I was raised with that mentality, that one’s family is the most important thing. My little brother and I grew up with parents that stayed married. Holidays were spent at my mom’s parents’ house, often with uncles and aunts and cousins. We spent a lot of time with my grandparents- camping, fishing, celebrating a birthday or Mother’s Day or Saturday. They babysat us when my folks went on grown-up vacations. They put together elaborate treasure hunts for the cousins on Easter in their yard. They bribed a neighbor with a bottle of booze to dress up as Santa for us every single Christmas Eve.
I could literally write a book about the wonderful memories of my childhood related to my grandparents. On their 55th wedding anniversary, my grandmother pulled me aside and said, “Can you believe it?! 55 years without killing each other!” And then she laughed her cackle-y grandma laugh that I can still hear today, over 10 years since she’s passed away.
My grandpa is a strong, tough man. He was in the Navy. He’s covered in tattoos (my favorite is a hula lady on his shoulder who dances when he flexes). He drinks Canadian whiskey. When he hugs me, it’s always THIS CLOSE to being too tight. He’s gruff and sometimes stubborn (family trait), but he’s actually a big softie full of love. And he’s the reason I took a trip to Durango last week.
Four years ago, my grandpa went on a blind date. (He was 85 years old then.) He met a woman named Edie (who was 81) and they fell in love. They take care of each other. They hold hands when walking down the street or sitting next to each other on the couch. They sometimes travel, to Vegas to see Willie Nelson or, last week, to visit my folks. The last time I saw Grandpa (and my first introduction to sweet Edie) was two years ago, when John and I found ourselves in the Kern River Valley with Betty- a place I’d camped throughout my childhood, and where my grandpa lives now. There was no way I was going to miss the chance to visit while they were in Durango.
An hour into the drive, Cholula seemed to need a break, so I pulled over and walked her through a quiet park. I turned to see her rolling in what I thought was mud (which it was not). The subsequent stinky car, unplanned stop for a big jug of water, and roadside poo bath put a damper on our progress. By the time I arrived at my folks’ house, it was time to clean up and head out to dinner with the fam at the Mahogany Grill.
On Saturday, we bought yarn for Edie’s beautiful crochet projects and strolled Main Street after lunch at Tequila’s. Dad took each of them for a ride in his sporty little car, recently restored. The best part of everything was just being together. We ended the day with a delicious steak dinner, Grandpa-style.
On Sunday, Grandpa and Edie packed up their SUV to continue their trip, off to Albuquerque to visit Edie’s brother. I got one of my too-tight hugs and the wink I always thought Grandpa reserved just for me.
The rest of my time in Durango was filled with relaxation with my folks, strolling Cholula along the river and under the golden cottonwood grove, and visiting old friends. I never feel like I have enough time in Durango; I spread myself too thin between the people I want to see. This trip was different. I felt like I was able to give the people I love my full attention (even if only for a happy hour, a 3-hour lunch, or a night out to dinner).
I got a late start home on Tuesday, squeaking in one last coffee chat with Sarah before hitting the road. I spent the 7 hours in the car reminiscing, marveling at the number of years between my memories and today. Time together is precious, because it doesn’t last forever. I felt lucky to have such a loving family, lucky to have a spry grandfather and lucky to welcome Edie to the pack. I pointed the car toward home, where I was lucky enough to have John awaiting our arrival. My own little family, almost a year into new traditions and making memories of our own, would be reunited.
Nothing’s more important.