Thursday, July 03, 2008

Wisconsin visit

As I mentioned earlier, it was a dark and stormy night when I arrived in Wisconsin.

By staying in Fond du Lac, I chose to stay in a place I never have before. My mom told me at the last minute it was possible I could have stayed at my grandma's house if we scared up some furniture, but I told her I'd already said my goodbyes anyway. I didn't even visit Plymouth, come to think of it. I had no wish to drive by.

I chose Fond du Lac partly because I got the best deal on a hotel room, and partly because my dad is there now. My mom had been concerned I wouldn't have the time to see her, being so far away from Waldo, but when I called about that, she was busy herself. I would have liked to see her more.

After my frenetic but satisfying New York visit, I was glad to take it easy. My dad called me early, and I told him I would be sleeping a little longer. Then he called again to say he was on his way over on his tricycle. (Pretty nifty, his tricycle.) He wasn't sure I'd be able to find my way to him (he was right) due to street closures due to the flooding. I was just about ready when he arrived. I took him to lunch at Faro's Family Restaurant, located right next to the hotel, and whose parking lot I'd used the night before and hoped wouldn't get me towed, because, you know, the flood had caused my hotel to be completely full, and semi-trucks were taking up parking spaces that I might have used, so I used the parking lot next door. Did you notice that, I ran on my sentence and used 'you know' funny how that happens while I'm talking about Wisconsin. I learned that there.

Then we went driving around a bit, and I asked Dad if there was anything he'd like to do that he couldn't usually do without a car. He wanted to shop at Piggly Wiggly, too far for him to get to normally. I wish I'd taken some photos of the worldly goods damaged beyond repair that had been pulled out of basements and put out on the curb. Already on that second day of the flooding the local paper announced the city would be doing bulk item garbage pick-up. That is something about Wisconsin...the people meet such exceptional needs in a methodical, practical way. Also something about Wisconsin, the people will take all they can get from it. We saw kitchen sinks, bicycles, and many non-flood-damaged items as well as melting cardboard boxes full of lost basement treasures.

We got to see the flooded football field:

I found out later that my sister-in-law Cathy and my nephews also got to see it, that in fact they were in Fond du Lac when the flash flood began. They didn't have any troubles themselves, but they were delayed for hours due to other stalled cars. My nephew Jake got a dramatic video of the water rushing around the cars. I have to pester him to get that on youtube with all the others.

Unlike my many other visits, when my visits with my Dad were relegated to a short afternoon, or in one case, a very short visit before I rushed off to catch my plane earlier than expected, I got to see my Dad almost every day. His creativity has taken a kooky crafty turn, as seen in this tape-covered paper mache hat and this braided-plastic-bag footstool.

homemade hat homemade stool

More Dad and flood photos here.

Dad told me a neighbor girl was playing with her friends, and asked him, "Are you the mad-man?" My dad said he looked at her, and just gave an expressive non-threatening shrug that he demonstrated for me. It seemed a good answer. We talked about that a little. I think it concerned him that he would be the strange scary mad-man of the neighborhood. I suggested he could say something like, "I suppose so, but I'm not dangerous," and we strategized ways he could let the little kids know that while yes, he is strange, he's nobody to be afraid of.

And that's the truth. He is what you could call the mad man. It's pretty amazing he's survived schizophrenia as long as he has. He's still working on finding ways to live with that in the world. He asked me if I was able to relate to him better than my other family there. I promptly said yes. Even when he was deeply into bible-thumping Christianity, we could still talk in a way I can't really with the rest of my family.

I found out on this visit that my brother listens to right-wing pundits and voted for the frat boy residing in the White House. His in-laws are conservative, and now so is he a bit. I think I convinced him to listen again to Obama, and set aside the biased views he's been fed while he does. Cathy said she would. I couldn't get through by phone, but I decided to take a drive out to their place on the second day, and we had a pleasant evening, albeit smoky. We sat at my grandpa's picnic table, which happened to be downwind of the barbecuing pork roast my brother was cooking for the grad party the next day. I especially enjoyed talking to Jake. Cathy told me later they left us alone on purpose so we could get to know each other better. I do hope the boys will visit me soon. Both artists, Jake and Abe are considering coming to the west coast for college. For now, they're staying close to home for their first year.

On Father's Day, the graduation party. I got myself a little lost trying to find it at the Sheboygan Marsh. This is the first time google maps failed me. You see, it sent me to the edge of the actual marsh, to a dead-end gravel road, nowhere near the other side with the Lodge and the campground. (If I hadn't been in such a hurry I could have looked closer before I set out and seen that on the map.) I found myself back on the road to my brother's house, but of course no one was there. Back in Glenbeulah, at the Citgo station where I got gift cards for the boys, I discovered I was very close, I just had to follow county road P.

So I got there, I finally saw my mom, we visited. I took photos. The boys played croquet, just as they did at Zac's graduation party.


The twins have worked at the Marsh Lodge for years...since before high school I think...mowing the campground, taking care of garbage, etc. The owners lent them the space for free. At Zac's party, Cathy put together a photo display. At this one, not only photos but a wrestling-mat display of all Jake's and Abe's letters and medals. The E is for Elkhart Lake, of Road America fame. Well, maybe fame. I'd be surprised if I have racing fans reading my blog. Abe had a special medal for 100 ?wins ?events but Jake just missed out because he only had 99. Abe, my brother tells me, has the perfectly-formed body for the exceptional runner.

The rest of the photos are here.

I didn't really have plans for after the party, and since none developed, I called my dad and asked if he'd like to go to dinner. I took him to Schreiner's Restaurant. He got liver and onions, which I remembered him getting years before when he took me to the Big Boy restaurant in long gone.

Finally, the next morning I visited my mom and her husband before I drove to catch my plane. At least they are voting for Barack Obama. I think the boys might be too. Mom and I went to lunch, and we stopped at a store to try to find a dress she could wear to a wedding.

Their neighbors had this cool bowling ball bug sculpture:

bowling ball bug

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