I loved loved loved taking the train across the country. Oh yeah- I didn’t mention this in the last post, but I have arrived safely and soundly in San Francisco. And yes, Journey has been running through my head all day. The train goes through the gorgeous great plains,the awe-inspiring Rockies and Sierra Nevada, and plunges through valleys that are filled with so much color it feels wrong to take a picture that could never capture the beauty of it all. Also, the train goes where cars cannot, so you see views you wouldn’t see if you were driving the route.
That love aside, the last leg of the train was especially difficult for me. And not because it was a 33 hour ride (surprisingly it didn’t feel like 33 hours, I barely noticed that I was on the train that long). I was struck, quite suddenly, by a vast emptiness as we wound through the golden landscape of Utah. I was gazing out at the canyons when I heard a little girl laugh behind me. I turned to see her laying across her dad while he told her stories. This scene made my stomach lurch and my heart to ache so deeply my eyes immediately swelled with tears. I miss my dad so much sometimes it physically hurts me. I think seeing that sweet father/daughter pair enjoying a train ride made me yearn for my father’s company, to hear his laugh fill up the cabin, to watch him comfortably slip into conversations with strangers, to listen to his stories and enjoy our train trip together.
There are times, more often than I could count, that I remember he is gone and it literally takes my breath away. Although I feel closer to him than I have in awhile, those moments are occurring more frequently on this trip. Whenever I see something I know he would love, my breath disappears and my chest tightens, and I am so consumed with love and sadness that I feel as though my heart could burst. But, I am incredibly happy that I am taking this trip, checking one thing after another off my list, so that I can feel the sadness and the grief, so that I can feel my dad’s presence surrounding me again and again.
Okay, so I feel I should preface this entry with an explanation (albeit a brief one) of the type of person I am. I am the kind of person who tends to recognize signs in her life. I don’t necessarily look for them, but when I notice small coincidences and moments I take them as a “sign” that I am in fact on the right track. Perhaps I am, on some level, searching for these signs. Perhaps I simply recognize the moments and happenings that would normally slip by me unnoticed because I crave some sort of approval from my dad. Instead of musing about why I tend to notice these moments, I thought I would share two of the stand-outs here with you.
Hello Papa Bear
The day we arrived in the fine city of Chicago, Mary and I were so tired and overwhelmingly hungry that Annie Funke immediately took us to a glorious breakfast place near her house. After the delicious breakfast burrito (side note- this is my single favorite breakfast item), Annie gave us a tour of her favorite shops in her neighborhood. I was purousing the novelties items in one of the stores – including bacon mints and nacho gum- when a cute mug caught my eye. It had an egg with giant glasses on it and the word head under it. Egghead. Adorable.
As I walked away from the mugs something caught my eye. It had a bear wearing a bow tie and the word PAPA over it- PAPA BEAR. My dearest nickname for my dad. The name I alone called him, the name I say whenever I visit his grave to talk to him. I will admit here that I got giddy when I saw it and almost purchased said mug. Then I took a moment and decided that I should take a picture of it on my phone and accept it as a sign that my dad was a fan of my trip – and consequently, of my trip.
What’s that mean in spanish?
So as I previously reported, the Cubs game was awesome and Wrigley field was equally cool. But what I may have left out was the name of the team the Cubs played during the game I went to for my Papa Bear. The San Diego Padres. The Fathers. Annie Funke pointed that out to me- I thought she deserved a shout out for that one.
I will continue to notice these signs as long as they are sent to me, and I will continue to share them with you.
I really hadn’t planned much for our 2nd day in Chicago except for the Cubs game that night, so we pretty much spent the day wandering throughout the city while Annie was at work.
My first thought on our wanderings: I love the “L”. LOVE. IT. It puts public transit in other cities to shame. Its clean (like the rest f Chicago), fast, runs on time, and the view is spectacular. Of course I was there in the summer, not the winter when the weather may cause some issues.
Mary and I both were like children on the train, constantly looking out the window and generally being amazed at the ridiculously cool architecture throughout the city. We rode the train from Lincoln Square to the Loop and started the day by wandering through Millennium Park and checking out the awesome installation art. Again, the view from the park is pretty breathtaking, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since Chicago seems to be an overall awesome city. (At this point some of you may be thinking that if I love it so much I should move there, and believe me I am considering it). The modern designs at the park were amazing. In fact, if I hadn’t purchased the Cubs tickets (and if the ball game wasn’t such a central part f my trip) I would have elected to stay in the park for the free concert that night. In the park, there is an interactive fountain (see pic) that I know my dad would have absolutely loved. I could almost hear is laugh when I first saw it.
After the park we ventured over to the Chicago cultural center and saw a Chicago bull…haha. We wanted to see the Tiffany Dome because we heard it was breath-taking. It was. The whole dome and interior is a mosaic, and I don’t know about you, but mosaics of any kind always impress me greatly.
