The luggage finally arrived after taking a tour through Chicago, Dallas, Des Moines, Kansas City and finally Lee’s Summit. It’s been to more places on this trip (so far) than I have. However, I got to explore a bit of Kansas City by car today, and even cross over into the state of Kansas.
We rolled up to John’s grandma’s house this morning and were greeted at the door by his great aunt in her bright red Chiefs sweatshirt. Once we said our hellos and exchanged hugs she resumed her post in front of the TV watching the football game. John’s grandma is one amazing woman, I knew this before I met her but it’s been reaffirmed. She’s 89 years young and full of stories after which she usually tosses a wink in your direction. “Well did you hear about her? She’s almost dead. Okay, no, well, she’s 102 and she’s still makin’ tortillas!”
She gave me a tour of her dining room starting with the Thanksgiving cactus. This was followed by a description of each person in every photo and pointing out pieces of art that the grandkids will have to fight over when she’s gone. There was a big frame on the back wall with a collage of pictures and trinkets in honor of her husband, John’s grandpa, who passed in 2002. “I speak to him every day,” she said then walked over to a hutch and picked up a framed piece of paper. On it was printed a few paragraphs in courier font, plain black and white, but I could see her eyes twinkling with emotion when she passed it over to me. “From John Bollwitt’s Web Site,” it read across the top.
The ordinary sheet of printer paper that grandma held so dear included an except from a blog post John wrote in May of 2004.
…. “Grandpaâ€™s chairâ€¦ Itâ€™s still there. It was his chair. When we would visit, you could always sit in that chair. When grandpa came into the room, you got out and let him have it. He would sit their and watch the Kansas City Royals. Novellas. The news. He would also take his famed naps. Grandma always hated for him to fall asleep in that chair because then he wouldnâ€™t sleep at night, in turn not letting her sleep through the night. Sheâ€™d yell at him from the kitchen, â€œLouie! Wake up!,â€ followed by a string of words spoken in spanish, english, or both….” (Read the full post on John’s Blog)
I admit, I get emotional thinking about how I’ll never meet this person who was so special to John, however I’m glad that I get to be here now anyway. On a similar note, he won’t ever meet my Opa as well but his memory lives on through stories, photos, and the warm smiles we all get when we think about him. Sure, I’ve only been a part of John’s family for a few years, but meeting these people, being welcomed into their homes and experiencing their spirit makes me feel home. John’s great aunt who was born and raised in Kansas City said, “this is the Heart of America.” I believe it, but I also think I’ll get this same feeling when I’m in Iowa tomorrow at my mother and father-in-law’s house. Home is family – in whatever state, country or capacity.
We leave the “Show Me” state in the morning, more updates to come from Iowa.