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Wallace Family Get Together 2017 - The Literary Exhibitionist
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Wallace Family Get Together 2017
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05212017-13

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There was something somewhat bittersweet about this visit, but in the end I consider it a hugely positive thing and I am incredibly grateful it was able to happen. I really wanted to get Mom and Christopher and me all together again for once -- indeed, for the first time since Thanksgiving 2001 -- and in the end I got something far better: all but one of Christopher's kids were able to come too.

When Nikki and TJ came to Olympia for Easter, Nikki told me she thought maybe they could come out to visit when Shobhit and I were out having our spring visit with Mom and Bill in Wallace, Idaho. I was thrilled by this idea. So, almost two weeks ago, I messaged Nikki on Facebook to send her a reminder of when Shobhit and I would be there. I never heard anything back from her, though. Shobhit asked me several times if she ever got back to me, but I didn't think it was necessary to write again to put any pressure on her about it.

Shobhit and I drove direct out to Wallace on Saturday, and it was Shobhit's first time visiting since we went out there together for Mom's 60th birthday in 2012 -- five years ago. Shobhit was understandably -- and justifiably -- bitter about Mom leading us on about coming to our wedding in 2013, only to back out, true to form, at the last minute, using the need to take care of their dogs as an excuse. After that, Shobhit had pretty much no interest in coming with me to visit them anymore. But, Mom's 2014 stroke has kind of made it difficult to maintain any bitterness toward her lifetime of often questionable choices, and, well, she's still my mother -- in any case, clearly Shobhit's stance has softened. I have continued visiting twice a year in the meantime, always once in the spring and once close to Christmas, but I never really brought up the wedding again (although they did receive a wedding themed calendar for 2014, just like everyone else did -- although admittedly theirs focused more on the beautiful decor than on us as a couple). Shobhit is moved back from California now, and probably more because he just didn't want to stay home without me than because of anything else, we just naturally went together this time. And he drove his car.

Anyway, we left pretty early, and arrived at our hotel on Saturday around 3:30 in the afternoon or so. I called Mom to tell her we'd be there in maybe 45 minutes; we were there about an hour later. And I was somewhat surprised to find Christopher not there. Mom explained, though, that Christopher had visitation, which meant he had driven up to Spokane to see the three boys.

I had messaged Shelley, Mom's former (and hopefully soon-to-be-again -- long story not worth going into here) PSR and also good friend, that we'd be in town this weekend. She told me she was visiting her dad in Lewiston this weekend, but if her plans changed she would come by. Evidently her plans did change, as she ended up coming by unannounced, to the delight of all of us. Apparently she realized she didn't have enough money to take the drive down to Lewiston after all, so she came by Mom and Bill's place to see us instead. Bill stayed in bed almost the whole evening, but Mom, Shelley, Shobhit and I all played Cards Against Humanity, which Mom now asks me to bring every time I visit. We all laughed pretty hard.

Later, Mom got a call from Christopher, and that was how I learned that he would not be coming back that evening. Mom said, "Matthew's here!" And then I guess Christopher revealed the plan: I suspect it was a minor miracle that Katina allowed this, but he was going to stay with a friend overnight, and then drive the boys down on Sunday, and Nikki and TJ would come down too. So we found out on Saturday that we were going to have this impromptu family get-together on Sunday. Mom was very happy to hear that, though, and so was I. This was actually a better day for Mom that I could ever have dreamed of facilitating on my own. I was just happy to give her both her sons at once, for the first time in sixteen years.

In any case, Christopher wasn't around on Saturday as a result, and with Bill only coming out of the bedroom for a couple of minutes at one point, it was pretty much just Mom, Shelley, Shobhit and me that evening. Shobhit and I brought booze and we had cocktails all around.

I also learned a couple of somewhat wearying things about Christopher. I asked Mom, if he's not working, then how does he afford the gas to drive out to visit the kids in Spokane? Mom said she pays for it, has maxed out three credit cards in the process (Shobhit and I both agreed these could not possibly have very high credit limits), and after this last time, she has no more money to be able to do it. Jesus Christ. And what can I do or say about it? I've long felt Mom is the worst person to be burdened with this -- she has enough on her plate with Bill's chronic pain and her own residual effects of a stroke in 2014 -- but it's not like I can tell her to do any different either. Her position as a mother who is concerned about a clinically depressed son who now has a history of two suicide attempts is pretty understandable. Still, it's a situation that is pretty much no good for anyone involved. I have essentially no power over any of it, so I'm not sure what I can do besides let it go. Worrying about them doesn't exactly do anyone any good.

