Well, it sort of looked like Ireland.
I mean, I think it sort of looked like Ireland but since I’ve never been to Ireland, I really can’t be sure.
What it was, was Southeast Kansas. Specifically it was a stretch of the Flint Hills between Fredonia and Wichita my wife and I were driving through on Tuesday.
If things had gone according to plan, we might have been on our way to Ireland instead of Wichita but Covid pretty much dashed those plans.
Actually, I’m not sure plans can be “dashed” but if they can our plans to go to Ireland for our 30th anniversary were.
To be honest Covid didn’t actually dash our plans. The selfish morons who refuse to get vaccinated dashed our plans. But I guess that’s spilt milk.
My wife and I were driving to Wichita to celebrate our 30th anniversary. The reason we were driving to Wichita to celebrate our 30th anniversary was because we wanted to spend it with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Ev.
My wife and I got married on a sailboat in Key West, Florida. Jim and Ev were part of that wedding.
By the way, one of the reasons we decided to get married on a sailboat in Key West was because I thought people would offer us free drinks to celebrate our wedding.
I was wrong.
Turns out a lot of people get married in Key West so, not only do people not offer you free drinks if you get married there, but some people want you to offer them free drinks.
I didn’t think that was fair.
The other reason we got married on a sailboat in Key West was because I thought we would be in international waters so the marriage wouldn’t count.
I’ve told a version of that same joke many, many times and my wife has never once laughed.
I’ve always been close to Jim and Ev. I lived with them for a while when I was attending Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Southern Illinois was one of the many colleges I attended while I was searching for the perfect school mascot.
And dodging parking ticket fines.
After we got married my wife and I stayed close to Jim and Ev. I even got my wife to overcome her fear of the outdoors by going on float trips with Jim and Ev.
So last week when my wife and I were talking about our upcoming anniversary we decided the full circle thing to do would be to spend the day with Jim and Ev.
The past few years haven’t been easy on my aunt and uncle. Several years ago Jim began fading a bit. Gradually Jim went from having good and bad days to having good and bad moments forcing Ev to make some tough decisions. But those decisions were made and handled with strength, grace and good humor.
And while Jim might not always be the same Jim that I’ve known since I was six-years-old there are times when his quick, sharp, humor rears its head. There are times when he will look at you with that deadpanned expression he is so famous for and say something that will make you laugh. And laugh.
Something that will make you realize that the Jim we all know is still there.
Tuesday, when we were visiting with them, Ev asked Jim if he wanted to go to the bathroom before we ate lunch. Jim looked at Ev for a second, then he looked at me smiled and said “If you think it will help.”
And we all laughed.
It was a moment is what it was.
We had a nice lunch. My wife and I sat with Jim, Ev and my cousin Pam and we talked and remembered. Most of the time Jim sat quietly while we chatted. But every once in a while, something would trigger a memory and Jim would briefly join the conversation or laugh at something he thought was funny.
It was a nice lunch.
On the drive back to Carthage, my wife insisted we stop in Fredonia.
My dad was in the military so we moved a lot when I was a kid. During all of those moves my dad’s hometown of Fredonia served as something of a home port for us.
Between moves, my family would spend parts of several summers in Fredonia.
We even lived in Fredonia for about six months before we left to spend a few years in Okinawa.
I’ve told my wife a lot of stories about Fredonia so she decided I should take her on a tour of sorts around the town. I showed my wife where my grandmother’s house used to be. I showed her where the house my family lived in use to be and I showed her the building that used to be the Catholic school I attended.
Basically I showed my wife a lot of places where things used to be.
I’m sort of old.
There was one thing I showed my wife that still is: The Tri Mee Drive-Inn.
When I was a kid my brother Pat and sister Mary used to walk from my grandmother’s house to the municipal swimming pool and when we did, we would pass the Tri-Mee. Somedays if we were lucky and happen to have 20 or 30 cents, we would stop at the Tri-Mee on the way home from the pool and get a couple orders of fries.
If we were even luckier our parents might even take us to the Tri-Mee for dinner. If you were a kid living in Fredonia in the 1960s a trip to the Tri-Mee or the Dairy Queen on a hot summer evening was about as close to heaven as you could get.
It’s possible the drive-inn back then wasn’t called the Tri-Mee and perhaps the ownership might have changed over the years. All I know is the food was and still is really good.
Over the years I’ve mentioned to my wife how great the food was at the Tri-Mee. Tuesday, she said I should show her how great it was.
So I did.
I’ll admit it. Wichita isn’t Ireland and Fredonia isn’t Key West.
But they’ll do.
In a full circle sort of way.