The first stop – Rob and Nancy Ft. Worth Home
Gary receiving an unexpected call from Columbia, his 89-year-old mother proposing an excursion east desiring to see her great-grandchildren in Oklahoma and Kansas, Sarah, Allison, Hollyann and Brennan. Gary acceding with his mother’s desire, asking Fran to accompany them, but his wife giving a declination to remain and accommodate their two dogs. Gary’s sister Nancy conveying his mother to Modesto to stay the night for an early morning flight from the Modesto. Gary and his mother Betty boarding a United Airlines SkyWest, Pratt & Whitney powered twin turbo propped Embraer 120 in the twilight of the morning. This being a third time for Gary, a first for his mother, traveling on the 30 seat turboprop non luxurious aircraft with its 24 years of history. The morning flight as before, a tour over the wind turbines Altamont Pass, San Francisco Bay coming into view. A drop in altitude and an alignment with the San Mateo Bridge, the circumnavigating craft banking right for its approach to SFO the San Francisco International Airport and a its final quay. Gary having made this landing dozens of time at home on his computer utilizing a Logitech joystick, enjoying the Google Earth flight simulator, the scenic view on Google Earth, a realistic visual depiction, a marvel of modern science.
Google Earth flight simulator screen when landing at SFO
Marvelous view from 37,000 feet
Embarking from the Embraer, the ground level mobile stairs placed in position, Gary and his mother proceeding to the upper terminal awaiting their 7.56 a.m. departure time for the 1460 mile non stop journey to DFW, Dallas/ Ft.Worth International Airport. This first stop to visit with his son Rob and bride to be Nancy before continuing on to Oklahoma and Kansas to sojourn with his other three children. Mom and Son commencing a United Airlines 757, their seating arrangement providing Gary with a window seat enabling an animate visual view from aloft. The aircraft raising to its cruising altitude of 37,000 ft. on a southwesterly course, a flight time of 3 ½ hours, their arrival at DFW expected at 1:45 p.m. central standard time. Thirty minutes into the flight, the cabin lights dimmed and a host of screens descended from the ceiling, the in-flight movie was to begin. Gary vigilant, noticing that everyone seated before him pulling down their window shading device, the featured, the animated movie Up about to start. The interior of the aircraft now shadowed in darkness, Gary casting a wonder about those he was seated among, because the real embodied display wasn’t the TV screen, but the scene from the window, the wondrous cloud flow, the terrain passing beneath the winged craft, the happening of flight. Gary, to the duress of many of the other passengers, the only person to allow the acquiesce glowing signature of nature to abide, leaving his window unadorned with a shade, the blue sky and bright sun giving presence to the majestic lapsing earth below.
Rob, Grandma and of course Lilah
Rob and Grandmother Willson
The Boeing 757 arraying a perfect platform, the airliner discerning its station, the Willson’s disembarking, descending to the unsecured lower level, Robert greeting them on their arrival. Rob’s crew cab pickup the mode of transportation to His and Nancy’s newly purchased home on Shady Glen Court in Fort Worth. Gary very much impressed with Rob’s and Nancy’s home, although not completely furnished, the beginning of a showcase, having always recognizing that his son was perfectionist. The father recalling his son’s youthful days in high school, when given his grandfather Chevrolet Blazer to drive school, Robert keeping his grandfather’s pride immaculate. A late afternoon enhancement, finally getting the experience of being introduced to Rob’s better half of life, Nancy, a lady with a radiate smile and cascading personality. The couple having a third member of the family, young in age but also having a profound personality which always got attention, a five month Boxer pup named Lilah, another charisma in the family. The evening hour provided another introductory, meeting and being introduced to Nancy’s mother and two younger sisters at a charcuterie food establishment, the accumulation enjoying a meal and conversation. Gary not having spent any meaningful time with his son in the past ten years, partly because of Rob’s military career, but acknowledging Rob’s forethought at this sit down meal, an analogous introduction to Nancy’s family.
