Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey Trot

After our week in Iowa for Thanksgiving, I feel like I've run a marathon instead of a typical Turkey Trot fun run.  Unfortunately for my waistline, though, none of our running around consisted of actual running.

Last Tuesday, we flew into Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where we had lunch with my friend Emily, an attorney and law school classmate who was my first visitor to Austin after I moved there last winter.  From there, we went to get flowers and visited Brian's gravesite in Muscatine.  That night, we went out for dinner with my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend.  At the restaurant, a high school classmate spotted us from across the room and came over to say hi.  She turned to my boyfriend and said, "You must be Antonio.  I've read all about you."  We joked about how he had a level of celebrity in southeast Iowa before even setting foot there.  That night, my parents' van broke down and my dad got a speeding ticket with all of us in the car while we were driving home from supper.

On Wednesday, we (my parents, Antonio and I) visited LeClaire, Iowa, a scenic town set along the banks of the Mississippi River.  We browsed an antiques shop and visited the Mississippi River Distilling Company ( a distillery there that is run by friends of mine and in which I hold a small percentage of ownership.  We took a tour, enjoyed some samples, and filled up a box of liquor, stickers, pint glasses, and beef straws (yes, beef straws -- I couldn't make this up if I tried:  That evening, my parents had family and friends over for a party at my dad's garage bar (which is more impressive than many actual, open-to-the-public bars I've frequented in my day).  Antonio got to meet grandparents and aunts and uncles from both sides, along with friends of mine (and Brian's) from high school. 

Thursday was Thanksgiving day.  It was a relatively quiet, low-key day.  We ate a very traditional dinner at my parents' house -- turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatos, gravy, stuffing, rolls, etc.  It was just the six of us (again, my parents, little sis & her bf, and us).  When we weren't having our dinner, football was on in the living room for as long as my dad could take it (he prefers old movies to pigskin action so a couple games back-to-back was enough for him).  We went to bed early that night.

On Friday, we woke up early and headed to my in-laws' house for another traditional Thanksgiving feast, with a little college football on the side.  We had dinner with Brian's parents, his brother, his brother's girlfriend and their three daughters.  That afternoon, we drove our bare-bones, rented Chevy Aveo to Des Moines.  We checked into our hotel, then stopped by the home of some friends of mine (formerly "friends of ours," as they were both people I met through Brian).  We spent a little bit of time at their house, catching up and getting to hold their baby boy, who is seven months old.  From there, we met some other friends -- Hart and Sheppard, guys who have visted Texas twice this year and who know Antonio well already -- for sushi and went out in West Des Moines.

Saturday morning, I got a bright and early start to my day while Antonio got to sleep in a bit.  I had an 8:30 coffee meeting with a family friend who, as fate would have it, is 33 years old and was widowed suddenly last year as well.  The time flew by as we talked about loss, death, emotions, in-laws, love, dating as a widow, family, grief, and work in a way that only we could understand.  Before I knew it, more than two hours had passed and we were both running late for our next obligations.  I rushed back to the hotel and picked up Antonio so we could make our lunch date with the Disneys -- parents of my good friend Erin, who lives in Austin now.  The Disneys are like family to me, and they had met Antonio in Austin before, so it was good to see them.  We snapped a picture of Antonio and me holding Erin's nephew, who they were baby-sitting so his parents (Erin's sister and brother-in-law) could join Erin's brother on a Thanksgiving road trip to visit Erin & her husband in Austin.  From there, we went to the home of Jenny and Justin, a couple who were part of my running buddies in Iowa and who came to Austin to run the Livestrong half marathon with me this February.  My Iowa BFF, Kristine (who happens to be Jenny's sister too) and her husband came over, and we all visited for a few hours before Antonio and I had to be off for our evening plans.  We first went to Hart's apartment -- a funky new pad right on the edge of downtown Des Moines.  Shep joined us there and the four of us walked to a nearby bar for a drink, then through Des Moines' sculpture park to the wine bar that served as our meeting point for the evening.  Saturday night, we ended up bar-hopping around downtown with a group that was in excess of 15 people at one point.  We went to a wine bar, a German bar (where we passed around boots of beer), the Miller High Life lounge (an old school lounge-y bar where the most popular shooter is a mixture of Tang and Jaegermeister), a beer-focused bar with hundreds of offerings on tap, and a sports bar. 

On Sunday, we got up and went to the children's hospital where Kristine & Bobby's newborn girl is staying while she receives the remainder of her IV antibiotic treatement for a blood infection.  It was really exciting to see the baby face-to-face; I thought I'd probably be seeing a pregnant bestie the whole weekend instead (Kristine's due date was not until today).  Another good friend, Joy, came to the hospital as well.  From the hospital, it was back to Jenny & Justin's, where more friends gathered for a feast of leftovers and fast food, and more NFL football action.  It was a fantastic Sunday.  Late in the afternoon, we drove back to southeast Iowa so Antonio could meet one more aunt, uncle and cousin who had been out of town earlier in the week. 

Monday was our day to return home.  We had a late flight, so we had time to enjoy morning coffee, then lunch, with my dad before we had to go to the airport.  Sunday night, we got home late and I was glad to sleep in our own bed, with the three kitties all around us.

All in all, it was a good trip.  We saw a ton of friends and family -- around 60 people, with over 50 being new to Antonio, ate a lot of great food, and saw some cool sights.  Antonio got along well with everyone in my family, of course.  We enjoyed our time with Brian's family, as well.  It was strange being at that dining room table for a holiday meal with someone else, but it wasn't bad.  At various points on various evenings, I had friends pull me aside and tell me some combination of three things:  1) I miss Brian; 2) I like "Antonio"; and 3) I'm glad to see you happy.  I agree with all of those.  Antonio saw pictures of Brian almost everywhere we went -- friends and family have pictures of us up from vacations we took together, birthdays, etc.  We told stories about those pictures, and we toasted to Brian, who brought so many of us all together. 

It was also good to spend some time with another young widow.  I was widowed about seven months before her, and a friend commented that she probably really appreciated talking to me.  I responded that I appreciated talking to her.  Just because I've had that title or status longer doesn't mean I know more about it; instead, we can learn from each other.  I think I said things that will help her out and she said things that were good for me to hear.  I have been feeling a lot of anxiety about the holidays and birthdays that are coming up, and we talked about what to do on those days.  It was good to hear someone else's thoughts and approach, and I think I'll have an easier time with my decisions this coming month because of it.

Throughout everything, Antonio was a champ.  He is unfazed by all the talk of Brian; he loves hearing more about him and who he was.  I was scared about going to the cemetary and crying in front of him; he calmly reminded me that he's seen me cry my hardest before and that hasn't scared him away.  He somehow knows just how to act and what to say, and he's not jealous of Brian's memory or intimidated that he can't live up to the ghost of my husband past.  When we drove past our old house, when I pointed out where Brian used to work, when we went to Taco John's because that was Brian's favorite, he was curious about all those things -- my story, my history, my past.  It's a nice feeling to finally bridge that gap between past and present.  Now I feel like the man who I share my present with, and with whom I am planning a wonderful future, really appreciates my past and my background. 

I have a lot to be thankful for this year.


  1. My cousins husband is the one who invented the beef straws!! How funny that you tried them :)


  2. Love you Wendy...muah!


  3. I hope to see you again soon. :)