Before anyone asks me again, YES, I miss my son.  I get that question from everyone all the time.  Seriously.  I am thankful for today’s technology where I can see him and talk to him any time I want.  I received lots of hugs while home visiting.  We raised our son to be independent, not for me to be a hover-Mom the rest of his life.  But, YES, I miss him.  I am blessed that he misses me, too.

My Hometown:  Ottawa, Illinois.  I was adopted at 9 days old from Geneva, Illinois, but Ottawa is my hometown.  I know every street and avenue, every monument, the flow of both rivers, the schools and the people…well, most of them, any way!  Downtown Ottawa looks spectacular!  They do, however, need a better system for parking tickets.  They bestowed one of those damn things on me while home.  “Come to downtown Ottawa to dine and shop, but DO NOT stay past the time we want you to.” This meter reader is a ninja.  Beware!   We have been in many places where they have much better systems for parking.  Especially when I sat there watching store owners and county workers move their vehicles to a NEW spot every two hours.  Some things never, ever change.  Wake up, Ottawa.

We traveled back to Ottawa from July 6 to August 6.  A few weeks before we did that, I started setting up meetings with family and friends.  Boy, oh, boy, did I have connections!  I am very blessed.

The People:  It’s true: the longer you are away from someone you love, the harder it is.  I did a lot of fast talking and longer-than-usual hugs.  I caught up with their lives and they caught up with mine.

The Food:  I shall call this section my Fatty, Fatty Two-By-Four Tour.  Familiar food is an issue!  I had NO will power while home visiting.  None.  Shame on me!  How could I?  My friends who cooked for me are outstanding cooks and they know exactly what I love! Home cooking was not my issue.  It was eating out almost every meal.  That’s when my choices should have been a LOT better!  But, alas, it was familiar food, comforting me from missing my friends.  I need new coping skills, obviously!  It’s like I forgot all about portion control completely AND carbs are NOT my friends!  I shall do better next year while I work on shedding the extra pounds I added on during this visit.  (I still miss the hometown pizza!)

The Work:  I run a business and have a corporate office in Utica, Illinois.  Thank God for great friends who assist me with this while I’m off galavanting around the country.  What would I do without Jon and Linda?  I shudder to think.  I work every day – Monday through Sunday.  My husband retired, not me!  My friends didn’t mind me working from their table or the restaurant table.  I have great friends!  Thank you for understanding!

The Cemetery:  My Mom and Dad are there.  I still feel guilt “leaving” them with no flowers on holidays, no Veteran’s flag for my Daddy, and on and on.  Silly, you might say, but guilt nonetheless.  I made my visits with flowers and sadness.  I miss them every moment of every day.

The Golf:  I played a few rounds at three courses while home with friends and family.  The humidity got to me worse than I remember!  It’s the kind of dehydration that curls your toes.  The golf courses are in good shape and I realized that I prefer Pine Hills Golf Club to any other course in the area.  I grew up there learning to love golf with my Daddy.   We have played some beautiful courses in California, Arizona and Nevada and the local courses are pretty good and darn challenging.  What you will not see in California, Arizona and Nevada are 5- and 6-somes on the tee.  This must be an Ottawa thang.  Funny, I never see women playing with more than 4 people!  Thanks to my dear friend LPGA  Pro Kay Hines (who beats me every game), I can now hit a driver farther than most men.  I played with Kay while home.  Guess I still need more work!  Kevin played more than me and we enjoyed every game and the fun times we created with friends and family.

Riding:  Riding our Harleys around the area is still fun for us.  We know every road, every shortcut.  Route 71 from Ottawa to Starved Rock State Park is still a fun road on a motorcycle.  We know to slow down around the curves!  Wish we would have had more time to ride those familiar roads.

The Parks:  Starved Rock State Park used to be SOOOO big to us until we hiked Zion National Forest!  We went hiking at Starved Rock one time while home with our son and his beautiful girl.  It is still a fun time.  The area is blessed with several outstanding parks.  What we find weird is that there is no charge to go to the state parks.  We love parks and have visited them in every state we have been to.  Each one had an entrance fee that helps them with maintenance and people to maintain them.  We never balked at paying our fair share.  Illinois is woefully behind with regards to this.  Charge people, even a nominal fee to enter, and they will pay.  If they don’t, they certainly cannot go to Wisconsin or Michigan to hike for free.  They, too, have entrance fees.  With Illinois being so broke, this is an easy fix.  But, then again, people would have to get along in the capital to get this done.  What am I thinking?

Final Feelings:  I did my best to see as many people as I could while home.  I finally decided that if they didn’t reach out to me, I didn’t have to reach out to them.  My guilt stopped.  I started out driving myself crazy trying to figure out how to get everyone in.  You begin to realize you are not important to everyone and that’s okay.  I wouldn’t call it a “rude awakening”. I would call it “life”.  I do miss my hometown and the people I love.  Obviously, I miss the food.  Going “home” is comforting and exhausting.  I have not felt this exhausted in a very long time.  That’s okay, though, since I will catch up with rest on the road.

Thank you to everyone who made the time to see me, to cook for me, to dine with me or just grab a cup of coffee.  It really did mean the world to me.  I consider myself extremely blessed.

Going home…see you next year!

 ~ Sally