Today is my dad’s birthday. I’ve spent a few moments today reading over his obituary and reflecting on his life and our relationship (and mourning my loss again), and so I thought I would spend some time writing about the past 10 days, since he has been in my thoughts a lot during them.
We started our vacation by heading to Houston to visit Jeremy’s family. Jeremy suggested that we take Bella to the Houston Livestock Show for the first time. This idea actually brought tears to my eyes because I have so many wonderful memories going to the Rodeo with my dad – I loved the idea of sharing that part of my childhood with Bella, but was sorrowful that my dad would not be a part of the experience.
Your PaPa was a Lifetime Director of the Rodeo – which is a very special Honor. He was very involved in the many different committees, but I most remember him as the Swine Auction Chairman because he was involved in that area of the Rodeo for a long time. As children, he and DeeDee would take me, Chrissie & Kevin to all types of Rodeo events during the months of February and May. We would all get dressed up in cowboy boots and hats and western garb. (You will probably crack up when you see photos of our fashions when you are older.) We always felt like we had extra special privileges, because he would arrange for us to sit in special sections, take us to see private areas other people couldn’t see, get us access to take pictures with the musicians (I even have a picture with Billy Rae Cyrus – you won’t know who he is…but you will probably know his daughter Miley when you get older…) – we even got to ride in the Grand Entry Parade a few times! Everyone knew who he was. His work at the Rodeo was important, because the money he helped raise would provide scholarships to children who couldn’t afford to go to college so that they could get an education. Coming from modest Luling, Texas, and being a self-made successful business person – he really believed in helping people become the best that they could be…You really enjoyed seeing the animals at the Livestock Show – especially taking the pony rides. All of those animals have a purpose (not just as food and pets) – they help raise funds for children to go to college. (As an aside – Your “aunt” Lizzie even raised a pig named Squeeky when we were in High School. She wouldn’t eat pepperoni for a few months after the auction as she grew pretty attached…ask her about it sometime.) We had a wonderful day with Grandpa George and MiMi taking you to see the Livestock Show even though we probably only saw 3% of it as it has really grown even bigger over the last 10 years. When you are older, I would love to take you to see the Rodeo – it is quite an experience. My favorites growing up were the Bull Riding and the Calf Scramble – I know you will love them too.
You had a really nice visit with Grandpa George and MiMi, and then MiMi took us down to Galveston (another place I have alot of childhood memories) for some fresh gulf seafood at a restaurant your Daddy went to ALL the time growing up, “Shrimp & Stuff”. We ate TONS of delicious gulf seafood. While your daddy, MiMi and I opted for the delicious fried gulf shrimp, you were content with Catfish. (You still haven’t taken a liking to our favorites shrimp and crab…more for me :)…
Then MiMi dropped us off at the BIG cruise ship to meet up with 4 generations of our family. My MeMe, Big Don, DeeDee, Aunt Sissy, Silly Uncle Charlton, your cousins – Chandler, Caden & Conor, Uncle Kevvy and your 2nd Cousins Chantelle, Brian & Brody, and your Great Aunt Pam were all already on the ship. I wish that PaPa could have come – he had talked about us all going on vacation together after he got out of the hospital. This was Daddy’s (and your) first real “cruise” experience. We all had a really nice trip. You really enjoyed the pools and the fact that you got dessert after almost every meal. Each night, the entire family would sit at one big table in the dining room – that was one of the biggest highlights for me during the trip. It is such a rare thing to get to share meals with so many people that I love. Since they were two hour meals – we would let you watch a movie on the DVD player – which was just fine by you. Bernadette, our waitress, made sure that you were stocked with your favorite foods and we let you finish off every meal with cookies or ice cream. I’m actually kind of surprised you haven’t asked for it even once since we got back. The excursions off of the boat were some of our favorite experiences. In Cozumel, you 2nd cousin Chantelle suggested we all visit Chakanaab National Park – there is a great beach there, and they do Dolphin Experiences (you were too young for that – but someday, I’d like to do that with you). I took you for your first snorkel (you couldn’t quite master your goggles, but you looked down though my snorkel mask). You loved the fish – and really wanted to touch them (my little dare-devil!). There was a great pool there where daddy took you swimming – and he really got you going with kicking and pulling with your arms so you could “swim” around in your life jacket. We even saw a sea lion show. I think it was my favorite day of the vacation. We also visited Grand Cayman, and we went on a boat with a recessed glass bottom so that all of the kids could get an even better idea of the beauty within the reefs and number of fish out there. We saw a shipwreck and cheeseburger reef. It was pretty amazing. I think you will love snorkeling when you get a little older. The other “off the boat” day was spent in Jamaica. We went to a little beach near Montego Bay. It had crystal clear water and a great swim area – and it was a beautiful, hot sunny day. You spent most of the time in the water collecting seaweed in a bucket and doggy paddling around with Chandler – and Daddy and I enjoyed a beachside massage and the delicious local beer – red stripe. You really had a great time playing with your cousins and snuggling with Dee Dee. You light up when you see them, and have been asking already when we get to go back to Texas to see Dee Dee & Mi Mi. I love that even though we live far away, you feel a strong connection to your family.
Mi Mi and Go Go picked us up at the end of our trip – and we got to spend the day eating more of that delicious gulf seafood and reminiscing about Galveston and driving and seeing the changes since the big Hurricane Ike that passed through a few years ago. It was a perfect ending end to a wonderful week off.
I really look forward to our next family trip – and know this will become something that you look forward to as well each year.