Think I might be near the finish line resolving an issue that’s been bothering me for 5 years. Quite an amazing feat since my list of irritants rambles on like the side effects of the latest and greatest drug commercial. Twenty seconds how this new wonder drug will cure everything that ails you. Followed by 90 seconds of stern warnings: buyer beware, taking this medication may cause deep depression-or worse. Yikes.
|Someone actually got a picture of me by Lake Michigan…|
Around 2012, my beloved job as Parish Visitor (visiting the homebound, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities) was starting to taking a toll. The deaths of these dear folks were mounting faster than I could grieve and process them, averaging about one a month. Top it off, I was working for a less than ideal boss, the 4th in a row. Let’s just leave it at that. There might be some issues I’ve yet to work through, but this is progress. See, I’m making great strides.
|Charlie & Opal, a couple I visited for years…|
John had retired a couple of years before, and I was ready to join the ranks. But that decision brought more questions than answers. The rest of our family were grouped near the eastern side of the state, but Hubs and I were on the west coast of Michigan. In a 2 story home, on a lake. In essence, our house was the only thing holding us there. Easy-peasy, sell the house and move closer to the kids. Hold on there little doggie. This is where the irritant became a full-fledged allergic reaction. Our nice house, on a cool lake, in a snooty town, would not sell.
Three long years. 3. I still don’t know why. We had serious lookers, offers, but deals fell through. After a 6 month hiccup with an awful realtor, we hired Mary Jamison, a go-getter extroadinaire. Can’t fault her for one solitary thing, yet it took 2 more years to find the right buyer. During this time, I grew to hate the house. The nicest house I’ve ever lived in or owned. No longer enjoyed the lake view, the town or area. I just didn’t want to be there anymore. But I was stuck. And miserable.
You remember the story about the gal I grew really close to after her husband passed away in 2005? It’s called, The Name Game, March 2015, if you want to read it, but here’s a short recap. Kent (his real name was Raymond) finally got released from a long stint in a local hospital. The preacher and chaplain visited him there regularly, but when he got home, he was added to my parish visitor list. I was shocked to meet him and his wife Joann, (her real name-Marilyn) because they weren’t much older than me! Sometimes you have a special connection with certain folks, Kent was one of mine. After Kent passed away, Joann and I became really close friends. We both are positive Kent was pleased and proud to be the conduit bringing us together. Jo (not enough to be Joann, alias-Marilyn, then I had to go and shorten her name) and I met 2 or 3 times a week, most often for breakfast, sometimes lunch. She had been Kent’s caregiver for several years and her grief was enormous after 47 years of marriage.
|Raymond alias Kent in his prime…|
Jo and I met at eating places near my visiting area for the day. Chili’s, Bob Evans, Steak ‘N Egger, Toast ‘N Jams, or we’d pick up Jimmy Johns sandwiches, head down to the Ovals. Watch Lake Michigan waves, one of my favorite things to do. Pretty much became regulars at these restaurants. We frequented Chili’s and Toast ‘N Jams most often because the bulk of folks I visited were in this neighborhood, so we got to know the staff.
I have not gone back very often since we moved away. I was so happy to finish that chapter, that whole section of my life still tasted very bitter. I am able to hold a grudge, real or imagined for eternity it seems. It surely was not the fault of a house, small town, or large area that caused my house to stall when trying to sell. Yet somehow I blamed all 3 for exactly that. Put them in my dislike box.
Hubs was heading up north for the weekend about a month ago. I was planning on taking a Saturday class at Baker College on caregiving for infants. But I procrastinated too long. I called the day before the deadline, but the gal in charge was off. I left a message, stating my class preferences. She, in turn left a message for me the following day. Sorry, the class is already full, try again next year. Shoot. I decided if Jo was not busy for the weekend, I’d go to Muskegon for a visit.
|A gorgeous view, but not missing it…|
Jo did not have plans and seemed thrilled at the prospect of a weekend freeloader. (She’s really a wonderful friend). I was leaving after work, and needed to stop in Grand Rapids on the way to Muskegon, so warned her it would be at least 7 before I’d show up. If that was too late to go out for supper together, I was fine with stopping somewhere for a quick sandwich, but she assured me it would be great to get a pizza somewhere after I got to town. The destination causing this hold up? Vander Veen’s Dutch Store. Since it’s Dutch, definitely not open on Sunday, the only other time I would be driving through Grand Rapids. A neat little gem of a store. The walls are loaded with Blue Delft pieces, open weaved laces, and bold colored tulip and windmill themed dish towels. Dutch peppermints, licorce, milk chocolate letters, and bobalars line the shelves. Dried beef, assorted meats, cheeses in the meat case. A small stand alone freezer with Almond Patties and Pigs in the Blanket from Casey’s Bakery in Sioux Center, Iowa! Huh? I’ve lived in Michigan 30 years and discovered this place 1 year ago. Woe is me. Look at the time (note: Almond Patties and Dried Beef) I could have been eating regularly.
