My brother, Mike, his wife, Kris and their two kids, Allana and Nathan, had arrived earlier in the week and were staying with my mom and dad as well. My Aunt Pat and Uncle Sid had arrived earlier as well, but were staying in a motel. I didn't see Pat and Sid on Friday night but visited with Mom, Dad, Mike and Kris for a while before everyone but Dad and I turned in. We stayed up watching late night Olympic coverage; at least until Mom came out at about 2:00 a.m. and turned off the TV. This obviously woke me up from where I was napping in the couch as I awoke at 2:30 and went off to bed, leaving Dad snoring in his chair. I read a bit of Ringworld and then fell back asleep.
Saturday morning, Mike and Nathan appeared to be the first one's up. Nathan is four and a half and I became his favorite toy for the couple of days I was there. He taught me to play Disney Uno and we played with his toy dinosaurs. There was much playful wrestling and tickling, which seemed to delight him to no end. His sister got in on the act a little later in the day and I was in constant demand from one, the other or both of them.
Around noon we headed out to a local park where a shelter had been reserved for us and met up with the gathering relatives. I recognized a few, but most were unfamiliar to me. Still, it was a nice time. Caught up with the relatives I knew and talked with one or two that I didn't recall. Many pictures were taken and the huge spread was eagerly devoured.
After a few hours, we headed out to visit my paternal grandmother for a bit. She's looking well for a woman of her age and has settled into her new home (a nice trailer on the edge of town). It was nice that, even in unfamiliar surroundings, I could tell it was her place because of all the little touches that seem to be the provence of grandmothers.
Then it was back out to Mom and Dad's place for dinner. Pat and Sid came by after the reunion broke up and stayed through the evening. After dinner, Nathan, Allana and I went for a walk out in the field behind my folks' place. My father's planted hundreds of little pine and spruce trees in this field, but they are just barely peeking out above the grass and weeds growing out there. I recognized some goldenrod, brown-eyed susan and some kind of aster among the unremarkable grasses. There were a few places, however, where the grass was interesting as well, with pretty seedheads filling out in the late summer. Allana and Nathan came up with all manner of little games to play while we walked. Nathan liked to hide in the tall grass that was often as tall as he was. Allana gathered the seeds of the grasses as we walked.
We were eventually called in by their father (he's no fun) citing the gathering dark, the growing chill and approaching bedtime.
Once the kids were off to bed, the adults settled in to watch The Last Samurai on DVD. It was enjoyable enough, but I can see the objections that many of my friends had for it. I only got to see bits and snatches of it as I seemed to keep getting interrupted by one thing or another.
Once that was done, though, I packed up and headed home. Ericka would have no helper in the morning and I was awake anyway so the drive through the middle of the night would be no great hardship. I was stocked up on drinks and snacks for the trip and had my trusty iPod along so there should be no problem.
Well, as I turned south to catch the highway that would take me, eventually, to the interstate and back to Minneapolis, I began to see flashes of light in the night sky. I drove into the teeth of a thunderstorm between Deer River and Grand Rapids. The lightning flashed, lighting the highway better than a moonlit night. The rain varied between steady and torrential and patches of fog drifted over the warm asphalt as the air cooled. I filled up in Grand Rapids, glad to have the bit of a break. The storm seemed to have passed on and I got clear of it by Floodwood where I turned down Highway 73 on my way to I-35. Once I got on the interstate, however, I hit another chunk of the storm. I eventually got tired of driving through the patchy torrents as the interstate cut across the storm front so I pulled over in Hinkley to wait it out. I tried my hand at blackjack at the casino there, doing about as well as I usually do (breaking about even over a couple of hours) and was pleased to see that the storm had subsided as I left.
I got in early Sunday morning only to discover that I'd left that copy of Ringworld back up at my folks! I called up later in the morning to report that I'd made it in and to see if Mike could bring the book down with him when they drove home on Sunday.
Then there was a lot of sleeping, watching the Twins complete their sweep of the Indians, more sleep and catching up on email and such. Time now for some more sleep and then to work on my regular schedule this evening.