Posts Tagged ‘family’


An Unexpected Homecoming

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

On the Monday before Christmas we received a phone call from our daughter Michelle, who has been living in San Antonio with her boyfriend and his mother for almost a year. My wife talked with her for a while, as they usually do, and came to me after she hung up the phone.

“She said he’s broken up with her, and she wanted to know if she could move back home,” my wife said.

“That was sudden,” I replied. “When was she planning to come up here?”

“They want her out of the apartment before Christmas,” she said. “And with everything she’s got down there, it’ll take the truck to move it all here.”

“The truck” referred to my 14-year-old Ford F-250 diesel pickup with just over 200,000 miles on it. That is a lot of miles, but in the diesel world it represents about half of the engine’s useful life; it is not uncommon for these trucks to run up to half a million miles before they finally bite the dust. It is not pretty to look at, but I did not buy it for its looks; it was that engine that attracted me to it in the first place.

“That’s about a six hour drive each way. Are you up to riding in the truck that long?” I asked. San Antonio is approximately 350 miles from our home.

“I guess I’ll have to be,” was the answer.

“All right, find out when she will be packed and we’ll go from there. It’s been a long time since I filled up both of the truck’s fuel tanks.”

A couple of phone calls later, we had most of the arrangements worked out. She would be ready to go on Thursday the 23rd. I came up with an aggressive game plan: we would get up at 4am and be out the door by 6, arrive in San Antonio around lunchtime, load her stuff, eat lunch, and drive home, hopefully getting back in time for a late dinner.

The next two days were spent hurriedly finishing up our Christmas shopping. Fortunately, we had already done all of our shopping for Michelle, and had even shipped her presents to her the Friday before. She had been told not to open the shipping box until Christmas Day; now, in an ironic twist, the box would be coming back to our house to be opened.

Thursday, 4am. My wife and I struggled to get out of bed, drag ourselves into the shower, get dressed, and grab a bite to eat before heading out the door. A stop at a gas station to top off the tanks, and we were on our way. The drive down was somewhat uneventful; the most excitement came while we were going through Austin, the state capitol. The traffic there reminded me very much of downtown Atlanta when we used to live in Georgia: everyone running flat out, dodging and weaving their way like they were in a NASCAR race. The one benefit from that was it did not take us very long to drive through the city.

We finally arrived in San Antonio, pretty close to the time I had envisioned. Following the directions we had mapped out the day before, we found our way to the street where the apartment complex was located, and with Michelle helping on the other end of my cell phone we made it to the entrance gates. We pulled up in front of the apartment building and saw our daughter, standing alone. After a quick greeting and hugs all around, we went inside the apartment. I met her now ex-boyfriend and his mother for the first (and probably only) time, and much to my relief everyone was quite civil about the situation. They helped with loading her things into the truck, then after a round of goodbyes we left.

After stopping for lunch, we got back out on the highway and retraced our route to go home. Unfortunately, the trip back was more eventful than the trip out. There were traffic jams in two different cities, each taking an hour or so to get through; and, the truck was also losing antifreeze somehow, taking almost two extra gallons of it to get home (I learned later the heater core had a split in it). Thanks to the delays, it was almost 9pm when we finally arrived at the house. We unloaded Michelle’s things and piled them into her bedroom, fixed ourselves something to eat, then sat down to relax. The cost for spending 15 hours on the road? Aside from frazzled nerves all around, it took 35 gallons of fuel, two gallons of antifreeze, lunch and snacks.

But, our daughter was back in our home, safe and sound. We do not know how long she will be staying with us; it could be weeks, months, or even longer. One thing I do know: she has been missed by all of us.

Welcome home, Michelle.


It’s All Relative

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

I recently made an unscheduled trip to Georgia (the first trip in several years for any of us) to visit my oldest brother, who was in the hospital after collapsing in his bathroom a couple of nights before and seemed to be doing very poorly. I went alone; my son is in school, and my wife stayed behind with him. It was an interesting trip for many reasons, but most of all it was interesting because of the way my relatives acted toward me while I was there. No, there was nothing bad about it; quite to the contrary, it was the most pleasant and accommodating visit I have had since moving my family to Texas ten years ago.

