I went to Florida a little earlier than Eric. I got in around 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday night. Heather picked me up from the airport and we hung out at home that night. Then on Thursday, the whirlwind began.
Every time I go to Florida, no matter how long I stay, practically within days of booking my flights I have every single day of the trip planned - who to see and when, where to go, etc. This trip was no exception. It's kind of exhausting, but what can you do? It's always great to see everyone, although I'm always left wishing I had more time.
The Visiting Extravaganza began Thursday afternoon. Thursday morning Heather had an audition, so I used that little bit of free time to go to Target (have I mentioned I love and miss Target?), then as soon as both she and I returned to my dad's house, we all piled in the car and made the drive up to Holiday to my grandmother's house. My Aunt Jean, cousins Erin and Matt, and Erin's new baby Ben (who Google tells me is actually my first-cousin-once-removed) were all visiting, so I scheduled my Florida arrival to overlap with their visit on Thursday so I could see all of them and meet the baby. We spent the day chatting and had a delicious dinner from Paul's Shrimp House. It was great to see everyone and get caught up, and of course Ben was adorable. And my grandmother is such a proud great-grandma to Ben! I know she was so excited to meet him. It was amazing to have four generations of our family together at once.
Well, hello there, Ben!
With Heather, cousin Erin, and baby Ben
Ben and his great-grandma
Being goofy in the mirror to get a smile on that cute little face!
While Eric golfed on Friday morning, I got my Friends/Reunion Day underway. For lunch, my old high school best friend Fran (her actual name is Erin, but I will never, ever call her that) picked me up and we met up with our friend Cathy for lunch. It was so great to see both of them! I hadn't seen Cathy since her wedding years ago, and it had been years since I saw Fran, as well. We had a wonderful time chatting, gossiping, and catching up over lunch. Then Cathy had to go back to work so Fran and I went back to her house and looked at old high school pictures and reminisced until her husband got home from work. He and I were friends too, so I spent some time talking to him then headed back home to get ready for my reunion.
The first part of the reunion was held at the Tampa Bay Rays game that night. (There was also a Beach Day on Saturday, but I didn't go to that part.) We went to Ferg's Sports Bar first to pick up our tickets, then met up with Cathy and her husband Steve outside the stadium. I had a very good time at the game, too, although the Rays lost (and the Diamondbacks even got themselves a no-hitter out of it). I mostly talked to Cathy (I was so glad she went!), but also caught up with a couple of other old friends.
With friends Cathy and Brandi
With friends Agnieszka and Cathy
Cathy and her husband Steve
With Cathy at the end of the game
Diamondbacks celebrating a no-hitter
At the end of the game
After the game we went back to Ferg's for some post-game drinks and more reunion festivities. A bunch more people showed up for the drinks than for the game! They also had "Reunion Superlatives" to vote on and played the Senior Video. We stayed there for a bit then went on to Durty Nelly's, a bar that Cathy's husband Steve co-owns. It was great! Cathy and Steve were great hosts and we had a blast! It was just so nice to hang out with old friends again.
At Ferg's with friends John, Cathy & Steve
At Durty Nelly's
Saturday was Eric's only other full day in Florida, so that was our day with his family. Somehow, once again, he dragged himself out of bed super early to play golf, even though we had been out until 3:00 a.m. the night before! That kid is dedicated to his golf, I'll tell you what.
As soon as he got done playing golf he picked me up and we went up to see his mom. This was the first time I had been to the new place she's in, and I liked it. She's very close to Clearwater Mall, and when we got there, she wanted to go shopping. So, we took her to Target and got her some new shirts, then had lunch at the little food court there. Then we went back to her place and sat out on their deck in the sun (Toni is so tan now! She does that a lot, apparently). We also watched some World Cup action in her room, and then took her dinner back out to the deck so she could eat outside. It was such a nice visit.
I know it has been a while since I posted an update about how she's doing. Even if I'm not talking about her, she's still always on our minds. We wish so much we could be there more, to visit her and help out with her care. But, at this point there's not much we can do. It does help us to know that Kelley and Gramz take such good care of her, so we know she is in good hands. But right now, all we can really do is just cherish every minute we get with her. She seemed so happy to see us, and so sad to see us go. She kept talking about us "doing what we need to do" so we could finish up in New York and come be home with her for good. It nearly broke my heart, because we do so want to be there with her. But it was so good to spend that time with her and see how she continues to improve. Of course things are not the same as they once were, but it's so great to see Toni. She's still herself, you know? Like, she kept looking at Eric and telling him she loves him, and at one point she pulled him over to her and was kissing his hand and his arm...then she bit him! And she thought it was so funny! I mean, that's just so her. It's so great to see that. She's incredible.
Eric and me with my awesome mother-in-law
After Toni finished her dinner, Kelley and Susan showed up at the hospital to pick us up and take us to dinner at Gramz's house. Gramz moved recently and got a new dog (who is cute as can be), so I had lots of new things to see! Unfortunately, Eric's brother Ronnie and his wife Stephanie couldn't join us, but we had a great pasta dinner with the rest of the family. They're such good people, and it's always nice to see them!
On Sunday, Eric had to head back to the airport in the morning. What a quick visit for him! I was sad to see him go but I'm sure he was so exhausted, he was probably ready to get back to the city and relax a bit. He also had to leave on Tuesday for a business trip to Boston, so he had lots to do to prepare.
After dropping Eric off at the airport, Heather and I went up to Weeki Wachee to visit my mom. We had a nice day visiting and shopping, and we were even treated to a great Florida thunderstorm. We really don't get thunderstorms much in NYC, and I kind of miss them! We also had a delicious dinner of chicken, corn on the cob and green beans cooked on the grill, then we all went out to Papa Clyde's for ice cream. I had this delicious Peanut Butter Overload flavor in a homemade waffle cone - yum! After ice cream, Heather and I headed back home. It was a quick but very nice visit!
At Papa Clyde's with Heather, my mom and Gary
Monday was actually the one day of my trip that I didn't have totally booked! Heather and I took advantage of it and went out to St. Pete Beach for a bit in the morning. Aaaaah, beach. I rarely make it to the beach when I visit Florida, so that was a nice treat. We spent a couple hours there then headed back home for lunch and a dip in the pool before Heather had to get ready for another audition.
At the beach with Heather
Love the beach!
When Heather returned from her audition, my dad took us out to a lovely seafood dinner. We had planned on going to Cha Cha Coconuts (site of our rehearsal dinner!) for some atmosphere and nice views along with our meal, but a torrential downpour sent us to Crabby Bill's instead. It was delicious, though, and we had a great time. It's so nice to have all of us together at once!
Heather is ready to dig in to her Steamer Bucket.
I am ready to devour about a ton of snow crab.
Family after a delicious dinner!
And that was about it for Florida! Tuesday morning Heather and I did a little quick shopping before she dropped me at the airport, then it was back to the Big Apple. As soon as I got home I went out to pick up Achilles, who had been trying out a new kennel for the weekend. It seemed to go well, although he did have an accident which involved the loss of an ENTIRE TOENAIL, poor thing. I have to admit, I panicked when the boarder called me over the weekend - my first thought was "Oh, NO, he did something royally awful and they want us to pick him up IMMEDIATELY." But no, he was perfectly well-behaved, they said. He just stepped wrong on a stair and pulled out his nail. Phew. He'll be fine and the boarder doesn't hate us, so all is well.
Now I'm off to finish fighting off this cold my weekend of sleep-deprivation seems to have given me, so that I can be 100% healthy for Fourth of July festivities this weekend! What do you all have planned for the long weekend?