December 23, 2016 (by Angela)
This past weekend, plans continued to change as a result of Clarissa being sick. Originally, she was to “walk” in the 2:00 p.m. commencement at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Recently home from Vanderbilt Medical Center, she was certainly not up to doing that. Jim and I still made the trek to southern Illinois to check on her, his step-dad Tommy, and visit with the rest of the family. It would be our “Christmas” visit, too.
After weeks of being ill, Clarissa was bound and determined to rid their house of fall stuff and decorate for Christmas. While we were not having an after graduation get together of the family, she (with much help from Josh) put together a fun and informal family gathering. We kept telling Clarissa to sit down and rest, but she would not listen. She was too happy to be out of the hospital and feeling better.
The weather was really wild that day and night. The area was under a severe wind advisory, a severe storm warning, a tornado watch, and a winter storm advisory ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
Jim and I arrived in Paducah, Kentucky (across the Ohio River from Brookport and Joppa, Illinois) about lunch time on Saturday, the 17th. After purchasing tickets for himself and two of the older grands, Dylan and Aiden, to view Rogue One, he and I had lunch. It was just beginning to sprinkle rain. The temperature was 72 or 73 degrees Fahrenheit. After lunch, we went to the hotel to check in. Chewie and I would hang out there until after the movie. Jim returned to meet the boys for the 1:40 showing; their dad John was bringing them to the theater. I had taken Chewie out to take care of business, and just as he and I returned inside, the rain got a bit harder. I’m guessing that about 15 minutes into the boys’ movie, it began to thunderstorm. I’m not sure why I noticed, but about 3:00 p.m., roughly an hour after thunderstorms began, it was still 69 degrees. Less than half an hour later, when checking the time on my phone, I noticed that the temperature had dropped to 49 degrees!
The boys (Jim + grands) picked me up from the hotel a bit after 4:00 p.m., and we went to Clarissa and Josh’s house in Brookport, Illinois. John and Kelly, the boys’ parents, were already there. Josh was out on a call (he is a volunteer firefighter – it was a wreck where a guy hit a deer and then ran off the road). He returned about 15 minutes after we arrived at their house. Shortly, Jimmy, Jr. and his family (wife Jessica and children Lily and Noah) arrived. Except for Jim’s Mom and Step-Dad, who had gone home from the hospital himself that afternoon, all of Jim’s side of the immediate family were there.
Clarissa had arts and crafts for the kids and snacks for those who wanted to nibble. It was warm, cozy, and the place smelled really nice. Josh and Clarissa had done very well decorating, and to their tree was added snowflake ornaments the kids made. The children were getting anxious to open gifts, so Jim played Santa with the grands helping as elves. Gifts were distributed, and we all enjoyed watching the others open their gifts and talking about what each had received. Finally, about 8:00 p.m., we decided that all of us should head home before roads began to freeze. At the time we left, it was 33 degrees and storms with thunder and lightning continued. All of us made it home fine, but soon freezing began. Jim and I actually followed a truck putting out salt in anticipation of ice on the I-24 bridge over the Ohio River as we made our way back to the hotel in Paducah.
It hit me as we were driving back to the hotel: I’d not made any pictures of all of us together! Kelly told me later that she though the same thing, so every picture in this post is stolen from the Facebook pages of family members. It’s all the photos we have of what was a wonderful family time. (Click on or hover cursor over photo to see caption.)
Expecting ice, at least patches, to be on the roads, Jim and I were in no hurry to get moving. As it turns out, one of the two bridges crossing the Ohio there was closed due to icing; it was the older, Brookport Bridge. Finally, we checked out about 10:30. Even then, Jim had to force our car doors open; every single one was frozen shut. There were icy spots, but the highway department in Illinois had done a really good job. There was so much salt on the highway we had to travel to reach Jim’s Mom’s house in Joppa, Illinois, that it almost looked like snow on the road.
Once there, we combined chicken and sides we had picked up on our way over with things Jim’s Mom had made for a really yummy lunch. It was another good visit and sharing of gifts. The only thing that would have made it better would have been for Tommy to feel better. We had such a good visit that we stayed about half an hour longer than intended, so getting home before dark was not going to happen. Nature treated us to a marvelous sunset on our drive back to Batesville. I couldn’t get a good, clear picture of the last of the sunset colors, which filled the sky with gorgeous shades of purple.
It was a wonderful “Christmas” in Brookport and Joppa, Illinois!