Family Visits in the USA

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We were gone for a while visiting family and it was wonderful! I feel so fortunate that I can go back 3-4 times a year and with video chats between visits, we stay in close touch. I’ve had many ask if my family visits here. They work full time, the kids are young, and it’s a two day trip each way so it’s much more sensible for us to travel to them. And, we also get a reality check about life in the US.

Connections never seem to work out so there is usually a night in Panama City on either end. The Riande is familiar and comfortable with nice people, beautiful grounds, on site restaurant, and comfortable rooms so we haven’t been motivated to explore other options. Well… we used to stay in the Hotel Express Inn near the airport but no more of that. At my age I’ll spend a bit more money to be comfortable.

First stop was Seattle. The granddaughters change so much in even a few months, and it’s exciting to see them grow and learn and do new things. I feel like that after every visit I come home saying the was the best visit yet. It was cold so we didn’t go out as much as some other visits, but we did get out of the house a few times. (Everyone thought “the Panamanians” were pretty funny the way we bundled up). The fall colors were really beautiful as you can see from the picture out their back door and another in front of a neighbor’s house. We narrowly escaped the snow that came a few days later, enough to shut down school one day.

On Thanksgiving Day we all flew down to Santa Rosa to see my other daughter. It was SO awesome to see everyone together! This was the first time since before COVID, but the kids jumped right in to having fun like they’d never been apart. We all played in the house, in the playgrounds in the park across the street, and in the yard. The California in-laws had us all for dinner at their house and also visited my daughter’s house several times. It was like a big extended weekend of playtime for all of us! I looked at those four beautiful children, all of my grandchildren together and about melted into a puddle. We were too busy playing to take many more pictures on the rest of the trip.

We stayed in CA for a few more days and then, it was off to Tulsa. My family has grown considerably since finding my sisters! I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the kindness and love they have shown me. Joel was with me this time so they all got to meet each other. And, my cousin Kim also came for a few days! I’ve known her the longest and we have talked quite a bit, so it was awesome to finally meet in person.

My objective this time was to learn about all my nieces and nephews. My oldest sister has 3 sons, two married with kids, the third just finishing college. My middle sister has 3 sons also, all married with kids. And my youngest sister has a son and a daughter, and I got to meet both of them, his wife, and her three grandkids which was awesome. Three sisters, eight nieces and nephews, and many grandkids, yes my family has definitely become considerable larger! We haven’t even started to learn about the grandkids, or the spouses, or other relatives who may be out there. But little by little I’ll learn more on each visit, and hopefully meet more of my extended family. Of course, the best was time with my mother, sisters, and my cousin! Now that we have known each other for a while, we are more comfortable and I’d enjoy their company even if we weren’t related. It’s still somewhat overwhelming though, all these people I’m connected with. I’ve never had nieces and nephews until my sister’s grandson was born a few months ago, and I’ve never had cousins.

We were sure tired when we got back! We were up at 4:30 AM both Tuesday and Wednesday to make our flights, and we ran all over the Panama City airport. The new terminal is open so now there is Terminal 1, and Terminal 2 with baggage claim and immigration in each. We landed in Terminal 1 so we started there, but the sign at the top of the stairs going to baggage claim and immigration said no baggage there. It’s all in Terminal 2. So, we walk all the way over there to find guy at the top of the stairs who said that was only for Copa flights (we arrived on United). He scanned our baggage tags and located them back in Terminal 1. Sure enough, at the bottom of the stairs was a sign saying Copa baggage was in Terminal 2. So, do not believe the sign at the top of the stairs. 🙄

But anyhow, we got our luggage, got on the Riande van and settled in at the hotel for another nice evening. The early mornings though, the stress of travel, the running around, and I’m not good at sleeping on planes where you are packed in like sardines, yeah we were dead tired and happy we didn’t have to do anything for a few days at home.

We left in the rainy season. We were getting so much rain that it hard to do anything at all outside and the yard was becoming terribly overgrown. We returned in the dry season, which I was told arrived abruptly two days before. Days were totally dry, sunny, and breezy with maybe some cloud cover but not a drop of rain. It did allow me to start tackling the yard though. The band was also getting back to work on our usually Sunday evening gig, and we were both super happy to find we hadn’t forgotten how to play. Usually I notice that after a break, I come back refreshed and better than before. I hadn’t even forgotten how to play on my new 5-string bass. It’s now Monday and last night went very well, and it was a pleasure to load in and out in dry weather.

It always feels strange to spend time in one world, and then after some travel time land in a different world. The USA had all the usual differences that I notice. It’s expensive, it’s organized and manicured, people keep their distance and don’t greet others. There are tons of stores, restaurants, and endless stuff to buy. It’s convenient to know where to buy things in the well-stocked, predictable stores but good heavens, there’s just so many stores and so much stuff! It’s cold and thermal underwear is a great goodness. Between the low humidity outside and heating in the house, even with lotion and lip balm, I felt like I had alligator skin by the time we got back. But all that fades in importance when I can be with my people!

Now we are back to our usual life in Panama minus the rain. It’s now Wednesday. You wouldn’t think it takes a week to write a blog post. I don’t know what happens but I keep busy and the days fly by. I have plenty of things to keep me occupied and life now is lived at a much slower pace than it was when I was working, so it’s pretty darn nice.

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