Write Team: Malls, masks and Memorial Day in Missouri

Our granddaughter, Sarah, and her husband, Tien, recently invited us to accompany them on a trip to Springfield, Missouri, to visit our son, Dan, and his wife, Ruthe, over Memorial Day weekend.

As grandparents, we felt honored to be included and happy to be invited to make the trip. We would share the back seat with two of our “granddogs” — Max and Thor.

Since Don and I haven’t been out of town much recently, because of COVID-19, we were excited to travel to see our son, Daniel, and his wife, Ruthe.

Dan and Ruthe relocated to Springfield 10 years ago when Dan accepted a position as AV director at The University Plaza Hotel. Because of COVID-19, the hotel closed and Dan has recently begun a new job.

I happily recalled the Springfield shopping malls from earlier visits — Battlefield Mall, Primrose Marketplace, and the antique malls — plus Ruthe’s beautiful garden. We were told Missouri was no longer restricted and we wouldn’t need masks.

But as I thought about the eight-hour trip, I had second thoughts.

Could we do this?

My husband recently celebrated his 90th birthday and has some health problems. Could he make the trip?

Adopting an optimistic outlook, we packed the suitcase and prepared to leave on the Thursday before the holiday.

“We can do this,” I said.

Sarah and Tien arrived the night before with Max and Thor, two of our eight “grand-dogs.” Thor is a handsome medium-sized dog and Max a smaller, mixed breed. Both are well groomed and well behaved and they frequently visit us in our home.

If I total all the dogs that our children and grandchildren have, we have a total of eight grand dogs. And one “grand-cat” too — can’t leave Mira Lou out!

On our day of departure, we took the packed suitcase, the “meds,” the snacks, and the walker that my husband would need and Tien loaded them in the car.

We included the masks “just in case!”

I checked the house to be sure everything was secure and left the keys with our neighbor.

I wondered if Thor and Max would mind sharing the back seat with Grandpa and Grandma, since they normally have the space to themselves.

The two dogs eyed us skeptically as we settled into the back seat. Thor studied Grandpa with great interest.

Maybe they don’t remember us, I thought.

But both dogs snuggled at our feet as we stroked their soft fur.

They seemed content and so were we.

When we stopped at McDonalds for lunch, they longingly eyed our French fries. Tien said it was OK to give them a few.

Except for driving through three hours of rain, we had no difficulties on our trip.

Sarah brought podcasts of stories for our entertainment.

When we arrived at Dan and Ruthe’s home, Thor and Max were greeted by three “cousin dogs” — Harry Potter, Princess Pebbles, and Lulu — also called Skippy. They raced around the back yard getting reacquainted.

During our visit, we relished the freedom of being out and about, joining the crowds at the local malls, eating at our favorite place, The Aviary. Although we expected to forget about the masks, many people still wore them and some stores were still “posted.” The walker worked well at the antique mall where we walked up and down the aisles viewing furniture and houseware from other eras.

In Ruthe and Dan’s spacious yard we viewed an assortment of plants, trees, rock gardens and a goldfish pond. They live beside a creek and a golf course stretches beyond their backyard.

We gathered around the fire pit on Memorial Day night, enjoying family time, happy to be together after the weeks of seclusion, celebrating Dan’s new job.

In the morning we repacked our things and prepared for the long ride back to Ottawa. Thor and Max happily snuggled at our feet, hoping for a few more French fries at lunch time on our way home.

As we drove home I thought about the blessing of family and the importance of making time to plan and enjoy special times together.

• Carole Ledbetter of Ottawa is the author of two books, “Carole’s Columns” and “Who Am I Now? Growing Through Life’s Changing Seasons,” and is a speaker consultant for Stonecroft Ministries. She can be reached at dbarichello@shawmedia.com.