It's a dark, damp, cool Thursday in Chicago, light rain spitting fitfully from low, leaden clouds over Chicago's Loop.
I'm almost ready to start my week now.
Older Daughter was in town last weekend---again---with her two daughters, the younger one just starting to walk, neither one of them sleeping through the night. At home or on the road.
Poor Older Daughter. She thinks I don't like it when she visits. That's not true. Admittedly, I like it better during the day than during the restless nights. When she came by with two sick children for the Labor Day weekend, I lost a week recovering from the virus the kids gave me.
Well, at the ages of 1 and 2, the kids don't have much of an allowance, do they? What other gift can they give their beloved Grampy besides a virus?
And then came the next weekend, when Hank and Older Daughter and their two kids were supposed to drive up from Indianapolis for a party with friends in Batavia, the hosts of that party being college friends of Older Daughter and her husband, and the hostess being 8½ months pregnant with her second child, with roughly 100 people coming over, and my daughter and her still-sick kids (who wouldn't have slept in Batavia either) and her husband proposing to land on their friends' doorstep the night before said party. Who does that to somebody?
I blew a gasket on behalf of the young family in Batavia, and I'm not sure I could pick Mr. or Mrs. out of a lineup.
Mind you, Long Suffering Spouse was aghast as well, but she just vents at me. But, when I said something to my daughter, I was the bad guy. And, really, what I said, albeit perhaps at the top of my lungs, was that, if you really like these people, you will not impose yourself and your children on them the night before they are to entertain 100 people---bring them to our house instead. If Hank thinks he can help them prepare, let him stay out there, I said, but there's no way you can do other than hinder.
In the end, Older Daughter didn't travel that weekend after all. Not only were the kids still sick, neither she nor Hank had made arrangements for their two humongous golden retrievers, Cork and Tipperary.
They didn't come because you yelled at your daughter, Long Suffering Spouse told me.
I didn't say anything you didn't say, I responded.
Yes, but you said it to her, she replied.
Anyway, Older Daughter was back at our house, with her kids, a week ago today. That would be last Thursday. No, Friday was supposed to be a working day in Chicago just as elsewhere in the country.
Older Daughter was back in town because (1) Granddaughter No. 1 was turning four this past Monday and (2) Younger Daughter, her mother, was turning 27 on Tuesday. They would both have parties on Saturday at Younger Daughter's house---two parties, sort of a twi-night double header. As in a 'modern' doubleheader, the house would have to be cleared between parties; the hard part was figuring how to get Younger Daughter out of her own house during what she assumed would be clean-up and recovery time. Younger Daughter knew about her daughter's party; her own was to be a surprise.
My nap time was severely compromised on Saturday, but I cheerfully volunteered to pick up sandwich trays and the cake and all sorts of other things at our local Costco, some of it for the first party and some of it for the second, taking a lot of it to Middle Son's house which lies roughly halfway between the Curmudgeon Manse and Younger Daughter's abode. Middle Son had to completely reconfigure his refrigerator to accommodate the load. And I was still bringing a lot home.
All my kids attended both parties. Youngest Son was late arriving to the first one because he was coming from baseball practice.
You'll remember, perhaps, that Youngest Son used to play baseball for a school I've called South Janesville College here. But he graduated in 2015, sort of---since he had to do his student teaching in the Fall of 2015---and he's no longer playing college baseball. He's coaching. He's not a head coach or anything---as a matter of fact, he's an unpaid "volunteer" coach (though still under written contract for some reason)---and his status as a college coach has enhanced his position as a youth baseball coach. He's even giving pitching lessons to at least one high school kid hoping to make varsity this year (the kid he coached last year didn't make it, but through no fault of his own, or Youngest Son's).
Anyway, my updates here have been so sporadic that I've barely introduced Youngest Son's girlfriend, a beautiful, leggy brunette, that Youngest Son met in college. She graduated in 2014, but they have stayed together. In fact, they went in together on a portable fire pit for Younger Daughter's birthday, and I couldn't help but notice that, on Saturday night, Youngest Son and his girlfriend were seated around their present, talking earnestly in the darkness, lit only by the flickering flames. Time, if not past time, to give the young lady a name: I think I'll call her Danica (not her real name, of course, although it is a good Croatian name, I believe, and Danica is of Croatian heritage on her mother's side).
At some point recently---you'll forgive me if I can't remember exactly when---my dear wife began searching for jewelry her mother had given to her. Abuela is still very much with us---well, mostly with us, as she is getting increasingly forgetful---and she was even at the first of the family parties on Saturday (the second being just a bit much for her). Anyway, my wife found almost everything she was looking for on the very first night. She found one stash right away. She found a second cache after I made a helpful suggestion.
No, seriously. I did.
Look, this is my blog and you'll just have to take my word for it.
Unfortunately, even with my contribution, there were still at least a couple of rings that Long Suffering Spouse could not find. One of these was her mother's engagement ring. When Long Suffering Spouse's father died, many years ago, Abuela started throwing things out wholesale. Even jewelry. When I report that she gave these items to my wife, it's true, but it's also correct to say that my wife intervened to prevent these items from just being thrown away.