The dawning of the morning Nancy providing an enjoyable breakfast, the couple deciding on a journey to Dallas to experience Dealey Plaza, the texas school book depository, and the grassy knoll where circumstances lead to President John F Kennedy final destiny. Gary having prospected this realm 25 years earlier, but a first for Rob, Nancy and his Mother. Approaching the upper cemented pillars of the grassy knolls concave, the two couple joining others mesmerized by a local elderly historian relating what transpired on that monumental day. The person professing to be an eyewitness to the unfolding events of November 22nd, able to name those who attested as witnessing the event. The historian affirming that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone, concluding the assassination was a conspiracy and that Oswald was duped, being the fall guy. The elderly narrator was very convincing in his dialogue, Gary observing people acknowledging their wallet including his mother contributing a token of gratitude for his thirty minute discourse. Gary suspect that this animate elderly person having found a livelihood, arraying himself on the grassy knoll each day, articulating and describing very convincingly the scene of this historical event, his narration a profiteering enterprise. A walk to the Texas School Book Depository Building, the sixth floor from which Lee Harvey Oswald, according to the Warren Commission’s Report fired the fatal shots depriving the country of their President, the entrance and sixth floor now a museum, the cost of observation being $13.00 per person, although interested, Gary and his itinerary deciding against participation. A sandwich lunch at a local bistro fulfilled, the four returning to Rob and Nancy home preparing to leave on the 3 hour, 200 mile excursion to Edmond a suburb of Oklahoma City, and Gary’s eldest daughter Marlo and her family.
Sarah and Hollyann
hollyann – pool side wet toes
Marlo, Ally and Hollyann
Marlo and Mom
Rob putting the pedal to the metal, the crew cab pickup’s radar detector on guard duty, the 200 miles of Interstate 35 to Oklahoma normally a 3 hour journey captured in far less time. The four arriving at the Denton’s in Edmond, Rob and Nancy staying briefly desiring to return to Texas. Gary bidding a heartfelt farewell, realizing the bisecting mile between the two families that remained, but hoping that one day they could once again absorb a closer epoch and unite as a family. Gary was impressed with Chris and Marlo’s Edmond residence, the swimming pool, its acreage, the creek flowing below the house, the spacious kitchen and living room, all a marvel, but most impressive was his two Granddaughter, Allison and Hollyann, both a gleaming pyramid to the family. A Saturday morning, Ally having a weekend rehearsal for an upcoming event, Marlo providing a tour of the exclusive private Cassidy School, Gary discovering the school with its uniformed students, 80 acre lake, its grounds resembling a small college campus. Cassidy recognized as one of the foremost educational facilities in the nation.
Cassidy High School Campus
Visiting Jerry Willis
Sunday morning Gary and Grandmother Betty accompanying the Denton’s, with the exception of Chris who was on duty at the fire station, to their Edmond Baptist Church. Gary most impressed by the visiting minister, the President of Oklahoma Baptist University at Shawnee Oklahoma. Having heard many latitudes and sermons in his lifetime, this being one of the best. Accompany the visiting speaker was a quartet of musicians from the University playing and vocalizing an outstanding performance, giving amplitude to character of this University. The Sunday afternoon at the Denton’s, found a reunion, his son Scott, Lana Norwicki and Gary’s Granddaughter Sarah, along with Tad Norwicki and his fiancé Kelly whom Gary thought bore a striking resemblance to Jennifer Anniston, Gary’s mother finally having the opportunity to meet the Oklahoma faction of the Willson’s and their lineage. The following day, Gary having the opportunity to telephone his Oklahoma City friend of over forty years, Jerry Willis. Jerry driving to Edmond, an afternoon spent with this remarkable guitarist and twice the best man at Gary’s weddings, th two reminiscing their days as musicians in the 60’s.
Chris – a steadfast family anchor
Gary and his Mom
Gary and his Mom
The evening providing and excursion, Chris providing a tour of his work place fire station and nationally acknowledged, a one of a kind Children’s Safety Village complete with a city park, buildings, streets with traffic lights, the attraction a show place to educate the youth about safety. Chris broaching that the Children’s Village having educational school district’s from throughout the State of Oklahoma busing their students to this applauded safety inducement. Before leaving, Chris acknowledging the name Garrett Way, posted on one of village’s street signs, a tribute to Gary’s only grandson whom had risen to Heaven at the age of 12 on April 7, 2001. The night ensuing the family enjoying a fiesta meal at a Mexican Restaurant, Gary discovering why it was chosen, a group of firefighter from another station were seated at an adjoining table, this establishment a favorite of these communities guardians. Another sortie the following evening, the group briefly acquainting the familiar Brick Town for a short duration, Chris pointing out it’s new boardwalk and the waterway canal that flowed towards the recently name changed North Canadian River, Gary questioning why the state would change this historic rivers name to a new bland non historical name, The Oklahoma River. Before leaving an introduction to a specialty, a self-help ice cream parlor presenting their product not sold by the scoop, but sold by weight, one able to sample a variety of flavors, a scale at the checkout stand providing the cost.
