My flight to Muskegon was, thankfully, on time and uneventful. My niece picked me up at the adorable little airport.We checked me into my nice, clean room at the local Rodeway Inn and then she showed me around the off campus apartment she shares with her boyfriend, Jason.
She's so proud of the place, which is spotless. The serving platter I gave them for Christmas was brought out for the occasion and displayed proudly on their kitchen table. She complained a lot -- about the local electric company and the interruption to their cable service when she and Jason needed it most. But I could tell that she enjoys feeling womanly and adult.
Grand Haven Musical Fountain. It's a free show on a hill near the mouth of Lake Michigan. The water and lights are synchronized to music. It's a lovely, family-friendly half hour that means a great deal to my niece and her boyfriend. He helps program the performances every night. Afterward, the three of us and Jason's friend John went out to a late dinner at a diner that serves breakfast 24/7. John picked up the tab for all of us -- $28.
My niece adores Jason and he's very good to her. Their friend John looks to be about my age and lives on a farm outside of town. She's living a life that seems right out of The Andy Griffith Show, but she seems happy. It's not what I had hoped for her -- a culinary degree followed by a position as a sous chef at a big hotel or a five star restaurant. Instead she'll probably end up the manager of a Culver's or Chili's or Olive Garden in this small town, or one like it. And that's fine, because (as I kept reminding myself) it's her life, not mine.
Saturday she showed me around her campus -- tinier than Kendall, the one I wanted for her here in Chicagoland. But she knows her way around and feels quite at home. We had lunch at the restaurant run by and staffed by students at CIM. I was pleased to see that she knew some of the students (I didn't like the idea of her best friend being a 50-year-old farmer -- pleasant though he was. I mean, she's 20!). The meal was delicious and the prices reasonable.
Then we walked the beach at Pere Marquette Park and it was gorgeous. So clean! You can have your oceans. Lake Michigan is a very great Great Lake and I love being around it.
While we walked and played in the water, she told me how she and her boyfriend are talking wedding. Nothing is in the immediate future -- they don't have the money for a wedding and she's got at least one year of school left -- but she made a rueful comment about not being able to seat me and my older sister together. I told her that, for the sake of her day, I'd suck it up and put a good face on it. I promised, in fact. But I was so upset inside that I wanted to vomit onto the rocks along the lake. I had really hoped that once this legal rigamarole was over, I'd never have to deal with my older sister again. In fact, I was counting on it.
It always feels that, within my family, my older sister is allowed to treat me any way she wants and there's no downside. It doesn't seem to bother anyone. I know that's not how my niece looks at it -- she's close to her cousin Beth and the only way she can have Beth at the ceremony is to invite Beth's parents. But I can't imagine an afternoon and evening with my older sister, a woman who aggressively wishes me ill. Right now my head is spinning, trying to figure out how I can get out of my niece's as-yet unplanned wedding without hurting her feelings.
Oh well, nothing is happening right away. No reason to borrow my dread.
I was also a little unhappy to hear that my niece is trying to plan her life around where her mom and dad want to live. There's a little town in Wisconsin they like ... they like this area of Michigan ... I told her that she and Jason need to go where their lives take them. That her parents aren't victims or invalids, they can travel to see her for holidays and they can email and call. She seemed dubious. Then I mentioned my nephew. What if his life takes him to Vermont, or Alabama? Her parents may decide they want to be near him, too! She can't make these decisions based on her folks, and I said they don't her to. I'm not sure I believe that part -- I suspect my kid sister would want her next door. But that's not the point, is it?
Got to the airport and as smooth and uneventful my flight to Muskegon was, the flight back home was complicated. First, there was a problem with the plane that was arriving from O'Hare, so we had to wait for a new one to arrive. Then, when we finally took off, there was a flash summer storm over O'Hare and we were diverted to Milwaukee. Then we refueled in Milwaukee and made the 15-minute flight to O'Hare. Sigh. Oh, well. It's better to be safe than on time!