Once Shobhit and I realized there would be about 12 people around on Sunday -- the most I believe I've ever seen at Mom and Bill's house, by the way (I checked and there were 12 in attendance at the 2009 Christmas party, but they were not all there at the same time, but all 12 this time were) -- we decided we'd better get some food to feed everyone for lunch. We thought maybe Nikki and TJ would bring something to eat, but knew not to count on it. Mom did have an almost shocking lot of chips and crackers to set out, but Shobhit and I decided the best course of action would be to go to the grocery store over in Osburn -- the one I always have to go to in Decembers to get eggnog because the grocery store in Wallace is always out -- and get some food for their deli. We went by mid-morning first, and were pleasantly surprised by their offer to cook up two orders of 12-piece fried chicken boxes, timed for us to pick up at 1:00. They even packed up both pasta salad and potato salad to keep for when we came back, and we were able to pay for it all then. We did have to pay for some macaroni and cheese when we came back, as they understandably said it would be best not to dish that for us until then.

Amazingly, they all clearly got going out of Spokane -- this is like a 100-mile distance from Deer Park, where the boys live, north of Spokane -- pretty early in the morning: likely before even 10 a.m., because they all arrived just before noon. Christopher was in his van, and Nikki and TJ came in their truck (which they packed all the boys back into when driving them back to Spokane later in the afternoon, leaving Christopher behind), and they arrived all at once. This also means they coordinated successfully, with Christopher meeting Nikki and TJ at their place in Spokane before they drove out together.

At one point I went to see Bill in the bedroom, when he was chatting with the youngest of the boys, Christian (14) and Braeden (11), who were half-frolicking on his bed. I told Bill I hoped he could come outside at least for just a few minutes so I could take some pictures, and props to him, he actually did it. Shobhit and I were about to leave to pick up the lunch and Bill was standing in the living room and he said, "I thought you said we was going to take pictures?" I said, "If you're up for it right now then let's do it right now!" He said he may not be later, so we did it right then. And you can see the several photos I took on Flickr by clicking either of the photos above -- the first of which, of course, is arguably the best of them all. There are 10 people in that shot, the only people from the day missing being Shobhit because he offered to take the picture; and Shelley, who did not come by again on Sunday until a couple of hours later.

But once we got those pictures, and everyone else lumbered back into the house, Shobhit and I went back to get the food from the grocery store in Osburn. This was definitely the most economical and practical choice for feeding everyone, rather than a) forcing everyone to rely only on chips and crackers; or b) actually taking all of them out to eat, which was just too much.

Nikki and TJ left with the boys (and Cheyanna) a few hours later, leaving Christopher behind. Bill stayed in the bedroom the rest of the day, and presumably having taken another pain pill, was literally snoring by the time we all started to head out for dinner. Shelley was over by this time (and she did arrive in plenty of time to meet everyone before they all left), and we were in the kitchen when we were talking about dinner and I told her, "You're welcome to join us. Our treat!"

I really should have been clearer about this with Christopher as well. He's actually surprisingly open about his own self-esteem issues lately, so it actually makes sense that when the rest of us were getting into our cars to go out for dinner, Christopher just stayed seated at his computer. I walked back in the front door and called out to him, "Christopher? Are you coming?" He said something to the effect of not knowing if he was invited. Instead of lambasting him for making such a ridiculous assumption, I said, "Come to dinner."

So, there you have it: the two people missing from the group photo at the top above are in the second photo, taken at Mom's beloved City Limits Pub. Bill is missing from that photo because he was at home sleeping, but Mom wasn't going to miss the opportunity. And we all had a lovely time. Shelley even knows one of the co-owners there and had him give us a mini-tour of the little brewery they have there.

We all went back to the house after that, and when he heard we had Cards Against Humanity, Christopher said, "I love that game!" -- and we all played again. Shobhit has proved the most adept at figuring out how to set down cards I will pick, but Christopher proved a surprising second on that front. We all got almost shockingly naughty with this game, especially Mom herself. She did get to a point where she got confused about it being her turn a couple of times, but most of the time she was able to play the game just as well as any of the rest of us.

Shobhit and I ran out of the single-shot bottles we brought on Saturday, but last night Shelley went back to her place and brought back vodka to make cocktails for us all. It was clearly bottom-shelf, and did not make the best cocktail, but it served its purpose! And we all had a great time.

We said our goodbyes last night. I even gave Christopher a hug, and said, "Take care of yourself," for lack of anything better to say. I suppose that could be regarded as useless or patronizing -- or both -- but it is genuinely something I hope he can figure out how to do. We have Mom hugs too, and went back to our motel at about 9:30 or so. Also: the Stardust Motel, which was the first time I stayed there since we went with Shobhit in 2012, needs to be scratched off our list. We had to ask for a second room because the first literally had no windows! The second was far better, but nowhere near as good as the Wallace Inn, which at least has actual counters in its bathrooms. Next time though we might take Shelley's suggestion and stay at the Red Light Garage's Hurcules Inn, which apparently has rooms with full kitchens. I've still never been to that one.

Anyway! Today was the drive back. We made good time, and we did grocery shopping at the Costco in Issaquah and then the Asian grocery store in Seattle's International District. Two or three rounds getting luggage and groceries upstairs, processing all my photos, and now this journal entry. Whew! There you have it: my record of this visit to Wallace, Idaho. Oh, and as always there are more details in the captions on the photos themselves on Flickr.
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positive energy please