Friday evening, while Joshua and I were cleaning the downstairs family room, my parents came downstairs and said that they needed to talk to us.
My father had just been on the phone with my uncle in Oregon, and my father said that my uncle had expressed an interest in seeing us (my brothers and me) after so many years. My father had told my uncle that he had a chance to see us over July 4, when we would all be home, and that my uncle might not have another chance to see us all together until Christmas.
In response, my uncle had asked my father whether he might come for a visit over July 4, and my father had told him that we would be most pleased to have him as our guest that week. In fact, my father had told my uncle that he should come to Minneapolis early, several days before we departed for the lake, so that my uncle could rest and recuperate from his flight before we all headed northward.
My uncle had accepted the invitation, and my parents wanted to know whether this was acceptable to me, and whether I thought it would be acceptable to my brothers. I told my parents that it was perfectly fine with me if my uncle came for a visit, and I told them that I suspected that it would be perfectly fine with my brothers, too. My only reservation, I said, was that I feared that my uncle and his wife would be bored out of their minds, spending an entire week with us up at the lake.
The response I received from my parents was twofold: that my uncle's wife would not be accompanying him to Minnesota, and that my uncle had so little energy and so little strength that he wanted nothing more than a chance to see us, and to visit with us, and to rest amid lots of peace and quiet.
"Have him come, then" I said.
My parents then telephoned both of my brothers to sound them out on the subject of having my uncle come for a visit. My brothers did not object in the least, but both of them raised the same concern I had raised: they feared that my uncle would be bored. My father assured my brothers that my uncle wanted nothing more than the opportunity to see us again after fourteen years, and to visit with us, and that my uncle neither expected nor wanted an action-filled week.
I asked my parents why my uncle's wife would not be coming with him, and my parents said that they did not know the answer to that question. I also asked my parents whether my uncle had been in contact with any of his siblings besides my father, and my father answered "It appears not".
I thought that this was awfully strange. When my parents traveled to Oregon in April to assist my uncle and his wife, they learned that my uncle and his wife had contacted my father, and only my father, about my uncle's illness and his turn for the worse. While my parents were in Oregon, my father telephoned the rest of the siblings to let them know what was going on with my uncle. However, apparently none of them followed up on my father's call and attempted to visit with, or even to talk by telephone to, my uncle. Either these individuals are all callous and heartless souls, or they are simply incapable of experiencing familial love and devotion.
I asked my mother what she thought about my uncle's visit, and what we could do to make his visit as comfortable as possible, and what we could do to make his visit free from burdens upon her.
"Well, he doesn't think he is going to make it through this, and he wants to tie up some loose ends, I think" was her answer.
She told us how my uncle had asked, over and over, about us (my brothers and me) when she and my father had been in Oregon, and how my uncle had enjoyed listening to my father talk about us. "I think he wants to see you boys one more time before he goes" were her final words.
I looked at my father, but he did not say anything. He just looked at me, and then he rested his hand on the back of my head, and then he smiled at me, which meant that he was OK.
And my parents returned upstairs, and Josh and I went back to work, finishing up the family room.
When Josh and I were done, we went upstairs, and we found my parents in the kitchen, seated at the dining table. My mother was turning pages of a news magazine, and my father was turning pages of a newspaper, but mostly they were talking. They seemed to be perfectly fine.
My parents asked Josh and me what we thought about having a family outing the first weekend my brothers would be home. Specifically, they wondered whether we all might enjoy attending a performance of the musical "1776", which the Guthrie Theater will be staging for a long run this summer.
I told my parents that they should ask my brothers the next time they talked to them. I told my parents that, if my brothers did not want to go, Josh and I would go with them to see "1776", either before or after the week of July 4.
And then I changed the subject, and I asked my parents and Josh to bring me up to date on where our vacation plans stood (the plans seem to change every two hours, and I am having trouble keeping up).
I learned that the prospective destinations have been narrowed down to London, Paris and Munich, the latter being a destination that I did not even know was under current consideration. The prospective time periods have been narrowed down to the first two weeks of September, the last two weeks of September, and the first two weeks of October.
We talked a while longer, and then we had some ice cream, and then we took the dog outside, and then we all turned in for the night.
On Saturday, Josh and I got the lawn mowed, and the other yard work completed, and the cars washed. My parents' dog always keeps a respectful distance when the cars are washed, because he fears that a few stray drops of water may come his way. He does not like getting wet, so he plants himself a few yards away, in the shade of a tree, and he watches intently.
Yesterday Josh and I did not do any painting. Instead, after church, Josh and I and my parents all went out to lunch, and then we went to see "Paris Je T'Aime", which was playing at a nearby cinema. It is not a particularly good film, but we all had read about it, and we all had wanted to see it, and I am glad that we went. It was not the worst way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
On the way back to my parents' house late yesterday afternoon, I asked Josh what he thought about staying at my parents' house during the coming week. I pointed out that all four of us could do some travel research each evening, plowing through guidebooks old and new, and using online resources, in an attempt to figure out where we are going to go. Josh liked the idea, and so did my parents, so all four of us stopped at our apartment so that Josh and I could gather clothes for the week ahead.
We will keep in constant contact with my middle brother every night this week, I am sure, via email messages and instant messages and phone calls, and I suspect that we will all be able to make some decisions about our travel plans before the week is out.