Our time in North Dakota was very well spent. It was a very rewarding venture as Jeannie got to bring her father "home" and renew the bond of family relationships with her dear cousins Jim and Evie. We left Grand Forks the next morning but only after a brief tour of downtown GF and a stop to see the home where Jeannie's mother Luverne lived many years ago. After an hour or so of crossing the MN / ND border at Crookston the terrain and vegetation changed remarkably. We went from pool table top flat farmlands to slight rolling hills and the start of the glacially made "land of lakes". As the license plate says, Land of 10,000 lakes and I believe it! We now have more coniferous and the deciduous trees which have begun to change in color. The Tamarack especially were turning bright yellow. The White Birch bark trees provided a striking contrast to both the dark terrain and colors of the changing foliage.
We meandered southward from Bemidji along twisty highways more often than not with lakes on both sides. As darkness grew we drove along Leach and Milacs Lakes, both so expansive you could not see across. With a rising moon to our east we continued south toward the Twin Cities. I had recently contacted cousins in the 'Cities" to see if they and families might be available for a visit in the days to come. I was very pleasantly surprised to hear back that we would meet in the days to come. To see cousins I grew up with in Minneapolis that I have not seen in over 10-20 years would be exciting. I especially wanted to see the "last lady standing" this would be my dear Aunt Mary (on my dad's side). She is the last of my 25 aunts and uncles. More importantly she was integral in helping me get through adolescence. We rolled into Rogers MN late that night, seeking out the best flat stealthy "landing pad" for our rig. We brought the temp up to 70 inside and had our hot showers before we turned in, it was in the 20s and very windy outside. Next day we met Patty and Marilee (Carlsens) at Aunt Mary's home, which is a beautiful assisted living facility. It was no surprise that she greeted us both with a hug and smile, quickly recalled times of vacations (in the Tetons specifically) sharing exact descriptions of places, things and people. I was really delighted to see my dear cousin Greg (Spike), who honestly I had not seen since the late 60s. We shared pizza, told stories and laughed, they kindly refrained from describing what a brat I was as a kid ! Just before we left Marilee asked Mary if she wanted to join us as we went outside...… so she could have her cigarette, I was amazed..... the girls shared that yes Mary still has two cigarettes a day, which without...well you know how the story goes!
The connections did not cease in those two days, I again was blessed to have connected with the Fitzhenry family. Yup, more cousins (heh my mom had 7 sisters). Jeannie and I met the four (Tom, Jeanne, Kevin and Kathy) and their spouses/BF at a local grill/pub. We reminisced over time past way past... we grew up together. It was so much fun to share various aspects of our lives and their children. Stories flew fast and furious, a couple hours later we adjourned to the parking lot for a tour of the van and photos with promises made of planning a Fox family reunion and bringing family together before the dreaded "reaper" did the scheduling for us.
We left later that day for Des Moines, where I experienced adolescence and the misery of HS before packing the '60 Chevy wagon and leaving home at 17. It's always a treat to go "home" to see brothers, sisters and family. This was no exception, what was to be only a couple days turned to five, time flies right?