deal. We talked for a couple hours, but it felt like only minutes, as time flew far too quickly.

Another truly wonderful moment happened as the result of one of the worst moments. In planning my trip, I worked around another person’s schedule specifically so we could could get together for lunch Tuesday and talk, only to have them bail on me at the last minute. Thanks to those circumstances, however, I was then free to have lunch with my friend, Bisera. She, like Gail, also took time out of a busy day to meet with me, as she runs her own business: Lush Gourmet Foods. Though we’ve known each other a few years, we learned new things through the course of our lunch conversation which bind us even closer now. Once again, the clock turned too quickly, and Bisera had to get back to work. But I am SO thankful we were able to meet for lunch, and even more thankful for that heartfelt conversation.

Following my lunch with Bisera, I was able to join up with my buddy, Carl, for coffee in downtown Kzoo. Carl is one of those guys I always feel a little smarter after talking with him. He’s also one of the people I regret not meeting sooner in life. I was very glad he was available on such short notice, and hope to be able to do it again next time I’m in town.

Over the course of my week in Kalamazoo, I was able to meet with several friends. Each one added something treasured to my visit. Jack, Kim, Dan, Dana, Pam, Denise, Londa, Melanie… Thanks to each of you for being able to find time to spend with me. It meant more than I can say.

Water Therapy

My party was scheduled for Saturday night, and I was really looking forward to seeing everyone. But first, I had set aside Saturday morning for a drive to South Haven. Sadly, when I awoke that day, it was cloudy and raining. But I was determined. It had been a year since I last saw the big Lake, and I was not about to let a little rain stop me.

I was rewarded for my determination, for no sooner did I arrive in South Haven, MI, than the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun shone through. It was like something out of a movie. Just in time for my arrival, the sun came out as if to say, “Welcome home, Enrique. We’ve been waiting for you.” (you may recall the day I left for OKC it began to rain, as if Michigan was crying, when I crossed the Michigan/Indiana border) It was a cool day, and it was VERY windy by Michigan standards. But, having lived in Oklahoma for two-and-a-half years, it merely seamed breezy to me. I parked, ventured out on the beach, and just stood by the water. The blue sky peppered with white clouds. Waves rushed ashore as if trying to beat a deadline. The frantic din of the wind beat against my ears. I lost myself in the sounds, and sank into the peace and tranquility of the chaos. If you’ve been to Lake Michigan, then you understand. I can honestly say there is NOTHING like it in Oklahoma, and I’ve sorely missed being a short drive from that magnificent body of water. I was sure to take some sand home with me in a bottle, as a reminder of the peace I felt that day.

South Haven pier, Lake Michigan
South Haven pier, Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan - South Beach, South Haven, MI
Lake Michigan – South Beach, South Haven, MI
Sand from Lake Michigan beach.
Sand from Lake Michigan beach.

Time With Mom

Talk about time flying. The time spent with my mother seemed to evaporate faster than any. We had breakfast with one of her friends, and lunch with a couple of mine, but we tried to keep our time, “our time.” A trip to a winery and brewery in Paw Paw, MI. Dinner at the new Latitude 42° in Portage, MI. But after hearing of my earlier trip to Lake Michigan, mom asked if I would mind going back again with her. She didn’t need to ask twice.

It was even windier than when I went before, so we didn’t spend much time on the beach, but were able to ask a tourist to take our picture on the pier.

Mom and me on the South Haven pier
Mom and me on the South Haven pier

We returned to town, and had lunch at a restaurant called “Taste,” which used to be known as Harborside Bistro. Taste’s menu is fantastic, and if you are ever in South Haven, I *highly* recommend giving them a try.

My trip home meant a lot to my mom, and I know she thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, she’s the only person who may have enjoyed it more than I. Even as I sit and type out these words, I am getting chills remembering all the people and moments that made it so special. The party with some 25 friends in attendance, even those who were only able to stay a few minutes. Getting to see Chris, Eric, and the rest of the “care package” crew. Reconnecting with my childhood best friend, Eric. Making a new friend, Brenna. Spending a day with my best friend, Jack. Being able to meet for breakfast/lunch/dinner/drinks with the great friends mentioned above, and all those whom I haven’t mentioned by name… I knew I needed that trip to Kalamazoo, but I couldn’t have imagined just how much it would end up meaning to me.

Thanks to you all. I love each and every one of you, and hope to see you again next spring.

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