Brennan not much into the food.
Father and Son
The Birzer Family
It was time to journey to Wichita, Gary’s eldest son Scott offering to navigate the elder Willson north on Interstate 35, the 160 mile trip a 2 ½ hour venture. Gary reluctantly having to relate a farewell to his daughter and grandchildren, especially Hollyann, her vigor a paramount architecture, bringing new meaning to the Denton family. His departure bringing forth an overwhelming sensitivity of loss, this part of his life missing. Traversing north in Scotts aged Nissan the afternoon hour beginning, the threesome halting at Blackwell Oklahoma to partake of a McDonald’s, a halfway stop. An arrival at the Birzer residence on W. 18th in Wichita, his daughter Sandra a welcoming sight. Scott desiring an immediate U-turn, having to work that night, Gary grateful for his eldest son’s assistance, Scott the only one making frequent trips to California and Modesto thru the years to visit Dad.
The Birzer home was inviting, a two-storied structure with a superbly finished basement entertainment and office room with a large screen LCD screen, a large sectional and Jeremy’s desk. Great Grandma delighted with Brennan who was just beginning to walk, knowing that this new-found experience fun, his smile a lively exponent reflection of Jeremy and Sandra. The morning found Sandra desiring to shop for Brennan, Gary and his mother about to enter Sandra BMW mode of transportation, when Gary noticed that above the rear fender of Jeremy’s pickup parked in the driveway, a bullet hole. Gary questioning his daughter about the abnormality, Sandra laughing, replying she wasn’t suppose to say anything about it, but during a visit by Rob, his concealed handgun fell to the ground discharging, resulting in a bullet hole in Jeremy’s pickup. Sandra with Brennan firmly position in his car seat, proceeding to take Gary and his mother on a tour of Wichita., Gary discovering that Wichita had changed, it being ten years since his days of frequenting this majestic city. The evening found Jeremy adorning his culinary expertise, providing an outstanding specialty meal, including an adorning glass of wine. Jeremy, securing a day off from his employment duties, entertaining all for a luncheon engagement at a favorite bistro adjoining Old Town, a pavilion that mimicked Brick Town in Oklahoma City. Gary remembering when the area was first resurrected from the old abandoned warehouse district and now a showplace bordering the Arkansas River.
Brennan and Great Grandmother Willson
With a solemn feeling, departure time and a return to California having descended, Gary once more having a feeling of loss, a farewell to the meaningful people in his life. Jeremy providing transportation in the morning hour to Wichita Mid Continent Airport, Gary and his mother Betty boarding a United Airlines flight for their return journey to Modesto. Unlike the Boeing 557, non stop flight to Texas, the smaller 737 was destined to Denver, a connecting flight to San Francisco awaiting. The delay in Denver was short-lived, but during the escalator travel between gates Gary noticing that his mother didn’t look well. Questioning her about her medication, finding that her nitroglycerin patch that she was required to apply at high attitudes was never exercised, a brief halt was made, the stubborn matriarch Willson complying. Gary enjoying the flight from Denver, having traversed this journey many time before, never a monotonous journey, the scenic view from above an august array displayed below the buoyant aircraft. A gentle touchdown at the San Francisco International Airport, a two-hour delay before a welcomed boarding on SkyWest to Modesto. The traveling couple finding an interesting display at SFO, spending their waiting time enjoying an exhibit of the history of gambling slot machines, the walkway between terminals lined with these historical relics from the past. both finding the history absorbing, stopping and reading the placard that accompanied each exhibit. The short Embraer 120 flight to Modesto was enhanced, upon arrival expecting Gary’s his sister Nancy to meet them and return her mom home to Columbia, to his surprise it was Gary sister Katherine and husband Donald. The transient adventure fulfilled, Gary sad in one respect but happy to be back with Fran, Sammi and Little Bit, Gary giving his mom a loving parting hug, thanking her for the time they spent on their journey and their togetherness his sister and brother in law short visit ending before continuing on. Gary mentioning to Fran that this was only the third time in nine years that his sister Katherine who lives only 70 miles distance from Modesto had ever visited, he guessed she didn’t have much to say.