I know they're around here somewhere, said an increasingly agitated Long Suffering Spouse at one point. I know they haven't been thrown out.
I tried to look concerned. Actually, I first tried to look invisible. Nothing good can happen for me when Long Suffering Spouse is anxiously searching for something. This morning it's a unit test she prepared some years back---because her classes have Spanish on a varying number of days during successive school years it's not like she can recycle tests from year to year. Sometimes it's four or five years that pass before a test becomes relevant again. If this one is for the eighth grade in October, though, it might have last been given to a seventh grade class in March. Well, there was a year---or was it two?---where she got cut back to two days a week.
Anyway, I haven't mastered the art of turning invisible. Lamont Cranston, I'm not. (Gee, I wonder if anyone will get that reference.) So when invisibility fails, I try and look concerned. And I am concerned, really. I really concerned that Long Suffering Spouse will get mad at me when she can't find something she's frantically searching for. You must have put it somewhere where you'd remember, I offer, hopefully.
Yes, I know, but where?
There was a lull in the search while Long Suffering Spouse waited to clarify with Younger Daughter that she didn't have the rings. Apparently she'd had them at one point. Well, I knew Younger Daughter and Olaf had no funds with which to buy an engagement ring when they exchanged promises of marriage---and, still, the tumblers failed to click into place as to why Long Suffering Spouse would drop everything in a search for these rings now with so much else going on.
Even when I was reminded that Danica and Younger Daughter share a birthday I did not catch on.
OK, so in some ways I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Are you happy I admitted it?
And it wasn't in the knife drawer, but in the cabinet above, that Long Suffering Spouse eventually found the object of her search.
I was dumb enough to ask why she had been looking for these rings.
Youngest Son has no money, my wife told me, using small words of few syllables and speaking slowly and distinctly so as to maximize my chances for eventual comprehension. Maybe he'll want to use this one, she said, holding it out for my inspection.
The tumblers finally clicked. For Danica, I ventured, hesitantly.
Long Suffering Spouse beamed: The idiot husband was starting to figure things out.
It was reported back to me in due course that Youngest Son was cool toward the idea of using his grandmother's ring. Unaccountably cool, in my wife's estimation.
I listened carefully and a possible explanation occurred to me. I'll handle it, I said.
When I eventually ran across Youngest Son and we were actually alone (no children or grandchildren eavesdropping) I reminded the young man that, 40-some years ago, I was the delivery boy and mail clerk in the jewelry store in downtown Boondockia. Youngest Son tried very hard not to roll his eyes as I groped toward the point---that's the major difference between 16 and 23---when a kid is a little older, he'll at least try not to roll his eyes. At least for awhile.
Well, I continued, on the second floor of the store we had as many as four jewelers. They spent a lot of their time fixing watches, but sometimes they also sized rings. Then I dropped the clincher. It doesn't cost a lot to size a ring.
How much? he asked, warily. I had to admit my knowledge of the industry is 40-odd years out of date, but it wasn't much then and it still shouldn't be that much.
Hmmmmm, he said.
Well, of course, you've figured out where this is headed a lot faster than I did. He found a jeweler and he enlisted a couple of his buddies to come with him (one had to stop to pick up the ring) and install themselves in hiding places where they could photograph the actual proposal. Danica's parents were enlisted in the plan, too. They would also be in the vicinity photographing when the big moment came. Danica's father, whom I've met only once, is apparently an ex-Marine. Youngest Son has hinted broadly that Danica's dad has seen and done some pretty heavy-duty things. I wouldn't know, of course, but I will say I was a little impressed---and alarmed---when Danica's dad assured Youngest Son that he could conceal his whereabouts during the proposal. "I could be right next to you and you'd never know it," he told my son. (Say... maybe he's mastered the Lamont Cranston technique. Who knows? I mean, besides the Shadow.)
In the event, Danica got maneuvered into position on a footbridge overlooking a small lake near the home where Danica resides with her parents and sisters. And she never suspected a thing. "She's a lot like your father, I guess," Long Suffering Spouse explained to Youngest Son.
We were actually at Younger Daughter's house Tuesday evening waiting for confirmation that the proposal had gone off successfully. We'd brought our daughter some birthday gifts on the actual day, you see.
But we hadn't breathed a word to her or her sister (who finally went back home to Indiana on Monday afternoon). Operational security had to be maintained, we were told. Besides, said Youngest Son, do you think my sister would have left if she knew I was doing this? Long Suffering Spouse did not disagree. It occurred to me, however, that if I'd said that, I'd have gotten into trouble....
When word came that the proposal had been made and accepted there was great rejoicing. Granddaughter No. 1 was ecstatic. Uncle [Youngest Son] and Aunt Danica are getting married, she lilted, taking about 10 seconds to dreamily pronounce the word 'married.'
And I've had stuff to do, too, throughout all this---but I've gone on far too long. Half of Thursday is already shot, and I really need to get this week started.
Isn't that where I came in?