You know, in the past, I’ve done checklists for my trips (Things to Do in Wisconsin If You’re Brian J., Five Things To Do In Michigan If You’re Brian J., Things Done In Branson If You’re Brian J.). However, I’m not currently feeling that clever, so I’ll just do a brain dump recap of my recent visit to Wisconsin.
- I got one and a half hours of sleep the night before driving to Wisconsin.
In the olden days, right after I was out of school and maybe for a couple of years afterwards, I would get excited about my forthcoming trip to Wisconsin and not sleep well the night before. Of course, in those days, I was twenty-something and lived in St. Louis, which is three plus hours closer to Milwaukee, so a five or six hour drive was not daunting. And eleven or twelve hour drive, though, was daunting. Which also probably precluded sleep. So I let my beautiful wife drive for a couple of hours in Illinois while I dozed.
- Did I leave a cap on my father’s grave?
Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I did.
It’s the first time I visited since my stepmother had her end date carved. You know, I harbored a lot of anger at that woman for a long time after my father’s death. As he died in the winter (October is basically winter in Wisconsin), they could not place a stone for him until spring. When the spring came, there was no stone. It took her a year and a half or two years to get the stone put up, which made me think she was dishonoring him and wasting his legacy on a new car, things for the house, and whatnot instead of the stone. When I visited the grave for the first time when the stone was present, I saw her name on it and was briefly excited, but it had no end date.
I really have mellowed. I don’t get quite as angry as I did, and I don’t bare grudges as I used to. But I still remember wrongs and try to forgive them. Sometimes.
- I visited my grandmother in the Milwaukee area.
She’s going to be 95 years old, so she’s not coming to visit me these days. It’s always good to see her and my aunt who lives with her (and has for her whole life, practically). On our first trip to Wisconsin, we met at her house and an aunt, a cousin, and my stepmother came to visit. Last time we were up there, my stepmother came as it was close. This time, there was no pretense that anyone other amongst my paternal family wanted to come. Well, we did not invite them, but somehow I have alienated my families somehow. Not through neglect, but perhaps Facebook familiarity breeds contempt. Or maudlin, slightly self-pitying blog posts do. Hah! Just kidding. Nobody reads this but me in 2030.
- We went to church at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran.
This is kind of funny, because we live in the Ozarks, home of the Shepherd of the Hills (my brief research indicates this is from the Harold Bell Wright novel and its attendant play and theme park outside of Branson and is not a biblical or churchly construction). So we have dozens of churches called Shepherd of the Hills here. We did not need to drive eleven hours door-to-door to attend a church with that name.
Shepherd of the Hills is a Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) church; I had to look this up. It’s a sect that broke off from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) because the latter is too, erm, liberal or worldly? Presumably LCMC does not ordain or support trans bishops. Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the sect whose church we regularly attend, does not even have bishops, which is why if you read a headline that says “The head of the Lutheran Church says…” you can be sure it’s not LCMS or probably Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which is more conservative than LCMS.
Also, since my boys have been confirmed in LCMS, they’re a little skeptical of other, less conservative denominations and synods, so the oldest was prone to considering the members of this church to be apostates. We, and by we, I mean, “I,” often joke about anything other than Catholics and Lutherans handling snakes, but since this is a Wisconsin church, I might have accused them of being perch handlers. I REGRET NOTHING.
- We went to the Dells.
We did not see the Dells, though, as we did not take a boat ride. I mostly stayed in the room and read, although we did go out to eat, to a railroad museum, and to the Village Booksmith. I read four books (reports forthcoming). The boys and my wife visited the theme park attached to the resort several times, and we all went to the water park on the last day. So it was a pretty laid back vacation.
- We did eat cheese curds.
- We did go to Walmart.
However, it was a very disappointing experience. They were out of milk. In Wisconsin. Also, no fresh chicken. It was the strangest thing. I don’t know if it was The Coming Unpleasantness previewed, or if it was because it’s coming on inventory time–the Walmart had sections marked that they were pre-counted, and you should see an associate if you wanted to buy something there. The IPA had milk, though, so we were good.
- I did pick up a touch of a Wisconsin accent.
It’s mostly in the ar and short o sound, but it thickened a bit when I was around natives (many of the employees and servers in the Dells are from the Caribbean on work visas, so I was almost as likely to pick up a Received Pronunciation accent).
This last fact might be cause for a musing at a later time.
I’m not sure how much of the accent is an affectation or impersonation and how much is natural. But this time around, my beautiful wife picked it up a little, too.
So, overall, a good trip, but it was good to be home. I read four books and started two others, but by Thursday, I was getting tired of reading(!). I got inspired and sketched out a basic outline for a novel. And I did enjoy the sweeter smell of Wisconsin air, the greenery of actual crops and not just hay that will go to golden in July, and red barns (and silos!).
But I, too, wonder, if it will be the last time I go to Wisconsin. It might be the last time I see my grandmother, the thought of which lend itself to at least one other trip to Wisconsin. But in these days where a drive home costs $400 in gas, and with the dwindling number of friends and family I have in the region, it might.
So I have come back from my trip refreshed, and maudlin.