Four and a half hours after laying down Friday morning has arrived. It’s 6:30 am and the restroom is in full swing. Larry (Roni’s husband) is home from his security night shift after looking into the theft of a baby Jesus from a front yard nativity scene. Annie and Johnathan (Joseph’s wife and kid) came across the street to visit – throw pillows and tickle the only one in the room under 25 years old. Roni and Joe are Caleb’s cousins. Chester and Pam have an appointment in Sacramento. When they leave, Caleb and I will take John and the dogs to the park two blocks away. It feels good to be surrounded by family.
Sparky has no problem finding a stick to play with – chasing John up the playscape stairs, being chased in the grass, and letting John throw it occasionally. My camera dies and Caleb goes back to the car to change the battery but forgets the key, comes back to get it, brings life back to my camera, and upon his third visit to the park we both get a scare. Sparky sees him approach as a car pulls up to the stop sign. We have this dog trained well enough to not see him turn into pavement pizza as he waits for Caleb to cross the street.
I walk with Piggy in circles around the park to keep her moving for exercise, warmth, and potty needs. I watch John do a backflip from the swing – the kid in me is excited, but the adult in me is scared that something will go wrong. He took his coat off and landed gracefully. Still exposed to the cold John decides to share his jacket with Piggy. It makes for a cute picture but I think she is more frightened than cozy.
Then we get on the see-saw and I drop down just enough to make John bounce in his seat. Caleb uses John as a balance weight to recline on the metal and wood toy resting in recycled brown chunks of used tires. The boys are able to get Sparky to jump on the slide but not tempting enough to get him to the top of it via climbing or down it via falling. After thirty minutes of play in 45 degree weather we were all ready to go back inside. John walked Sparky and Caleb carried Piggy part of the way.
Outside of the house and Annie pulls up with Joseph. He was supposed to have a fifteen minute break, but somehow got three times that to visit with us. Annie went home to shower for her ultrasound appointment that she had in an hour or two. We got to meet her mom who would be going with her. Joe told us about his time in the Army traveling to San Diego and Afghanistan and similar tales to Chester’s ability to get along with his superiors – something about his working white uniform and shooting a captain – recognition runs in the family.
We are left alone and I make a PBJ for the road. It’s after 10:30 am and we are headed to Odean’s (Caleb’s dad’s cousin) house to meet her and husband Billy. While we are there we will see her sister Ella, two daughters Tammy and Tina, and grandkids McKenna, Sophia, and Dash – named after the speedster in The Incredibles. Odean handed me her family tree book and I got to look at records of Caleb’s lineage. We talked about family, work, and life over the last 20 years – since the last time Caleb was with family in this county.
Billy picked up some dinner from Pizza Hut – veggie for me and Caleb, pepperoni for the kids, and Hawaiian for them. Then we talked about his maintenance job at the hospital where he also helps the nurses with heavy lifts and by providing security. They are high school sweethearts and there is plenty of love in their beautiful home that shows in the family and their kind dogs playing in the backyard. We would love to stay longer but we have a schedule to keep to get us to Caleb’s mom’s house on Christmas day – her only day off while we will be in state.
We leave at 6:00 pm and it’s an hour to Red Bluff where we will meet Jenny (Caleb’s mom’s cousin) outside of her apartment smoking near the steps – making it easier to find her. Inside we meet her daughter’s dog Fleet that has no problem jumping all over us. Her pregnant daughter moved to Texas a week ago with her husband and Jenny’s teenage son moved in with his dad. We see a girl introduced to us as friend – one that does dishes and hangs out in the bedroom with a guy’s voice.
We drink a Pepsi as we talk about relationships, Jenny’s job as apartment supervisor and maintenance technician, and travel. We’re offered some cake and then Fleet escapes the bedroom and asks to go pee. We will see the male voice on our way outside as Jenny walks her dog at midnight and hugs us goodbye. We will let our dogs out of the car after their six-hour nap before finding a room at the Riverbank Inn for $60 where we plan to sleep just as long.