A DAD'S JOURNAL
Week 38- May 29 - Jun 4 Week: Home!
We headed out of Michigan very early Sunday morning before Memorial Day to make it to the farm in Wells, MN by evening. We stopped in the Chicago area for our last church visit at the mother of all mega-churches, Willowcreek in Barrington. The quality of facilities, programming, and resources is incredible, but like some of the other large churches we’ve visited, we would probably not feel comfortable making it a church home. This week’s whole service was based around special needs people. They helped lead the worship, there were interviews with parents of special needs children, and the message was excellent in teaching the congregation how it can better support those families among them.
We made it to Wells, Minnesota before evening and then enjoyed Memorial Day and some time with Brenda’s mother in town. We got out early for the small town parade with its one band, fire truck, ambulance, honor guard, and veterans wagon. The memorial service was a fitting end to the history lessons and war memorials visited the past year. A WWII veteran shared his Iwo Jima experience.
The most meaningful part of the service for me was when a student read the Gettysburg address. The kids had memorized Lincoln’s masterful speech while we were in Gettysburg. Images of the battlefield flashed in my head. Knowing looks of recognition between our family members reminded me again of how worthwhile all of these shared experiences will be for years to come.
Tuesday morning I got behind the wheel of the farm’s biggest tractor boasting even more horses than Harvey. I have enjoyed times in the past when we have gone down to the farm to help Brenda’s brother Don during planting or harvest. Even just a few hours helping with cultivating a tiny part of the almost one thousand acres they work was therapeutic. Again it was fitting that we end this adventure in the heartland, working the soil that feeds the nation. Ahh, I’ll always be a Midwest guy.
By Tuesday afternoon we parked Harvey at the home of our friends the Becks in Chaska less than twenty minutes from home. It would be our last night away from home. Nate got a chance to attend his class’s year-end school party, as did Jenna the next day. We are so thankful that all three kids seemed to be able to pick right up where they left off with their friends.
Driving up the front street late morning on Wednesday was surreal. It felt both like just yesterday and forever ago that we saw our home in the distance. Everyone was perched in the front of Harvey as the welcome home sign on our garage came into sight. I praise God for his protection and provision to see us safely back home.
We got an unexpected chance for a final tour of the trip on Thursday. After the hometown newspaper ran the article on our adventure after Christmas, we were contacted about appearing on Don Shelby’s live radio show on WCCO in Minneapolis once we returned.
The experience was unforgettable. While waiting for the end of an extra-inning Twins game before we went on air, Don gave us a VIP tour of the TV and radio production areas. Each news broadcast is like a dance carefully choreographed in real time. I was impressed with the teamwork needed to pull off each performance.
After our interview, we enjoyed meeting the news anchor staff as they were preparing for the five o’clock news. They were all very friendly and interested in our story. Anchor Jeanette Trompeter suggested that the TV station should broadcast a story on us yet that night on the ten o’clock news. Within two hours, she and a cameraman arrived at our house, took video, completed an interview, selected some of our photos, and put together a story before the news deadline. Again, I was quite impressed with the whole process! We also were very proud of the kids during the interviews. They have each gained confidence and poise as a result of all of the people they have met and experiences they have encountered this year.
The TV interview capped off the “intro to media” curriculum that the kids have completed on the trip. It started with newspaper after the interviews for the January Star Tribune feature. Then we experienced magazine production with Jenna and Leah’s interviews for an upcoming Sep/Oct article in American Girl magazine. Include these with Thursday’s radio and TV, and the web documentation throughout the year, and I think we’ve experienced just about every major facet!
Friday was the day that we actually emptied Harvey. It will be many more days to get everything back in order. We had purged tons of stuff before we left. Now as we prepare to unpack, we realize that there is so much more we can purge after seeing how little we lived on this past year. Leah led the way, immediately organizing her room down to the finest detail. This “life halftime” home reorganization has been yet another side benefit of the trip.
Okay, now it’s time for Part II of the trip’s trivia stats:
Four top budget items (highest first): Food, RV Parks, Diesel Fuel, Admissions
Different locations where we slept: 90
Wal-mart nights: 6 (Wal-mart allows you to dry dock in their parking lots and we used these during long travel stints.)
Families who hosted or met with us: 20
Favorite National Parks: Saguaro (Tucson), Everglades (Flamingo), Freedom Trail (Boston), Acadia (Maine)
Saturday morning the end hit me hard. My neighbor John Lacey taped the TV interview and made a welcome home DVD featuring it. After the interview portion, he added a slideshow of some of our photos with a patriotic fifty states song sung by school children in the background. As our experiences flashed by, a sunset picture of Leah was enough for me to lose it. The incredible blessing of this adventure had come to an end. In the same hour, as I was driving to an errand, I heard “Butterfly Kisses” on the radio. It is a song about a dad’s special relationship with his girl as she grows up and eventually gets married. I could barely drive through the tears… but I take solace that this year made incredible deposits in the family memory banks.
So this is it. Hopefully this website has in some small way shared this blessing with others- my family and friends. This incredible country is the best place on earth. I thank God daily for it, for my family and for my friends.