The SUV's arrival in Columbus, Monday afternoon, signaled the start of three of the most wonderful days of my life. Beth was at the wheel of the rig, as she called the vehicle, Hayden and MaKenna were snug in their car seats, and Debbie was the copilot.
The only time I had seen Hayden was in March 2011, when Nancy and I went west for a few days, joining up with Karen and Russ along the way. Hayden was six months old; a tiny little guy, who had been born three months prematurely and had spent most of his life to that point in the hospital. These days, Hayden is a typical four-and-a-half-year old, except he is much better looking and far more intelligent. OK, the looks are a matter of taste, and some people with very questionable taste might think Hayden is less handsome than I do. I am confident, though, that once he starts school his performance on the standardized tests will place him comfortably in the upper percentiles. Seriously. The kid is bright.
MaKenna, now a week shy of her second birthday, is a sweetheart. She is even more adorable in person than she is in the pictures Beth posts on Facebook. Despite having been on the road since - as a former colleague in the Star Beacon sports department used to say - the butt crack of dawn Friday, neither Hayden nor MaKenna exhibited even the smallest hint of crankiness Monday afternoon and evening. Wow.
Debbie is the happy grandma. Sitting in Russ and Karen's living room, she'd say "Hayden" and tap her leg a few times with her hand. Hayden would go over and get on her lap for some grandmotherly loving. After a few minutes, he'd squirm until she let him down. Looking around, Debbie would find MaKenna and repeat the process.
Beth is a force of nature. If I had to choose between getting in her way or getting in the way of a speeding locomotive, I'd opt for the locomotive. While she was here, Beth got an email from someone to let her know a person with whom she and Ken had some business dealings had done them wrong. Beth didn't spend much time huffing, puffing and swearing. But it was obvious she was doing what she could from 2,400 miles away to get her ducks in a row and prepare for the battle that is sure to take place.
Tuesday, Beth and the kids spent a few hours with me at Covenant Woods. As he had done at Karen and Russ' place and in all the motel rooms along the way, Hayden located the fire alarm, smoke detector and heating vents in my apartment. After lunch, Hayden and MaKenna both had a grilled cheese sandwich, we went outside to enjoy the sunshine. We ambled over toward the C Building, where Hayden found a plastic pumpkin under some shrubs. It was piece of the Halloween decoration that had been overlooked in the putting-things-back phase.
In a very informal ceremony in their apartment, Karen and Russ were married Wednesday afternoon. There was a nice little crowd in the living room. Penny and Mitch, Karen's mother and stepfather. Mitch, a Rabbi, conducted the service. Dan, Karen's father, and her sister Colleen, were there, too. Besides Russ' parents, sister, niece and nephew, his Uncle Jim and Aunt Susan were there from Birmingham. A good time was had by all. And to reinforce my belief that he's a young man of unusual intelligence, Hayden somehow managed to keep all the names straight. No easy thing in a room full of strangers.
Then it was over, and Thursday morning Idaho delegation headed west. What wonderful memories they left behind, along with promise to come to Georgia at least once, possibly twice, a year from now on.
Before they return, I must bolster my resolve to not dwell on those things I cannot do. That had never been a big problem until I watched Russ get down on the floor and roll around with Hayden and MaKenna. I wanted so much to be down there too. And I wanted to be able to lift them up spin around several times.
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