Friday, January 14, 2011

Back in St. Petersburg: An Overdue Update

On the date of our last blog post (December 13th), Todd dropped me off at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International airport around noon to catch a flight to Missouri.


After waiting more than eight hours at the airport for a “rescue” flight crew to arrive (ours was stranded elsewhere), we finally got underway and landed in Springfield shortly before midnight. Thankfully, our faithful friend Everett was there to provide transportation, food and lodging after a very long day!

Tuesday morning Everett drove me to Mansfield where my nephew Greg and his wife Crystal met us and took me the rest of the way to Bucyrus, a very small town about five miles west of Houston (also a small town) where my niece, Jennifer, lives.

The primary purpose of my extended visit to Missouri was to help my recently paralyzed niece adjust to life at her trailer after having spent the better part of the past five months in the hospital and in various rehabilitation centers undergoing therapy.

Jennifer had just returned home Monday afternoon and had a number of medical appointments lined up. So our first week was spent traveling to various appointments in Houston, Springfield and Columbia; dealing with the new healthcare aids and their schedules; and learning to cope with the many issues associated with Jennifer’s paralysis. All in all, it was extremely time-consuming and totally exhausting!

Todd, on the other hand, took off from St. Petersburg on Wednesday, December 15th, to surprise his parents with an early Christmas visit to Colorado. While there he spent time with nieces Shannon, Sara and Kirsten, as well as older sister Cindy who celebrated a birthday on December 16th.

Lunch with Todd’s dad, Bill (on the left), and “the guys,” a weekly event for Bill.


From left to right: Nieces Sara, Shannon and Kirsten.


Kirsten and Bill.


Todd’s sister Cindy and mom Marilyn.


Celebrating Cindy’s birthday.



Kirsten and Cindy going through storage bins in the basement.


On December 22nd, Todd joined me in Missouri. Everett picked him up at the airport and then I drove to Springfield to meet them for a Missouri State Bears basketball game. Everett’s wife Nila got a couple of extra tickets to the President’s suite and invited us to join her. While there we enjoyed seeing and visiting with several former University co-workers. Among them were Bob & Linda Eckels who took this photo with Bob’s iPhone and sent it to us.

Posing with the Bears mascots. Growl and Boomer. A lovely shot – NOT!


After a short reprieve, it was back to Bucyrus the next day to help Jennifer get things organized in her trailer. On Christmas Day we all met at my brother’s house (Dewayne) where his wife, Pennie, prepared a wonderful holiday meal.


From left to right: Greg’s wife Crystal, sister-in-law Pennie, niece Jennifer, and my mom.


Time to open gifts!



Nephew Greg on the left with his two girls, Lily and Emily; and Pennie’s daughter, Nikki, with her boyfriend Derrick on the right.


Two-year-old Emily.


And four-year-old Lily.


Crystal helps Jennifer open her gifts.


My dad and Greg.


And my mom.


On Wednesday the 29th, the weather warmed up so my dad and Todd took off to spend a few days at Lake of the Ozarks where they ended up catching over a hundred crappie! But by Friday the weather turned cold again and it was time to come home.

Jennifer wanted to go out on New Year’s Eve so we went to the Eagles Lodge with my younger brother Jimmy and his friend Mike. Like Jennifer, Mike was paralyzed in a diving accident when he was twenty-seven, twenty years ago, and has learned to manage quite well on his own. Hopefully he will be able to offer Jennifer some guidance.

We were also joined at the Eagles by Dewayne & Pennie on their way home from a gathering at a friend’s house. Unfortunately, midnight came and went with no countdown, no announcement, no champagne, nothing. Pretty lame venue overall but it was nice spending the evening with family.

On Thursday, January 6th, we decided to say our good-byes. We had pretty much done all we could do for Jennifer and it was time to see if she could manage on her own, with the assistance of the healthcare aids who come in a couple of times a day. It will be a challenging, on-going learning process for Jennifer and only time will tell how well she will be able to cope.

Greg & Crystal drove us to Mountain Grove that afternoon where Everett met us and took us on to Springfield. We then met Nila and friend Kelli Teale for drinks at Marinades followed by dinner at Big Whiskey.

We spent some time on campus Friday, visiting and putting out feelers for job opportunities, and then went to another Bears basketball game that evening. After the game we met up with the Hayes, the Eckels and the Marty’s (also former co-workers) at nearby Ebbets Field for food, drinks and conversation.

Saturday afternoon Kelli Teale joined us at the Hayes’ residence for a fish fry featuring some of the crappie dad and Todd caught at Lake of the Ozarks the previous week, accompanied by fried potatoes, cole slaw and Nila’s homemade garlic-cheese biscuits. And to top it all off, we had strawberries and Everett’s freshly made piecrust for dessert. Mmm Mmm Good!

On Sunday we picked Kelli up on our way to Avanzare, a local Italian restaurant, to meet up with another friend, Greg, who was hosting a private gathering to watch the Kansas City Chiefs Wild Card game against the Ravens. Unfortunately, the Chiefs did not prevail but it was good to see Greg again. Greg used to be the University’s Vice President for Administration & Finance and is now the City Manager for the City of Springfield.

And then came Monday, January 10th, time to return to Florida. After a four-hour flight delay, including de-icing the plane before take-off, we made it back to St. Petersburg about 10:45 p.m. Cathy was gracious enough to pick us up at the airport and bring us home to “Life’s2Short.”

Today is Friday, January 14th, and both Todd and I have spent the week nursing colds and trying to stay warm. The day after we returned to Florida, a cold front moved in and it has been unseasonably cold since. But the forecast is looking up for the weekend with sunshine and daytime highs in the mid- to upper 60’s, which we are very much looking forward to!