I started the day by joining my hostess, Rose, for breakfast. We chatted at the table. She prepped me to meet her young daughter, Clara. It sounded like the little one was shy. After a brief talk, Rose head upstairs to get her daughter.
When Rose came back downstairs there was a little human shuffling its feet behind her. This newbie seemed to find solace hiding behind her mother's legs. This was little Clara. At first glance it looked like the "shy" description was accurate.
I introduced myself to Clara. She was somewhat responsive. Both Clara and Rose were busy getting their days stayed. That meant breakfast. I dined with Clara at the breakfast table as her mother got things in order. The little one was inquisitive. She asked her mom, "Mommy, is Colin a man?"
Her mother responded, "Yes, Clara, Colin is a man, just like Daddy."
Clara objected, "Daddy's not a man. He's a boy!" Woah! This sweet little girl was calling out her father at the breakfast table! What audacity! This looked to be the beginning of a great new friendship.
I was happy to get an early start to my day. It looked like I would be on the road by 9:00. I had about 60 miles or so to my next destination, Fort Wayne, Indiana. I would be entering into the fifth state of my trip. As I prepared to depart, the inquisitive Clara asked, "Mommy, is Colin going to leave?" Her mother confirmed that I would. Clara's response was the highlight of my day, "I'm going to be sad when he goes." Little Clara sure was a sweetheart.
I left Rose's cozy home. I was on the road again. The scenery from Defiance to Fort Wayne wasn't the most interesting. Little by little the landscape shifted from rural to urban. I found some sense of peace by watching the grass. There was a moderate southwesterly breeze. I watched as the wind bent the blades of grass in my direction. It was a pleasant reminder that the wind was again on my side. As I spent more time on the road I found myself being comforted by little things like this.
I had this funny feeling as I neared the city. Some part of me was actually excited to go to Fort Wayne. I could not believe that I was feeling this way. I used to dread going to visit Fort Wayne. I would have sworn to you that it was the most boring place on Earth. Just the thought of Fort Wayne was enough to put me to sleep. Now, in my young adulthood, I was actually eager to visit this clunky old rust belt city.
I arrived at Uncle Mike's home. He came outside when he heard me fumbling around. There he was. Good ol' Uncle Mike. I hadn't seen him in five years. He looked the same. The only difference was about ten pounds (no comment on the direction of those pounds) and a thick beard. He looked great!
We celebrated our reunion by going to the Gas House, our family's favorite steakhouse in downtown Fort Wayne. We had history with this restaurant. Everytime the family was in town we would have a nice dinner there. At the end of our meals, my grandpa Bud would whip out his harmonica and rock out. As he would play, the restaurant would be lulled into silence. It was pretty impressive to see an old, wheelchair-bound man play such heavy tunes. By the end of his song the whole restaurant would break out into a thunderous applause. I had fond memories of the old Gas House.
Dinner at the Gas House was the second time I had actually been full during my two weeks on the road. The other time being Passover with Shmulie. When you ride so many miles a day, every day, it leaves quite a hole in your stomach.
After dinner Mike drove us home. Just driving around Fort Wayne was a heck of a trip down memory lane. To me the place would never be the same without grandma and grandpa. They were the heart of this town. Perhaps my excitement to visit Fort Wayne was a desire to rekindle some chapter of my childhood. I came to the realization that with the departure of grandma and grandpa, that chapter of my life would be sealed for good. Tomorrow we would go to visit their grave sites in Illinois.
That night I retired to the recliner in Uncle Mike's living room.