The only way to possibly follow that beauty is obviously with a trip to McDonald’s. Only we didn’t go to just any Mickey D’s we went to the Rock-n-Roll McDonald’s. The only corporate owned, flagship McDonald’s. And let me tell you this was fine dining. I’m talking leather lounge chairs, gelato bar fine dining. Let me take a moment here to explain why going to Mickey D’s is a fitting tribute to my father. He loved McDonald’s. So much so that when he was out and we didn’t know where, it was a pretty safe assumption that he was in McDonald’s. I once lost him for an hour in 30th Street Station, and after looking frantically for him I found him sitting in a hidden booth in McDonald’s eating a quarter pounder and sipping on some coke. At his funeral, my nieces and nephews stopped at McDonald’s to get napkins and straws for his coffin. So considering this deep love affair, I thought it only fitting to stop at this McDonald’s in the city where McDonald’s was founded to munch on some fries.
After such a busy day, Mary, Annie, and I headed over to Wrigley field to watch the Cubs play. This was by-far the most emotional part of my trip as yet. I can still remember my dad telling me that he wanted to see a game at Wrigley and Fenway because that was the way baseball was and should be: played in a park that has stood the test of time and is owned by the fans, not a bank.
The park itself is pretty awesome. Everything about it feels historic. Except for the 6.75 beers; that just feels painful. Perhaps the greatest part of the game (only because the Cubs lost) was watching my friend Annie eat an entire bag of Kettle Corn (12 servings) because the men next to her said she couldn’t. She ate it in 3 and a half innings. A feat that surely would have impressed my father.
I have been trying to link pictures to this blog, let me know if you can view them please. Happy trails!
Okay, so I didn’t have a chance to blog on the first day of the trip, but the Chicago leg was so busy I have to separate it into tw parts. The train took a little over 22 hours to arrive in Chicago but it was amazing and hilarious. The woman in front of us from Boston to somewhere in the middle of Ohio clipped her nails fr wahat seemed like 22 hours. Gross.
Finally, we started to see Lake Michigan and the beautiful Chicago skyline in the distance. Annie Funke met us at Union Statioon and we were on our way. Tired and hungry, we stumbled into brunch and had some glorious breakfast food. We toured Annie’s neighborhood (Lincoln Square) and napped. Really exciting, I know.
We missed Second City (they were sold out 😦 ) but we imprvised and went to see the Willis Tower instead. Most importantly we went and got deep dish at Pequods- simply amazing. We went to the Willis Tower – 103 stories above Chicago and it took our breath away. Literally, Mary almost passed out and vertigo was definetly n the menu for Annie and me. They have a glass ledge that you can walk out on so its like you are walking on air.
We went to a bar and chilled for a bit, had some gose something beer. I think it was goose necks urban, but that might be a lie.
Overall, the first day was a success!!!
I decided to move this blog to wordpress because I heard it was easier for beginning bloggers to navigate, and f0r me to upload pictures from my trip. I have not blogged in quite a bit for several reasons. First, I have been preparing for my cross-country train trek so I can cross that off the list. Second, I have found it difficult to blog about my dad; well I suppose it would be more accurate to say that it is difficult to blog about my feelings. I promise to be more active with this blog on my trip and in the future.
For anyone unfamiliar with this blog, I am doing what I describe as a reverse bucket list for my dad. He passed away on New YEar’s Day this year, and I have been struggling with my grief since then. The idea for this started in February when my sisters and I were forced to take the train to Disney World because f inclimate weather. My dad’s favorite place on Earth was Disney (and Ireland and anywhere else he found beautiful) and he had always wanted to take the train down to Orlando. From the start, my sisters and I preserved my dad’s memory. We rode the rides he loved, ate in the places he loved, and generally had a wonderful trip. For me, it was the first time I truly laughed after he died and the first time I felt close to him again.
So I created a list of things I know my dad always wanted to do and my plan is to cross each thing off one at a time. Here is the list:
– play a practical joke
– take all the kids to McDonald’s
– take a train from Philly to California
– drive up (or down) the coast of California
– go to Ireland and see the land his family left
– go to the Kentucky Derby (buy a fancy hat for it)
– visit the Grand Ol’Opry and Dollywood
– watch a game at Wrigley Field
– watch a game at Fenway Park
– play triples and powerball
– get a cheesesteak from Mom’s
– go to Alaska and see the glaciers
– see the Northern Lights
– go down the shore
– go to the Italian Market and the Reading Terminal
– go to Disney World
– get on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (I know this is a bit far fetched)
I will be adding to this list as time goes and letting everyone know where I am going prior so my friends and family can join me along the way…