I felt like royalty – my mother tended to the bedroom and bathroom I used in her house like I was staying in a five-star hotel; my oldest niece took me out to lunch the day I arrived; and both my mother and my sisters-in-law cooked delicious dinners each night I was there, including a big steak dinner the night before I went home. I got to visit with almost all of my family at one point or another, missing only my youngest brother’s wife and his oldest daughter. Each and every one of them seemed overjoyed that I had come to visit, and one niece in particular kept pushing the question, “When are you going to move back to Georgia?”

When I finally left to begin the 14-hour drive back to Texas, I had many things to think about. The most pervasive thought was over whether to start visiting Georgia more often. Moving there permanently is out of the question; with our son Stephen buried here in Texas, my wife and I have decided that when our time comes we will be buried next to him. But, there is nothing to say we cannot visit relatives more often. The first opportunity for us to do that would likely be at Thanksgiving; school is out for that entire week, and getting time off from work should not be an issue either. My mother has already offered her spare bedrooms for us to use; all we have to do is get there.

Therein lies the issue. How should we travel – by air or by road? Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Flying is much faster, but is more expensive than driving…and we would still need some form of ground transportation after we arrive in Georgia, which means renting a car. Driving is less expensive and gives us a means of transportation when we arrive, but the trip is quite long (as I mentioned earlier, it is about 14 hours each way). My wife prefers flying, but when we look at our budget it quickly becomes clear that driving is the more affordable choice.

And with that, the discussions continue. What will we finally decide? When I find out, I will be sure to let you all know!

(Postscript: My brother had a very large bleeding ulcer in his intestine that was causing him to pass a lot of blood, lowering his blood count and making him weak. He is now out of the hospital and resting at home.)


Garfield, Eat Your Heart Out!

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Yesterday's Memories

Almost everyone knows Garfield, that pudgy cartoon cat with an attitude created over 30 years ago by Jim Davis. Garfield’s “pudginess” comes in no small part from his great love of one particular dish – lasagna. He never seems to get enough of the stuff. I’m a big fan of lasagna as well; not quite to the point of devouring complete pans full of it, but well enough that I like to have it every few weeks or so.

I used to make my own lasagna using a recipe first given to me by my dad, who was also a big fan of lasagna. I fiddled with it and tweaked it over the years, adding a little here and changing a bit there, always looking to improve on it. I finally perfected it (at least for me, anyway) just before I got married back in 1993; in fact, for the rehearsal dinner I cooked and served my lasagna, receiving rave reviews from everyone and endearing myself to my now mother-in-law.

In the years since I got married, I didn’t make my lasagna very often; life and kids got in the way. In the last few years since we moved to Texas, I haven’t even made it at all. We would usually “settle” for store-bought lasagna, which was usually tasty but not quite the same as homemade.

This week, I finally got up the desire (or maybe the nerve) to make my lasagna again, and we’re having it for dinner tonight. It has been so long since I made it that I wasn’t entirely sure I picked up all the ingredients in the right quantities, so some things I know I over-bought (like too much cheese), but that’s okay because in my family nothing goes to waste! Part of the problem with making my lasagna on a regular basis is the sheer volume of it all. When I make it I go all out, both in ingredients and in size; this makes creating it an expensive proposition, hence the lack of making it regularly.

The actual list of ingredients is a closely guarded family secret, but I can tell you it involves a lot of everything – meats, cheeses, sauces, and seasonings. Once it’s all mixed together, the sauce simmers on the stove for 4-5 hours (the longer the better), filling the house with a heavenly aroma. Then when the time comes to assemble it for baking, it takes a roasting pan that is normally used for cooking turkey at Thanksgiving to hold it all. By the time it’s ready to go into the oven, the pan easily weighs over 20 pounds! 60 minutes of baking and 30 minutes to set, and then it’s ready to feed a crowd – there’s easily enough to take care of at least a dozen people, and usually many more. For my rehearsal dinner I prepared two extra-large pans, and there were enough leftovers that my in-laws invited some of their relatives over to eat dinner with them after the wedding reception!

This time will be much the same as in days past – we’ll have a big dinner and all get thoroughly stuffed,  maybe have it again for the next dinner, then package up and freeze the rest. It really does well when it’s frozen and reheated later, making it possible to enjoy this meal one or more times in the future.

But just to be sure, don’t tell Garfield where I live, okay?