Arden and I were in Oklahoma City over the weekend visiting some of my favorite people in the world. Odd as it may sound, those people are my former in-laws and their closest friends.
My son died on February 10th. (2002) His late mother’s birthday is February 11th. Her parents, Christopher’s beloved grandparents, have lost their grandson and their daughter, both in February. (Pat died 8 years after Christopher on Valentine’s Day, 2010.) Both Pat and Christopher were living with her parents when they died.
Since I now live in Fort Worth, only 3 hours away from Oklahoma City, for the last two years Arden and I have travelled up there for this particular weekend to spend some time with these wonderful people. Even though we divorced in 1995, “Mom” and Tom have always treated me as if I was still family and have always welcomed me into their home. They also welcomed Arden as if she was one of theirs. I love them both very much and always enjoy spending time with them.
I’m not at all surprised that Mom didn’t abandon me after the divorce. When my own mother died in 93 I was still married to her daughter. As soon as she heard about my mother Mom called me and in her sweet and completely sincere way said “I’ll be your mom now.” And she has never failed to live up to that promise.
Arden is so gracious and accepting. Of course she felt odd being there the first time. When we arrived at their home last year there was a large group of people present. Mom and Tom were hosting their best friend Norma along with Norma’s son-in-law, her two grandchildren, their spouses and their children. I had known Norma and her kids for 30 years so they were simply extended family to me. But poor Arden was surrounded by family and friends of my ex-wife and it had to be a bit intimidating. But she was welcomed by these wonderful people and by the time we left she and Mom were friends. And this year when we went back she and Mom hugged like they were old friends. I am so grateful for both of them. In kindness and grace they are kindred spirits.
We arrived in OKC Friday evening and, after a quick stop at the cemetery we checked into our hotel. Our room faced a new Walmart store so at least we had a great view out the window…! Arden had finished a very long week at work and was worn out so we bought food and simply stayed in the room relaxing Friday evening. It was cold and windy and we just didn’t feel like going anywhere that night. In the morning Arden said it was exactly what she needed and she felt better.
We weren’t scheduled to visit anyone until Saturday evening – everyone was busy with their own lives – so after a leisurely couple of hours in the room and a light continental breakfast at the hotel we went downtown to the Murrah Building memorial. We had been there last year as well but it was really cold and we couldn’t stay very long. We talked to a couple of the Park Service workers and got some interesting details of that day. If you have never been to the memorial I suggest it as one of those bucket list things. Oklahoma City is a nice place to visit and the Murrah memorial is very humbling.
After that we headed to Bricktown (another great place to visit) and had lunch in a place called “Crabtown”. It’s a great seafood restaurant where, if you order “the bucket”, they put white paper down on your table and pour shrimp, crab legs, Andouille sausage and corn right in the middle of the table and everyone digs in. We opted for a less messy meal and split a salad and the best fried clams I have ever eaten. Interesting - the best fried clams I’ve ever eaten were in Oklahoma. And the best crab legs I have ever eaten were in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Go figure….
We finished the afternoon then went to Norma’s home for pizza with nearly the entire gang. Only Norma’s grandson and his family were absent. Mom and Tom were there and we truly enjoyed the evening.
Sunday morning we got up early and went to have coffee with Mom and Tom before Mom went to work. We wanted some quiet time with just the four of us. Arden had originally suggested that I go alone but Mom insisted that she come along. That’s just the type of person she is – gracious to a fault.
While at Mom’s home I had the opportunity to meet the Tazmanian Devil himself. Or at least his close relative. My niece’s one year old dog, part Lab, part something else and part Tazmanian Devil, was in the back yard. He was on a long rope that gave him access to the entire yard (tied up because he jumps over the 40 inch high fence if he’s not) but had gone down the steps to the lower level of the yard, gone around a large bush, then jumped up the retaining wall thereby leaving a large portion of the rope wrapped around the bush. He was stuck and standing on top of a smaller bush unable to figure out how to free himself. When I went out to free him I had to wrestle a 70 pound (guessing) bundle of jumping, writhing, licking energy who could not sit still to save his own life. He was so crazy I had to hold him by the collar and take the rope off of him, pull it back around the bush and reattach it. Then I made the mistake of letting him go….
That dog jumped on me more times than I could count before I could take three steps. When he stands on his back legs he’s as tall as I am and he’s so full of energy it’s like trying to hold on to a tornado. I finally made it back to the house and went back inside. The dog whined for a few minutes and laid down on the porch. He was calm and quiet, looking through the window of the door that separated him from me. I had some more coffee and decided I’d go out and see him one more time because he was being so good. Big mistake. As soon as I opened the door he darted through it, rope and all, and I barely caught him by the tail before he made it all the way into the house. I grabbed the rope and got him back outside and when I turned to close the door he had made it halfway in again. The dog is quick.
I held him away with one hand and closed the door. He gave up on trying to get in and began concentrating on me instead. He was back to jumping, spinning around, laying down, rolling over, standing up, licking me, all at the same time. He rolled and twisted around so much he tied himself up in the rope. And all of this was going on while I was using my best dog whisperer voice to get him to calm down. Finally, after a couple of minutes of wrestling (and realizing I was losing) I ordered him down in a stern voice and told him to stay. He did as I said long enough for me to escape into the house. And that was that.
When we left Mom’s we headed back to the hotel to collect our things (and our puppies), then went to the store for some flowers for another trip to the cemetery. Then we headed for home.
All in all it was a good trip. We came away feeling a little sad but relaxed and thankful. Hoping to get back up there sooner than next February. But time goes so quickly.
Mom and Tom - thank you for still being family and for always supporting me. That goes for Norma and Jill and the rest of the gang as well. Love you all.