Wisconsin Kinship

The thundering sound of diesel engines revving up and pulling out is shaking the trailer.  I wake up with dogs flanking my sides, tummies up, waiting to be rubbed.  I jump up and look out my window.

Nothin.

I jump out of bed, and open the trailer door.

Oh no.

I am totally blocked into the Franksville, Wisconsin truck stop turn around by 53 foot semi -rigs.

It’s 6 in the morning.  These guys are on tight schedules, I get that.  I don’t want to interfere.  They probably get flogged for every minute they fall behind, and steal sleep when they can.   I get dressed, and walk over to the building, use the restroom and get some coffee and oatmeal. I know I’m not far from my destination; maybe a couple minutes.  So I wait. And within an hour, several truckers pull out, and I have the opportunity to escape the semi turn around area.

Within 15 minutes, I’m pulling up to the driveway.

I make the call.

“Yell-low. Are you still in Florida?”

“No, I finally left. I thought I would come and see you.”

“Sure! when?”

“Right now.  I’m pulling into your driveway.

“What?!”

 

And so starts my reunion with Carol and Dennis the Menace.

What can I say about these people?  They are the greatest people ever.  As I pull into the driveway, Dennis greets me and directs me to the side of his giant work shed to park.  I shouldn’t call it a work shed since the building is bigger than my entire property at home.  A full blown automotive and wood shop.  I guess a guy has to have something to do….

We visit over coffee and I tell him about my adventure trip home so far.  Carol arrives and we catch up as well.   They were planning to go to their RV dealer down the road, and invite me along to the Burlington RV Superstore.  I bring my LP tanks to double check on the level of LP in them.  I end up purchasing two vent hoods, the cage for my exhaust vent, and a door screen.  We discover that indeed, my two LP tanks should provide a total of 60lbs of gas, but one is holding 5lbs and the other, 10lbs.  So much for the dealer making good on their word when directed by Mark at Riverside Trailers, to give me two full tanks. 

That damn Florida dealer who shall remain nameless.

We go back to their house and Dennis proceeds to install my new purchases.  He has it all done in mere moments.  Now, I’m bug proof, dog proof and ventilated. I am so grateful to know Carol and Dennis.

Carol is going to their church in the morning to help cook for a funeral reception.  I volunteer to go with and help.  In the meantime, Dennis discovers my hitch is severely bent. 

“how did this happen?”

I am clueless.  I didn’t even know it happened.  One whole side is curled up to almost a perfect vertical bend. We speculate.  Contemplate.  It could have happened when I went through the drive thru….hard to say, though.  “We can fix that.  Just let me think on it.” He says.  We have dinner and talk, then all turn in for an early start to the day.

Carol and I are up early to cook.  She introduces me to her “ladies” and we hustle and bustle in the kitchen for hours, preparing a fabulous buffet meal for the grieving family and guests of the day.  We laugh, chop, stir and serve. Carol’s gentle kindness transcends through all these other women.  Everyone is so caring and friendly!  I don’t feel like a visitor or guest at all.  I feel like I’ve been here for years.  In less than an hour, the grand spread is devoured, and we swoop in and clean the hall and kitchen as though we were never there.  Carol gives me a tour of the church.  Her hand-made quilts are displayed throughout the building.  Beautiful works of art hanging everywhere.  She is a woman who displays her faith living by example. 

Back at the house, Dennis is in the woodshop.  I stop in to see what he’s up to, and have the extraordinary pleasure of meeting his eldest son, Nick.    Nick is a rather unique guy.  Highly educated, naturally gifted, and probably, genius.  Don’t tell Dennis I said so!  He comes home daily, and to the wood shop often.  There’s a lot to this guy.  Pretty amazing story. We talk about following our dreams, and doing what makes us happy.  What makes Nick happy is woodworking.  He shows me an assortment of things he’s built, and I am in awe of his raw talent in carpentry and woodcarving.  He demonstrates the elaborate computerized machine he has invested in that cuts boards into personalized works of art.

