Thursday, July 31, 2008

Richard Family Reunion 2008

The Richard family reunion weekend got off to bad start even before we left Middleton.

First there was a minor irritation.

In a very vague sort of way, I’d been wondering where we had stored the bicycle rack for the car. I hadn’t seen it in the garage or the shed but didn’t think that much about it until today, when I made a more thorough search and came up empty-handed.

Maybe we lent it to someone? I considered.

It turns out that Andy used it to transport his bike to Milwaukee last fall. JoAnna and I never thought to tell him to return it, as we didn’t have a use for it until we bought new bikes tow months ago. By that time, Andy was already home for the summer. Tomorrow afternoon we had planned to bike north from Two Rivers to Point Beach State Park and then south to Manitowoc along a bike-pedestrian trail that follows Lake Michigan.

So much for that idea.


Then a much bigger concern arose.

JoAnna announced that her dad was in the hospital. He needed a stronger antibiotic for an infection on his left hand and a more effective pain medication for his sore back. In the process, his doctor decided he needed to admit him for observation. Though it’s not definite, he may be able to spend a couple of hours at home tomorrow for his 78th birthday party.

Joseph (nephew), Cyndi (sister-in-law), & JoAnna

As it turned out, not having brought our bikes along wasn’t a problem. We rented them from the Village Inn Motel, located about two miles south of the Lighthouse Inn, our home base for the weekend, as their hourly rates are much cheaper. ($3 vs. $10.) Outside of mountain bikes, they had very little to offer, although Albert and Julianna rented a tandem. The bike I chose was a little bit too small for me, even after adjusting the seat. I felt like a 12 year old as we pedaled along the lakeshore trail toward downtown Two Rivers. We made a brief stop at Larry and Alice’s house, as there had been some question about how to proceed with Larry’s birthday celebration. Once we resumed our ride, we joyously and energetically snaked our way along the mostly gravel trail to Point Beach State Park, a 5-mile trek. I wouldn’t have felt at all comfortable riding my own bike, as the surface isn’t designed for thin tires. I probably would have ended up with a flat.

Julianna & Albert (JoAnna's niece and brother)

Eddie, Julianna, & Paul
(with Lake Michigan in the background)

Albert, JoAnna, Julianna, Eddie

More than two hours later, however, when riding along the paved trail between the Lighthouse Inn and the Village Inn Motel, the joy had been drained from the experience. Because I’d been sitting too low, my knees felt as though they were about to give out. As the finish line came into view, I began to feel like The Little Engine That Could.

I think I can I think I can……

Even though the terrain was flat, my knees felt as though they were straining to climb a steep hill.

During the last 100 feet through the motel’s parking lot, I allowed myself to coast to a stop, stretching out my legs in temporary, V-shaped comfort.

The Richard family reunion usually starts out with a fish fry on Friday evening. For the past few years, an effort has been made, with limited success, to move this activity to Camp Tapawingo, a 4-H camp north of Mishicot that we rent for the weekend.. For years, prior to my entrance into the family in 1984, everyone would gather in the basement of the K of C Hall on the east side of Two Rivers, within easy walking distance of where Larry and Alice now live. They serve one of the best perch fish frys ever. It wouldn’t be unusual for family members, upwards of 40 some years, to take over the entire dining room.

No fish fry for us this year, though.

For months Larry had planned his 78th birthday party down to the smallest detail. He worked on a variety of small, decorative touches to the side yard – painting the shed with the names of the places that the family moved on their way from Canada to Wisconsin, for example. He planned the menu: brats, burgers, baked beans, potato wedges, and an assortment of condiments. He gathered extra kindling and branches for the fire that was to roar in his homemade pit after dark. He bought ingredients for s’mores. But most of all, he looked forward to have all of his immediate family members together: Larry, Sherry, Kristi, and Larry Jr. from Virginia Beach; Albert, Cyndi, Julianna, and Joseph from Havre de Grace, Maryland; JoAnna, Paul, and Eddie from Middleton; and Cindy from Manitowoc. (Maybe a second career awaits me writing social notes for small-town newspapers, if such a thing is even done anymore.)

Then the unexpected visit to the hospital occurred and messed everything up big time.

