Thursday, June 6, 2013

Visitors: Planned, Unannounced and Otherwise

We never experienced a Cousin Eddie calling from the airport while we were in Hawaii. The closest that we came to that was one of my father’s cousins calling from the Honolulu airport without letting us know that he was coming. To some people it might seem like he should have called ahead but there was a fairly close-knit group of us in the family who occasionally popped in on each other back home, too.

The big difference between my cousin and Cousin Eddie was that my cousin was fully prepared to put himself up in a hotel. His son was on a Navy aircraft carrier that was returning from a West Pacific cruise to their home-port in San Diego. At the time, there was a program for fathers or teen-aged brothers of sailors to ride the ship from Pearl Harbor to San Diego.

For not calling ahead, Cousin Ted had to sit and wait for awhile at the airport as we lived a good distance away. Had I been on duty he would have waited longer. At no point did he take it for granted that he could bunk with us. He did ask if it was okay to stay with us and he offered to pay for some of his expenses while he was there.

Had Ted planned it better I might have arranged a deep sea fishing charter. Nonetheless he saw some tourist sites and we drove him around Oahu. He had a good time.

My wife’s parents made a trip over to Hawaii, while we were there, for their grandson’s first birthday celebration. The only downside of that trip was for my father-in-law. I chartered a deep sea fishing day for him. I warned him to take something for motion sickness unless he was certain that he would not get sick.

Some people just have to be tough guys. The water was pretty calm that day but he was leaning over the side and was yakking his breakfast before we even got into the open sea. I had run through typhoon weather on warships and had never been seasick so I had no empathy except for what I had seen my shipmates suffer.

As for sympathy, I had absolutely none. He was warned. One of my co-workers was with us and we weren't going to turn the charter back because somebody tried to be a tough guy. We did end up coming back early but it was only because we got into a pretty good mess of fish early on. We had the live well filled up in just over a half of the day. Credit was given to Pa’ for chumming fish into the wake.

We liked Hawaii but when I got out the Navy we went back to Iowa to put our three sons back in their Midwestern roots and rear them near their grandparents. During the next twenty years we lived near Iowa City or Des Moines. This brought an occasional overnight visitor to our home from more rural parts of Iowa.

The University of Iowa Hospital would bring relatives to Iowa City for medical care that they couldn't get in the smaller hospitals near where they lived. As a result, one or two of the immediate family might bunk with us. It was the same when we lived in the Des Moines area.

For the most part, these were good hard working people with agricultural backgrounds of one sort or another and we didn't mind for most of them doing an overnighter. My wife and I had an agreement about the Cousin Eddies on each side of the family, though. Some were simply intolerable.

If I knew that there was a Cousin Eddie type in the hospital I would answer the phone by saying “bueno” instead of “hello.” I kept that up until I was certain that they were recovered and on their way home. I always figured that, next, I could say, “eh… no Ingles.” They’d think that they had a wrong number give up after a couple times of hearing Pedro answer the phone.

Actually, my own sister was a bigger pain the butt than any of the Cousin Eddies on the in-law side. We didn't smoke and preferred that no one smoke in the house. My sister did an overnighter with us in Des Moines one time in order to be bright and early to her exam for her registered nurse license. She asked if she could bring a friend and we didn't mind that.

As they settled in after arrival, however, my sister announced to her friend that we didn't like smoking in our house but that she did it anyway. All I can say is, that apple didn't fall far from the mama tree. Anyway, her friend, also a smoker, gave me a questioning and bewildered look.

“Do you mind, really? I can go outside.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I shrugged. “If it gets too bad then I’ll deal with it.”

My way of dealing with it, unknown to the guest, wasn't always pleasant. On one occasion I opened the windows in the living area of house in the middle of the winter to get relief from my sister and her chain-smoking husband. Yes… they had the audacity to complain of the cold.

“If I have to suffer your smoke then you can suffer the cold.”

“I remember when you used to smoke,” my sister retorted.

“And I can remember when you didn't. So… your point is?”

The friend, more appreciative of our hospitality than my sister, only smoked once or twice during the evening and it was on the porch outside. I really think that the poor woman was embarrassed by my sister’s insistence on smoking in the house.

We were visiting one of my wife’s cousins in the Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. He was a nice enough guy. I had never met him at any of the family events because it seemed that it was always planting time or harvest and neither waits for anything but a dire emergency in the life of a hard working farmer.

I don’t remember if his immediates were overnighting with us or not while he was in the hospital. I had to hold back a chuckle at what he said while we were visiting him, though.

“You know, if you ever get up around Farmerton and you need something, then at least, now you know that you have someone there.”

Well, heck yes, Eugene! You just never know when I might be making a vacation excursion along County Road 23, and right through Farmerton. Heck if I need a couple of ear of feed corn or a handful of soy beans, I’ll be certain to stop in. It’s good to know that I can count on you.

That is what I was thinking but I held back and simply thanked him for the gesture. One of the Cousin Eddies, whom I knew a little better than Cousin Eugene, got one from me straight between the eyes a few years later. They were having a family reunion because someone had died.

The word was going around the group that we were moving to Florida. Cousin Eddie started up a conversation with me about the topic. Eventually, he got around to a, less than subtle, hint.

“Do you know how many of your wife’s relatives are going to visit Florida when you move down there?”

“Do you know how many hotels there are in Florida, Eddie? I’m going to make certain that they all leave the light on for you.”

Cousin Eddie wasn't the least bit insulted by my answer to his question. As a matter of fact, he went around telling everyone that he talked to, what I had said. Tom Bodette couldn't have done it better for the Motel 6.

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