We rent a car, with Elden’s help (a ride to the agency), and strike out for Rock Hill, SC, to visit the Viapianos. Jim and Mary, like Elden, have known Jerry longer than I have. They’re the kind of friends you think of as family, and miss like hell if the fates take them away from you. In this case, the fates are grandchildren, so we can’t even be bitter about their decision to leave Burlington a little over year ago to be closer to their three daughters (but really, I think, their three grandchildren). We are holding their son, Andy, hostage in VT.
Taking after his mother, Rosalie, who lives with them, Jim is an amazing cook. He’s also smart, gregarious, funny and theatrical. Ask him about a show he enjoyed, and you might be treated to a reenactment. Well, not so much anymore, because he’s mellowed, but when I first met him, I was treated to the Jim rendition of Les Mis.
Mary is a blast – extremely generous – always doing something for someone, be it making a quilt, making a pitcher of cosmopolitans for a party, making all the guest gifts for her four children’s weddings, and sometimes doing all of the above at the same time. The weddings, by the way, have all occurred since 2011. (Well, Andy’s will be in April in VT, and our son Connor is in it, which has created our drop-all-else-and-take-a-train-home deadline date for the return from this trip.)
Driving to Rock Hill in a car feels ridiculously strange, if familiar. When I get on the bike a few days later, I’ll feel the loss of that seatbelt, and – stranger still – I’ll half reach for a non-existent turn signal as we make our way out of Elden’s street.
Jim and Mary will not be home when we arrive. They were due to fly back from Vermont the day before, having visited Andy and his fiancee, Sarah, but got delayed by weather. So we spend some time with Rosalie, and get all the dirt before they show. 🙂
They arrive an hour or so after we do, and we all go out to a wonderful dinner at one of their favorite restaurants in their newly adopted city. (Jim and Mary adopt cities, friends, neighbors, coworkers, like the rest of us adopt TV shows. They can just pick up, start over, and fit in. Amazing…) We go home, good night good night, hugs all around, head off to bed.
Jerry wakes with the plague. Seriously. He comes down with some terrible malady and is as ill as I’ve seen him in a long time the next morning. It’s not the food. He has a flu or something equally horrible. He stays upstairs so as not to infect a Viapiano, large or small. (A grandchild is in the house that morning…)
Meanwhile, while supporting him emotionally, I go out for lunch with Jim and Mary! I play with the baby! I chat with Rosalie! I get a massage! From time to time, I check on Jerry, bring him tea, try not to catch the plague. I really do feel terrible for him. We’ve been looking forward to this visit for months. 😦
Late that night, Jerry emerges. He takes little steps. He watches us eat the wonderful meal that Jim has prepared (and had described for us the night before, to whet our appetites…) He watches a movie with us, lying on the carpeted floor, snoozing on and off. As usual, Mary and Jim take this all in stride. One great thing about people with four children and three grandchildren: they understand illness. “Hey, this is the place to rest and relax,” Jim keeps saying. And he’s right. Better now than on a biking day. But still, kind of a bummer.
The next day, Jerry’s a wee bit better. We pack up, put ourselves in the car, and head back to Elden’s. Hugs and kisses all around. Well, air kisses, from Jerry. The Viapianos won’t get sick, though. They’re super-human.
Out to lunch: Jim takes a photo of Mary feeding grandson Jake, (while somewhere in Rock Hill, Jerry sleeps the sleep of plague).