Larry seemed to be in pretty good spirits when JoAnna and Eddie and I stopped by his room at the Two Rivers Aurora Medical Center for a brief early Friday afternoon visit. Albert had been with him for the past hour or so. Larry was sitting upright in what looked like a Lazy-boy type chair, i.e., upholstered and adjustable, positioned next to his bed. Five minutes into our visit, we heard a chorus of female voices singing “Happy Birthday”. The nurse leading the way carried a lunch tray, which included a 4-inch-square birthday cake packaged in a plastic, clamshell container. Perhaps instructively, it remained untouched while he worked his way through the rest of his meal.

Later, Albert offered the option of moving the birthday party to the hospital. Looking out Larry’s third-floor windows, we saw a large patio area on the ground floor just off the cafeteria on the ground level. It’s a gathering space complete with a gas grill and picnic tables that would accommodate a group much larger than ours. Next to the patio was an expansive, beautifully maintained garden that stretched to an undeveloped wooded area. It even had a small waterfall. It would have provided an attractive setting for a family gathering.

As it turned out, Larry's doctor didn't give him a temporary discharge, so we moved the birthday party to a spacious lounge down the hall from Larry's hospital room.
In the family lounge at the
Two Rivers Aurora Medical Center

Got you, too, Sherry!

Under the circumstances,
the best family portrait we could manage.

Not an editorial comment.
Joseph in a playful mood.

The Power of Reading

Later, at Larry & Alice's house,
Eddie tends the fire

The view from our motel room

The next 6 photos were taken while Eddie and I biked to Manitowoc and back on Saturday morning. For whatever reasons, I am fascinated by two locations in this city: the high school and the Lakeview Center dead mall.

Lincoln High School: Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Is it real or is it Memorex?
Is it public or is it parochial?
How many high schools can you name with such a stunning Gothic tower?
Designed by Jens Jensen and constructed in 1923, the school is located on Roeff's Hill overlooking Lake Michigan.

Lakeview Center

Lakeview Center's neighbor mall isn't exactly a picture of health.

Golf is on the schedule for Saturday morning.

Larry, Julianna, Cindy, and JoAnna just took a look at their scorecard.

Doug Klein, Marie Klein, Albert Richard

In birth order: Larry, Albert, JoAnna, & Cindy (with daughter Julianna in front of her dad)

Saturday afternoon's bocce ball tournament\
(It's more fun than it looks. Really!!)

The Richard Women
Shirley (the youngest of 5 sisters), Marie (the oldest sister), Lou (the middle sister). Lou's t-shirt displays her parents' 1919 wedding picture.

Albert, JoAnna, and Paul show off their matching t-shirts

No Vegetarians in This Crowd

Originally, sausages weren't on the breakfast menu, until Larry Jr. made a special request of his Auntie Cindy.

Cindy and Larry's pancake duty

Following Sunday's breakfast, the long-standing tradition is for each family to pose for pictures.

The Larry Richard family

For the first time ever, we had the largest contingent attending the reunion.

The McFall Family
The Klein Family
At 86 years old, Marie, front and (not quite) center and smiling proudly, is the matriarch of the Richard family. On Saturday, she played golf for three hours in the morning and bocce ball for three hours in the afternoon. Staying active is her talisman.

Shirley, (son Craig) and Bud Andrews

If all of Bud and Shirley's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren had been present, I would have had to step back about 20 paces.

The Cousins
Top row: Doug Klein, Craig Andrews, Ed Carroll, Larry Richard
Middle row: Pat McFall, Wayne Klein, Albert Richard
Bottom row: JoAnna Richard, Cindy Richard, Mary Klein, Chris (Carroll) Meinholz

If I recall correctly, the suggested pose for the above picture was lean right if you're a Republican, left if you're a Democrat. Maybe Obama needs to visit Two Rivers. (And why does JoAnna looks as though she's leaning right?)

After breakfast at Camp Tapawingo, the concluding event of the reunion, the Larry Richard family gathered in Larry and Alice's yard and enjoyed a perfect summer afternoon in the Cool City. Notice Larry's abundant decorative touches.

Proud of their French-Canadian heritage

The shade obscures a chronology,
painted on the front of the shed,
of the Richard family's migration
from Canada to Wisconsin

Watch out for that gnome, Honey!

OK, guys, what did you do with Snow White?

Kristi and Cyndi

Sherry & Larry Richard

Larry Jr. (son of Larry & Sherry)
Robin Gibb

Alice & her grandchildren (clockwise):
Julianna, Joseph, Kristy, Eddie, Larry Jr.

Larry, JoAnna, Albert, Cindy

The Christmas card pose

The 4 Richard Children with Mom

The 4 Richard Children with Mom (the goofy version)

The 4 Richard children with Dad