|These little buggers were so hard to find…|
But I did not need dried beef or almond patties. The goal of this out-of-my-way-store this time was the lowly pea. Not a snow, snap, fresh, pod, sugar, black eyed, or split. I needed peas. Whole dried peas. Hubs and I were hungry for pea soup, and there was a hunk of ham in the freezer just waiting to simmer and fall off the bone. But I’d been unable to find whole dried peas. Meijer (the store usually able to fill all my baking, canning, cooking needs) only sells split dried peas. I don’t know how anyone else makes pea soup, (or if anyone else does. Not one of my kids will eat it), but in the Gerritson household when I was a kid, Mom used 1 pound of whole, dried peas that she had soaked over night. Added about 3 ounces of split peas, otherwise it got too mushy according to her.
|Hard to describe the taste, but I love this hard candy…|
Shannon’s answer for this dilema, “buy them online Mom.” I looked, but shipping cost 3 times more than the peas. And no, I don’t have or want Amazon prime because I hardly ever shop online. That’s why God made cars and malls. I might be too tight to pay shipping costs it would seem. So the tasty ham bone got comfy in the freezer while I figured out how and where to find whole dried peas. I was pretty sure The Dutch Store carried them. They did so I bought 6 pounds. I use 2 pounds each time. Westward-ho.
|Banana Taffy, my favorite…|
After hauling in my stuff from the car, Jo and I headed for Bernio’s Pizza in North Muskegon. A local pizza pub that’s gotten some national recognition for one of their signature pizzas. Neither Jo nor I have ever tried it. We aren’s very adventuresome when it comes to food. Or trying new things. Drove past my old house as it was getting dark and waited for that pang of homesickness to wave over me. That didn’t happen either. I did feel nostalgic and lonesome for a couple of my former neighbors. Pam was recently widowed and I still felt her deep hurt. And I do miss Dale and Carol. They had changed siding on their beautiful home since we moved. How I missed watching them in their yard. They love yard work, which is so not me. Hard to believe there are really people like that in the world. Religiously, diligently tend to their gorgeous perennials. Kind of like watching ‘whack a mole’ through the summer. Bam, another flower group is blooming. Bam, then another. Carol sits on the ground for hours pulling weed culprits out of her lovely groupings. Like spent cartridges flying out of an automatic gun, rat-a-tat-tat. Dale hovering behind her with the waste can picking up all the empty shells. Yup, I really miss watching and visiting them. But not my old house. OK, maybe one thing. Mary Jane just got back to Iowa after wintering in Arizona. Wrote me a note and said she and Les have been using their fireplace every night since they got back. I really miss my wood fireplace. That is all.
Saturday dawns and I’ve got an agenda. But first we hit one of our favorite breakfast spots, Steak ‘N Egger, which Jo informed me has changed hands. Seems Toast ‘N Jams bought the restaurant a few months ago, but maintains the original name. It’s early for a Saturday, about 8:30 and they’re not very busy. We are about to be shown to our booth when a familiar girl comes up to greet us. “Hi guys, it’s so great to see you again. Two over medium, 2 over hard, right? One with sausage patties, well done. Wheat toast, light butter. Two coffees and ice water, right?” For a second, Jo and I just stood there. Looking dumb. (Not as much of a stretch as you might think). It was Carrie, our old (but young) waitress from Toast ‘N Jams. She waited on us for years. She remembered our exact order, even to the point we always shared an order of sausage. Carrie’s son was in the terrible 2’s then. (Now he wants a car). Later Carrie got pregnant with her daughter, who’s now about 10. Carrie (the owner’s daughter) said she was just helping out for a couple of days, gave us each a quick hug and hurried back to her station. A couple minutes later, Carrie wandered back one more time. “You guys crack me up. You’re so cute.” (A BIG stretch) “You even sit in the booth the same way you did years ago!” Well that deserved an explanation. I always slide into a booth with my left ear (the worse one for my profound hearing loss) towards the wall, in hopes I can make out what the waitress is trying to convey on my right. Usually though I give a blank stare and my booth buddy says, “she wants to know how everything tastes?”
Oh the places we will go. McDonald’s Candy for starters. Best taffy (banana for me), Bobalars (Dutch candy, a fraction what The Dutch Store charges, for me and Shannon). Anise candy for Landon, good chocolate for Peyton, some sugar free for the Hubs. Ride around the Lake. It’s very windy, but the waves on the west side are puny. I don’t know if this area has a special name but it’s kind of in back of Dockers Restaurant and those lovely condo units. Nice whitecaps and crazy guys in wetsuits (it’s rainy, windy and cold) are wind surfing and jumping waves like lunatics. They did not venture out very deep, just kept going fast, back and forth along the shoreline. You don’t see this too often on Lake Michigan and I really enjoyed watching. Shopped at The Lakes Mall for a couple hours, then tried to squeeze in the best burger in town at The Station Grill before it got Saturday night busy. Who am I trying to kid? They’re always busy. And my downfall at The Station are their homemade Texas potato chips. We only had to wait a few minutes and the food was scrumptious! A late night of catching up on families with Jo. Soon it was Sunday morning and time for me to head back home. Toast ‘N Jams for breakfast for old times sake before I left.
|One of our favorite spots to enjoy breakfast…|
But it was my cute little waitress (with the amazing memory) who made my weekend and altered my negative view of my life in west Michigan for the last few years. She really ‘tipped’ the scales in a positive way. Thanks Carrie…