Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Great Friends!

One thing my grandpa truly appreciated was good friends. He even went to his high school reunions until he was 88 years old! And so it makes me happy to write about the weekend before my grandpa passed away when our friends, Johanna, Jason, Erica and Craig came to visit us from Chicago.

These are some of the funniest people I've ever met -- there are quite a few pictures that would make you laugh, but that I better not post on the blog (unnecessary close-ups of the dog...and Jason doing his way-too-good imitation of a pregnant woman). We relaxed all afternoon -- grilling, catching up on the back patio, smoking cigars (the boys) and sipping champagne (the girls). Then we went for a stroll around the neighborhood and started planning a big 30th birthday bash for all of us!

My dad and Ning babysat Saturday night while we went to Basta in Peoria Heights for a cocktail and had dinner at Seven. Our friends were off early the next morning. It was the perfect weekend!

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Life Well Lived...

My grandpa -- my dad's father -- was 89 going on 90. He was still deeply in love with his wife, Madeline, after almost 65 years. He lived not just a long life, but a good life. After going out to breakfast with my grandma and then going for their daily morning walk, he came home to do his crossword puzzle and nap before lunch. He died peacefully, resting in his favorite chair last Wednesday morning.

As soon as we learned the news, Rob, Madeline and I drove through the night to Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, where my grandparents retired 24 years ago. Family trickled in from all over the country, and while we were all there with heavy hearts, we were also there to celebrate my grandpa's incredible life.

Donald Johnston Wiebmer grew up in Quincy, Illinois on the Mississippi River, which, in his youth he both swam across and canoed down from Chicago to St. Louis. He spent his undergrad years and went to medical school at the University of Illinois. My Uncle Steve, who wrote a beautiful eulogy, said that this is the part of the story where my grandparents' life played out like a Hollywood movie. The young handsome doctor meets a lovely young nurse, Madeline Olson, in Chicago. Before he left to serve as a doctor in the U.S. Air Force for three years in France, England and Germany (1943 to 1946), my grandma traveled to Boston to secretly marry him (she was still a student and it wasn't allowed). When he returned home from the service, my grandpa practiced medicine as an ear, nose and throat doctor for 35 years in Alton, Illinois. They had four children.

I have so many wonderful memories of him. The way he made us laugh like crazy by eating his corn on the cob like he was a typewriter. By saying "she's a natural" at golf, fishing, tennis, you-name-it (even when we whiffed the ball or didn't catch a thing). For years, we've imitated his term of endearment for my grandma; to everything she said, he would reply, "HmmmMmmm Babe." Now Rob calls me babe too. He read voraciously and stayed current in his knowledge of his profession. He was a 90-year-old guy who tracked our family genealogy on the Internet, checked his email daily ("Babe, we got another one....") and was up-to-date on the latest in Wired magazine. He was an Illini -- he and my grandma visited me on campus several times, and years later, we watched our team play in the Final Four together. He adored Madeline and got to spend quite a bit of time with her during our trips to Fairfield Bay and their frequent visits to Peoria. He always excitedly jumped on the phone if my grandma answered first when I called; the last time I talked to him -- a week before he died -- he told me about how he misses my grandma when she goes to the beauty parlor. He danced the Congo at our wedding and looked so handsome and smart in his tuxedo and bow tie; to honor their 60th wedding anniversary, I gave my grandma my wedding bouquet and they danced to their song, "Fascination."

We all loved him so much. I miss him terribly. The love that my grandma and grandpa shared was the greatest love I have ever seen. It was epic -- not like a Hollywood drama -- but in real life. Day after day, year after year -- for 65 years -- kindness, respect and incredible friendship.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring at Last?

We spent almost the entire day outdoors yesterday. You know that strange, wonderful feeling when your arm hair ruffles in the wind for the first time? The warm sun on your shoulders after six months of bone-chilling cold is like taking a deep breath when you've been underwater too long.

Aunt Andi, Madeline and I walked all over Bradley campus, stopping to eat a slice of Chicago style pizza outdoors, and strolling with frozen yogurt on the way home. Now if that doesn't make you happy, I just don't know what does. We got home and put Madeline down for a nap....and when she woke, she and I went out for two more walks -- with Maple and later with Rob in the park. Even that wasn't enough -- Andi and I went for a run in the early evening. I noticed freckles on my nose this morning!

On Monday night, Madeline, Ning and I went to visit Sister Diane, who lives in a convent with other sisters only about a mile from our house. Sister Diane is an important person in Ning's life, and so it meant a lot to us to meet her. She was lovely, welcoming and kind. The next morning, Madeline was "playing nun" with a dress on her head.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Cabin in the Woods

This past weekend, we rented a cabin in Brown County, Indiana, with some of our closest friends from college and their their babies. It was relaxing and refreshing -- soaking in the hot tub, taking turns making meals, hanging out in our PJs, sipping wine and laughing into the night.

A highlight was meeting Jamie and Eric's three-month-old son, Kainoa, for the first time. He is such a sweet little boy. We knew Cassidy, Ella and Madeline were in trouble when he showed up wearing a onesie that said "Lock Up Your Daughters." We also celebrated all of the girls' first birthdays (Cassidy and Ella are almost one). Eric was a real trooper, silently suffering the whole weekend and eventually finding out that he had strep throat.

We agreed that the reunion came to an end way too soon, so in addition to meeting up for our fall Illini football games, we've decided to try to make Brown County an annual event!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Beijing in Peoria

We've been having a wonderful visit with my family, who are here from Beijing. They arrived with all sorts of Chinese gifts for Madeline, including silk dresses and little Tiger shoes (which the Chinese believe protect children)! Madeline loves playing with Nancy's beautiful pearls from Beijing's pearl market.

Madeline popped up to walk a few weeks ago, and hasn't stopped since. She staggers around bowl-legged like she hopped off a horse after chugging a bottle of tequila. She is also imitating language and has "said" her name, purple, wow and ball. Lots of pointing too; her little finger darts out and slowly moves, so Rob and I have a hard time figuring out what she's actually looking at -- "Uh, chair? Tree. Um, outside! Light?"

We're spending this weekend with my college girlfriends -- Erin, Jamie and Tara -- and their families in Brown County, Indiana, where we have rented a fabulous cabin in the woods with a hot tub, pool table, big screen tv for movies and comfortable rooms for each family. We can't wait!