Persons, places and things: Twelve hours well spent


By Barb Arland-Fye


For years I’ve jokingly called my brother Tim my twin because we share the same age for two weeks each spring. We’re not only close in age, but we’ve been friends since we were preschoolers who ate a construction worker’s lunch in the basement of our parents’ home.
Each of us has a son who graduated from high school this past spring. Tim and my sister-in-law Carleen traveled from the Twin Cities to celebrate with my husband Steve and me and our family. We chose to return the favor, but couldn’t have imagined the delight that God had in store for us in making the trip.
Our family’s conflicting schedules resulted in a decision to make the trip to the Twin Cities and back in one day. I dreaded the idea of 12 hours of driving with just a few hours squeezed in between for visiting. To complicate matters, Steve arrived home unexpectedly late from work on Saturday night, missing Mass with me and our two sons. With the help of a little divine inspiration, we decided to search online for Mass schedules in Charles City, Iowa, which would be along the route of our drive to the Twin Cities on Sunday. Timing is everything. We arrived in Charles City minutes before the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception. Steve entered the church while our sons and I headed to a nearby store to search for rain ponchos so we could go for a walk along the Cedar River in the on-again, off-again rain.
Eighteen-year-old Patrick had no interest in wearing a poncho. Colin, who is autistic and oblivious to social cues, eagerly joined me in wearing a poncho because it meant going for a walk with his mom and the brother he loves more than anybody else in the world.
I will savor the memory of that walk for years to come. We laughed at ourselves and the ridiculous situation we were in. “This is crazy!” Colin exclaimed with a look of delight on his face and the appearance of a ghost-buster. At one point, Patrick asked if Colin and I would take off our ponchos; Patrick thought people might be staring at us.
By the time we got back to the church parking lot, Mass had ended and Steve strolled out of the church with a smile on his face. “I like attending Masses in different churches to see how they celebrate the Mass,” he said.
We got back into the car, made a stop at the gas station and continued on the journey to the Twin Cities.
Our arrival at Tim and Carleen’s house was delayed slightly by a missed turn. By then, it was close to 3 p.m. and the party had started around 1 p.m. Not to worry. Tim and Carleen and their kids, Ryan and Rachel, greeted us with broad smiles and hugs. So did everyone else, including my parents, Carleen’s identical twin sister Carla and her husband Gary. Aunts and uncles arrived who I hadn’t seen in a few years. We caught up on each other’s lives and the time passed swiftly.
Colin, unfortunately, had developed a headache and slept through the short visit on a couch in the family room just off the kitchen and deck where most of the socializing took place. Waking up, he asked: “Did I have fun?” We assured him that the rest was just what he needed.
While I didn’t have as much “bonding” time with my brother as I would have liked, I know that he and Carleen, Ryan and Rachel appreciated the effort we made to celebrate Ryan’s graduation. We’re family; we’re friends. We’ve tucked in another memory next to the workman’s lunch.

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