My mom and I headed to my brother's house in the Bay Area on Friday, where my dad met us after work and we left from SFO to CLT and AGS early Saturday morning. The Charlotte Airport, complete with rocking chairs, was very nice, while the Augusta Airport had small town charm, with a small putting green in a courtyard (it only has six gates, they use two of them most of the year, the other four get used one week a year for small golf tournament). When I arrived it was my first opportunity to meet my cousins (well evidently I had met one or two about 25 years ago, I was five, so I don't remember that too well), their spouses and kids. Tears were shed, but more importantly conversations were started and relationships among family members were made and strengthened during those first few days and throughout our entire visit.
Monday was a day to celebrate life as one of my cousins celebrated her birthday. In the midst of sadness it was probably one of the biggest family birthday celebrations, since family from all across the region and country were there. The best part, she knew she was special and it was her day to shine .... and the ice cream cake was pretty good too.
Tuesday was the day of the funeral. Their large church was filled again with people who had been impacted by my uncle. It was an impressive sight to see and to realize just who my uncle was and to see how many lives he had touched. After the service, I drove in my first procession to the cemetery for a military burial. A bugler played and the flag was folded with precision. Then as the flag was presented and the soldier told my aunt "On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service," I truly sensed the power and emotions of the moment. The pastor spoke one last time in a way that was simple and poignant, specifically addressing his five grandchildren, but with a message that was powerful for all who where there.
After the services, we focused on relationship building. We went to Bedford Greenhouses, the nursery that my cousin and his wife own that has also been voted for many years "Augusta's Best Nursery," ate lunch at Champions Golf Club, went to one of their favorite Mexican restaurants, Veracruz, a sushi place that also served Mexican, TakoSushi, and had dinner/played miniature golf at Rae's Coastal Cafe. Beyond eating out, we watched one of my cousins at gymnastics practice, went to a school's Fall Festival, my mom and I were there to enjoy the Halloween fun and festivities ... I learned that in California kids have it good, kids can get to 100 houses quickly, in Augusta the yards are bigger and the front doors are further away from the street, so we probably only got to 25 or so houses in two or three hours, the kids were happy though and I'm sure the parents didn't mind a little less sugar.
After two weeks of visiting it was time for me to say goodbye and head back to my brother's house for a few days until my mom flew back. Although my flight was delayed and I ended up with an unplanned visit to Phoenix, I made it to SFO, my niece and nephews where my sister-in-law had a margarita waiting for me. We played outside, went to Pacifica Beach (who knew they had Taco Bell on the beach?) and had some great beer and food at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. Finally, my mom arrived home, I picked her up at SFO and we drove back to Sacramento across the new span of the Bay Bridge and after 19 days I was home.
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