Last week my family and I took a trip to the St. Louis area where much of my family (at least on my Dad’s side) lives. It was a really awesome trip and I would like to highlight some of the major points and share some photos from the trip.
First, I do want to make sure that I offer proper thanks to my sister Amy for offering us the use of her house for the time we were there. I hadn’t actually met her in person previously, so I imagine this might have felt a little like having a stranger in her house. I really appreciate this gesture, and it was great to have the opportunity to finally meet her and her son and reconnect this part of the family “network.” I cannot express how much it meant to me.
Wednesday, after spending the entire morning driving, we made the trip out to pay respects at the site of my Dad’s burial in Bethalto, IL. I was incredibly pleased to see that the grave had not gone without decoration. I offered a quick prayer of well-being on his behalf can only hope that whatever of him that moved on from this world can find the peace that he clearly was unable to find in this life.
We found a number of other relatives’ grave sites here, including that of my grandfather Fred, and learned afterward that others yet that we did not see have been laid to rest less than 200 meters away. In fact, I am to understand that quite a few of my ancestors lay in that cemetery, and I will have to make certain to visit there again the next time I’m in the area.
After visiting the cemetery, we met with my brother Josh and his mother Rose for dinner at Tony’s Restaurant in Alton, IL. This was the first of several Italian meals we ate over the course of our trip. It was a great meal in a local-owned establishment, and I would not hesitate to go there again the next time we visit.
Finally, at the completion of dinner, Josh took us to visit with our sister Mandee. If I had to make a guess, I’d say it has probably been nearly 10 years since I had seen her, and having the opportunity to catch up a little was nice.
We tried to keep Thursday simple as we were all feeling very worn out from all of the previous-day’s driving. We went to High Ridge, MO to pay a visit to Michelle’s Uncle Carl and Aunt Denise, and made this the main-event for the day. The last time I remember meeting them was at Michelle and my wedding, the reception for which Denise had been the DJ. We spent several hours there just talking about all manner of random things from food to religion, T-shirts to guns and knives. I was surprised to find that they run a sort of screen-printing business and buy their shirts from the warehouse at which I work — it is indeed a small world.
We started Friday with a trip to Cahokia mounds, the site of the center of power for the most advanced native American civilization north of Mexico (circa 1250 AD). I have always been interested in the study of certain ancient civilizations; I have a particular fondness for the Khmer Empire, the builders of Ankgor. I think that Cahokia would be North America’s closest equivalent to Angkor, although the sophistication of Angkor far surpasses that of Cahokia.
We climbed to the top of the main mound, called “Monk’s Mound,” and took pictures of the St. Louis skyline. Baby Aly walked nearly 3/4 of the way up the mound herself before deciding that she wanted to be carried — I think even she had a great time and was feeling like a really big girl. The view was impressive and the weather was perfect for several hours of walking and learning. The history enshrined (and entombed) in these sorts of places is simply phenomenal. We will most certainly want to visit some of the more local mounds (such as Serpent Mound) in the not-too-distant future.
After Cahokia, we took the MetroLink train (a neat little adventure in and of itself) with Amy to downtown St. Louis to visit the Arch and have dinner. I lived in St. Louis as a child but I don’t recall ever getting so close to it, and I’m pretty sure I had never been in the Visitor Center underneath it. I took the opportunity to take several pictures, of course. We spent about an hour there checking out some of the history of the Arch and St. Louis in general before meeting up with Josh and Rose for a most excellent dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory.
We spent the first half of Saturday with Josh and Amy (and her son) at the St. Louis Science Center. This place was absolute science chaos, from paleontology to electrical sciences, and I think all of the kids had a blast. While we were there, Josh was so impressed with the Build-a-Bear Workshop that he bought Aly a new stuffed animal, this cute black cat she has named “Meow Meow.” Notice the pink St. Louis Cardinals gear — all “official” MLB memorabilia. Of course, what else would you expect from a baseball town like St. Louis?
After the Science Center, we spent the evening with my Uncle Jim (Dad’s brother) and Aunt Connie. Jim prepared an awesome lasagna dinner and we all spent the evening chatting and remembering the past. This get together was an awesome opportunity for me to learn a little about my family, and about my Dad. I feel like I have missed out on a lot being so disconnected from the family… and I have realized that I can’t let it be like that anymore.
After the visit with Jim and Connie, I made the decision that I was in good enough condition to drive home that night, so we went back to Amy’s and said a quick farewell before heading out. The five hour drive went smoothly — not a lot of traffic and the kooks that we did run across were driving so fast that they weren’t a bother for long.
So the whole family had a great trip and I had an awesome chance to reconnect with my family, and my Dad’s past. I really look forward to making the trip again and may see if my younger sisters would want to take a trip with me to that area next May or June.
To those of my family who read, I offer my sincerest thanks for making the trip possible. Those of you who I missed this time around, I will make contact again next time and try to do better to make more varied plans, but I hope you will understand that with limited time and resources I felt like I had to get as close to my Dad as I could on this trip. In some ways, this trip was for him as much as it was for me, even if that doesn’t really make sense to some (for which I apologize).
I hope everyone reading is well and I will write again soon!