Saturday, April 29, 2017

Baby Brother

Me with both my baby brothers: Darryl on the left and Jeff on the right.
March 18, 2017

Also during Spring Break, two days after our return from Dylan and Jake's car-shopping expedition to Phoenix, my youngest brother Darryl and his wife Tamera drove all the way from their home in Missouri so Darryl could help our dad with some projects around his house. Tamera, who is also a special education teacher, had the week off for Spring Break, as well, and originally they'd intended to stay for about a week. However, the opportunity arose to bring along two of Tamera's beautiful granddaughters to visit with their father, whom they hadn't seen in several years and who happens to live in the Phoenix area, so they had to limit their stay to the few days that the girls were out of school.

Tamera and Darryl at Dad's dinner table on Saturday.

Darryl and Tamera arrived at Dad's place on a Friday, but I didn't see them until Saturday. By now, I was finally tackling some of the around-the-house projects I'd slated for Spring Break, plus I figured they'd need a day to recover from their very long drive (Darryl likes to drive straight through), as well as see their granddaughters safely delivered to their dad. I called them on Saturday, though. Tamera and I talked on the phone much longer than we should have, considering we were now separated by a distance of only two miles!

Gathered around the table, enjoying Kathy's juicy grilled burgers:
Sarah, Chris, Mark, Myron (Dad), Kathy, Tamera, and Darryl.

Finally, around 4:00, Mark and I headed on over to my dad and Kathy's house to join them for dinner and a nice, long visit. My daughter Sarah and her husband Chris also came for dinner. In fact, Tamera, Sarah, Kathy, Mark, and I went shopping together for dinner supplies at Walmart, where we ran into my son Dylan, and Tamera rushed over to give him a big bear hug.

An evening of family togetherness with Grandpa Myron, my nephew Burke,
Jeff, Tamera, Darryl, my nephew Justin, and Justin's new bride Jessica...

Later that evening, our other brother Jeff and his wife Dana, along with many of their children, stopped by to join in the fun. It was awesome. We were only missing our third brother LeRoy and his wife Lori and our sister Karla and her husband Steve to make it a full house! Unfortunately, they were unable to make the trip up from the Valley during that short time frame. 

...and my niece Brinley, son-in-law Chris, niece Hayden, nephew Marcus,
sister-in-law Dana, ex-husband Mark, step-mom Kathy, and dad Myron.

Allow me to apologize for the quality of these pictures (or the lack thereof). I really was in Spring Break-mode, and left the house without either my camera or my makeup. Anyone who knows me knows that, if there's a family gathering, I will be taking pictures. They also know I don't like having my own picture taken when I'm not wearing makeup. Still, the memories must be captured! So I used my cell phone's camera and submitted to participating in a family photo session despite my blotchy skin and invisibly blonde lashes...

Dad & kids: Myron (age 82), Darryl (53), Mary (62), and Jeff (55).

And, as I mentioned above, we ended the evening with a family photo shoot. Fortunately, the togetherness didn't end there. We had more family fun to come!

My brothers and their wives: Darryl and Tamera, Jeff and Dana.

Mary, Darryl, Tamera, Kathy, Myron, Dana, and Jeff.

On Saturday, I invited Darryl, Tamera, Dad, and Kathy to join us at my house for dinner. We enjoyed Mark's grilled London broil steaks, mashed potatoes, and a big green salad. Darryl had requested oil-and-vinegar dressing the way our mom used to make it while we were growing up, which we all love. I think Mom smiles in heaven when she sees her kids enjoying each other's company. If only it happened more often!

Dinner at the (old) adult table: Myron, Kathy, Tamera, Darryl, and Mark

After dinner, we visited for a while and then Dad and Kathy decided to call it a night. Darryl and Tamera stayed for quite a bit longer, and I'm so glad they did because later in the evening both of Darryl's daughters showed up from their home in the Valley. First we were thrilled to see my niece Brittany walk in the door, and somewhat later we were excited and surprised to see my niece Savannah's face at my door, since we hadn't expected to see her until Monday. The visiting was even more fun while they were with us.

Dinner at the (young adult) kids' table: Chris, Dylan, Jake, and Sarah,
with Darryl and Mark munching away in the foreground.

It was Jeff's turn to host us on Sunday night (although he had to work that night and couldn't even join us), which happened to be their daughter Haley's birthday, so we all headed over to their place for a delicious dinner of Dana's homemade Chicken Alfredo, followed by Haley's birthday party. By this time, Tamera's granddaughters had rejoined them, so we got to see how they've grown. I hadn't seen them since we visited Darryl and Tamera in Missouri in July 2009 (we also stopped by there in July 2012, but we were just passing through on our way to New York and didn't get to see Tamera's kids and grandkids).

Haley pretends to blow out her birthday candles again, because
Aunt Mary didn't get her camera out fast enough when she really did it!

One of the fun things that happened while we were at Haley's party was getting invited to dinner for the following Sunday by four of Jeff and Dana's grown kids who have their own place now. We happily accepted the invitation to join Elsie, Marcus, Emma, and Burke for dinner seven days hence at the home they now share!

At  Jeff's house after dinner & party: my nieces Elsie & Brinley, nephew Burke,
Mark, Tamera, Darryl & his daughter Brittany, and Tamera's granddaughters.

I didn't expect to spend any time with Darryl and Tamera on Monday, knowing they had things to finish up so they could get back on the road to Missouri super-early on Tuesday morning. As it happened, though, I did end up spending the late morning and afternoon with them. We stopped to buy some flowers, which we arranged into bouquets, and then we drove over to the Show Low Cemetery, along with Brittany and Savannah, to put the flowers on my mother's grave. I blogged those photos earlier this month, on the fifteenth anniversary of Mom's death.

Just hanging out: my sister-in-law Dana, my niece Savannah,
my nephew Marcus, and my niece Emma.

It never seems long enough, but eventually our visit had to come to an end. Tamera says another visit from my family to Missouri is long overdue, so the kids and I have tentatively decided to plan another Branson vacation for 2018. We had a great time there in 2009 and loved spending time with Darryl's family.

A dinner party at the home of Elsie, Marcus, Emma, and Burke:
Chris, Sarah, Jake, Dylan, Mark, Burke, and Marcus.

Of course, we still had our upcoming dinner with my four nieces and nephews to look forward to. On the following Sunday we joined them for a delicious dinner of barbecued chicken, broccoli, and green salad, with fruit salad for dessert, all prepared by talented chef Burke, assisted by Emma.

Marcus, Elsie, Burke, and Emma in their beautiful home.

Dylan and Jake like to hang out with this crew of cousins, but this was my first time to see their new home. It's a beautiful two-bedroom, two-bathroom trailer that's far nicer and roomier than my little house. I was quite impressed with it and how well they're taking care of it. It's so fun to see how my nieces and nephews (as well as my own children) are growing up into great adults. Thanks for the invitation to dinner, guys! It was awesome! As soon as I retire, it will be our turn to host you all!

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