I’m finally getting around to writing about our spring break trip, which was a different kind of trip than usual for me. The goal was to visit my dad’s grave in Illinois to see the headstone, which was put in last summer, along with a military marker.
Originally Lyle & I were going to fly up, rent a car, spend one night, and fly back the next day, but then my mom said she’d be interested in doing it as a road trip, and suggested we stop at my grandmother’s house in Missouri on the way there & back (to avoid having to get hotel rooms). So this became our spring break trip.
I had not been back to this part of Missouri since my grandad’s funeral in 1995. It’s not near anything. There is no easy way to fly in for a visit. I’ve seen my grandmother many times in that time—she has visited me in places I’ve lived, and she’s visited Dallas at holidays when I was in town, and most recently she’s been living near my mom in a nursing home in Dallas, so I visit when I’m visiting my mom. But I hadn’t been back to her house.
So this seemed like the perfect opportunity for some visits to places from my past and a chance to show them to Lyle.
Standing in my mom’s driveway, waiting to hit the road.
First stop in Missouri was a relative’s house…one of my mom’s cousins, Berthini. She’d made cookies for us.
I just called it our first stop in Missouri, but this was actually Arkansas. The town my mom grew up in was very (very) close to the border. It’s all Missouri to me. These are small towns where everyone knows everyone and it seems like nearly everyone is related somehow.
My mom & Berthini talk regularly by phone. She’s one of my mom’s main sources of information about all the Missouri peeps.
Lyle was fascinated by country life. He asked if we could go outside and explore while my mom and Berthini were catching up. This was him trying to get their attention through the window. (They never noticed him.)
When we went outside, Berthini came out to point out how far we could safely go, I guess, without trespassing. No other homes were visible from hers, and she pointed down the road toward the way we came from and said, “That’s my land up to the top of that hill, and then all the way over to that creek bed, and then”—indicating a fence way in the distance the other direction—“to that fence.” Lyle looked at me and asked, “ALL OF THAT IS OURS?” I said, it’s all HERS, yes. I asked him how he would like to live someplace like that, and he said he thought it would be awesome. There was so much space to run around! You could play so many games outside on all that land!
After an hour or so, we left Berthini’s and drove on to Tucker, Missouri. Talk about a small town. Can you even call Tucker a town? I’m not sure. When my mom was growing up, 13 people lived there. All named Tucker. I’m not sure how many live there now. Fewer than 13. Tucker is a lot of land, a few gravel roads and houses, one church, and one abandoned general store.
First stop was the house my mom grew up in. Which burned to the ground several years ago. This is all that’s left. My grandparents had lived there for 50 years before they sold it and moved to town. (“Town” is Doniphan, a town of 1,997 people. My mom says, “Just give them a few more years and they’ll get all the way to 2000!”) There are rumors that the people who bought the house set fire to it on purpose to try to collect insurance money. But no one seems to know anything for sure.
I’d known about the fire, but it was still so surreal to see a pile of rubble where my grandparents’ house was supposed to be.
The little wooden shed is all that’s still there.
And a few yards down the road is the old general store, which my grandparents owned & ran for years. It was originally called Tucker Brothers (run by my granddad and his brother), and then when the brothers married, their wives became owners as well. I spent a lot of time in this store as a kid. They sold it in the 80s and it’s now abandoned.
Across the street, the church.
And a mule. Donkey? (How do you tell?)
And a few more yards down the road, the cemetery. I’m related to pretty much everyone in it.
Tucker is at the end of Z highway.
It was Lyle’s first time to see where my grandmother used to live. This is her house in town. The neighbors keep an eye on it. My mom says she needs to go up and clean stuff out. Lyle thought it was pretty cool to see her space.
And then the next day, we were on to Illinois. Bridge over the Mississippi River, which my brother & I used to love crossing.
The military marker at the foot of my dad’s grave.
Sacked out in the hotel in Vincennes, Indiana, nearest town with hotels. (About 10 miles from Lawrenceville.) There is one (new-ish) B&B in Lawrenceville that we discovered when we were there for the funeral last year, but they don’t allow kids under 12. Boo.
Lawrenceville breakfast the next morning…this was a half-order of pancakes. What.
One last visit to my dad’s grave.
Back in Doniphan at my grandmother’s house again for that night. We’d brought along Clue and Connect Four to play in the evenings.
And on our way back to Texas the next day we stopped at a cemetery in Arkansas where my great-grandparents are buried.
And then we came home. I don’t know when I will make it back to Lawrenceville again to visit my dad’s grave. But even though it’s not an easy place to get to, it still feels like the right place for him to be.