 

“What would you like to see on a sign?” He asks.

“She needs a sign for her trailer, like we have.” Dennis adds.

“Well let’s make both.” Nick decides.

So, I have to make a decision on what I want my signs to look like.  We do some sketches and laugh about some ideas, then he starts working on them.  I hover over him for a while, watching the magic of his computerized machinery. Dennis is outside now with his neighbor, and they are attempting to straighten my hitch out.  They manage to get it done so it looks like new!

We all have dinner together, then I head to the camper for the evening.  As I fire up the computer to check emails, I see Rick called. Probably checking to see how the drive home is going.  I see I received an email from Rob, a former colleague and friend from the industry.  He forwarded me a news brief.  I start to open it as I call Rick back.

 

“Hey…Patty…how are you?  Are you ok?”  Rick is speaking softly.

 

reading….. Bowhunting World announcement sad to report a tragic death…of….Mike Strandlund?

 

“Rick?…I…I…”  I’m starting to feel sick to my stomach.

Yeah, I tried to call you earlier, didn’t know if you’d heard, but thought you’d want to know…”

“I…I….”  I can’t focus.  It’s so hard.  It’s so surreal.  It cannot be real.  I feel sick.

He softly talks to me for a few minutes. 

I have to go. 

I have to go fall apart.

We hang up.

I fall apart.

Totally apart.

I search through my phone directory for our mutual friend, Tim’s number.  I call him.  We fall apart together.

Oh my God this cannot be true.

Mind racing, I am concerned for the kids. Concerned for the parents.  Just plain concerned.  I think about the last few months.  I think about my plans.  I think about the last conversation we had.  I think I am having a heart attack.  I am concerned for me!  I need a distraction, and walk up to the house with a bottle of wine.

“Hi? Anyone want a glass of wine?”  Carol and Dennis join me.  Within minutes I am a bawling mess. 

Bless these two wonderful people for helping me through this shocking, devastating time.

I return to my Toy Hauler and proceed to search the net for all information being presented. I post some comments.  I reply to Rob.  I try to be productive.  I fall apart again, and cry myself to sleep.

There’s nothing quite like crying oneself to sleep.  My eyes are pretty well crusted shut this morning, and I feel like I was in a cage match and lost.  Not doing so good bouncing back.  I lay low in the yard with the dogs, hoping I’ll snap out of my funk before I see Dennis or Carol.   Nick is back and excited to show me the first completed sign.  It just needs to be stained and finished.  It is beautiful indeed.  It makes me cry.  Hell everything makes me cry right now.  I’ve got to get home.  I’ve got to get home and be ready to attend services.  The day is long and sad, but I try hard to be pleasant in the company of my cherished friends.  Carol gives me a tour of her amazing sewing room.  Now I see how she can create all those beautiful quilts.  Nick makes a lunch run, and brings back Greg’s Catering  take out—gigantic sandwiches and mounds of fries.  Comfort food.

I continue to lay low the rest of the day.  I sit and talk with Dennis about business, life and travel.  Dennis has a way of making a person feel strong when they don’t feel so strong.  He has a way of reminding a person of what they’re made of.  His tough, razzing exterior is just a front for the kind, wise and supportive guy inside.  I tell him about my plans for leaving. I think I will take a nap and leave in the night to hopefully get home Thursday morning.  Nick will not be back again before then, but that’s ok, he will finish up the signs and send them.  Everything else is ready so all I have to do is unplug and drive off quietly in the night.  I stop in to see Carol, thank them both for everything, and we say our goodbyes. I retreat to the solitude of my trailer to curl up with the dogs, and have a restless sleep. 

The continued pain in my chest must be entirely due to the empty spot in my heart.  I hope it subsides soon.  Staring at the air vent on the ceiling, with the new cap that Dennis installed the other day, I cannot think of a better place to be than right here, right now.

 

I’m so close to home.

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Comments

  1. Lynn Marie Macy says:

    I love the way you tell a story! You are a GREAT writer!

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