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~Friday~  I got up at about 8:30 today, and sauntered over to the hotel lobby for the complimentary breakfast, which was adequate but nothing great. They didn't have bagels, which would have been my number one choice, but I had a hard-boiled egg, two slices of toast, a small cheese danish, some apple juice and coffee. Obviously it wasn't too bad.

As I exited the lobby, this hunky guy was checking out, and although I clearly heard him say, "Checking out," to the clerk, I quickly imagined that he said to me, "Check me out!" and I answered in my mind, "Done!"

I sat poolside and finished up Thursday's blog entry.


While I was sitting there, I saw some movement out of the corner of my right eye over by the drink machine, and a little gecko had stuck its head out and was peering from side to side. In varmint mode, I was startled for a moment when out of the corner of my left eye I saw, right next to my left foot, what I at first thought was a snake:


but what turned out to just be putty.



I picked up Lisa at the airport for her 1:15ish arrival, and after dropping her stuff in the hotel room, we did a quick run to Arby's where we got a to-go lunch, which we ate back in the room. You can't beat roast beef sandwiches with wine and bourbon and Diet Coke. Just sayin'...

Shortly after that, I got a call from my cousin Jeanne that things had taken a drastic turn last night in that my uncle had been taken to the hospital, was in ICU, and they'd gone so far as administering last rites to him. Needless to say, this curtailed our plans to meet everyone at my aunt and uncle's house for a 7:00 Happy 50th Anniversary surprise.

Those plans, made months ago, were supposed to go down like this. I was to meet my (four) cousins somewhere near their parents' house and all of us were to knock on their door and surprise them. (My aunt and uncle didn't even know all their kids were coming.) An additional surprise was that I had invited our other cousin, Lisa, (who's a special cousin as you'll read about below) to surprise my cousins, and to further surprise their parents. As you've begun to see, the surprisers got some surprises themselves.

Lisa and I hung out at the hotel having great conversation, as we always do whenever we're afforded the opportunity, which unfortunately hasn't been nearly often enough, since we've only known each other for a couple of years now, and we live in different states. In the course of that conversation she'd told me that her and Pam (my cousin Rene's wife) had such a great time during a recent visit, and she told me about a time she asked her parents (my aunt and uncle) something "point blank," which they didn't answer honestly.

I said with a grin, "Okay, I'm going to ask you something point blank now that I expect you to answer honestly." She said okay and I continued, "So, I find it hard to believe that during the entire four or five days Rene and Pam were visiting you and Terri, in which I'm sure you had several talks alone with Pam, that you didn't tell her that you were coming down here to surprise everyone."

She copped to the cat having come out of the bag during their visit, and it was a cute story how it did. I was just glad that Pam knew, really, particularly with the turn of events here. Shortly after that "confession," Lisa texted Pam to let her know that I knew and a few minutes later, Pam called to finalize new plans for us to meet where they were all staying at the home of long-time friends of my aunt and uncle.



At some point during the day, Lisa pointed out this sign behind the bathroom door in our room that I hadn't seen, and which raises more questions than it answers:


Issues such as:

  1. Where do these prices come from? (I got the AAA rate of $50 per night. Period.)

  2. Who's the "bed count police" and when and how does s/he do her/his work?

  3. What if the "Extra Person" sleeps on a roll-away bed?

  4. Since the prices are the same in both columns the "Two in One Bed" and "Two in Two Beds" columns in the "Double" category, what is the rhetorical value of enumerating them?

  5. Of what value is this entire "Maximum Rates" information to the customer now, since it's clearly after 12/31/2009?

Inquiring, digressing minds want to know...



On the way to see everyone, Lisa and I dropped by Panera Bread, where we picked up a coffee cake to offer to the gracious hosts when we arrived.


When we arrived, Lisa and I were welcomed with open arms, and we enjoyed a couple of hours sitting on the lanai around the pool having great conversation and enjoying good food and drinks with with my cousin Rene, his wife Pam, and their delightful son, Ryan, and of course, with Connie and Paul (pictured above)—the long-time friends of my Uncle Rene and Aunt Rita, and who were the consummate hosts. There's a bite of the coffecake left on Lisa's plate there.

My favorite thing about this time together was admiring and enjoying the interaction between Ryan and his parents—my cousin Rene and his wife Pam. It was obvious that he was a good, delightful kid, and that they'd done a great job raising him.



Later in the afternoon, early evening, we got word that my uncle had been taken off the ventilator, which was indeed welcome news to everyone, but perhaps no more so to anyone than to my uncle himself. As soon as it came off he said, "Go home and get my teeth; I'm hungry." They actually were going to let the whole family visit him, perhaps in greater numbers than might normally be allowed in ICU, due to the event of it being his 50th wedding anniversary, so we headed to the hospital.

When we arrived in the ICU area with my cousin Rene Jr. his wife Pam, and their son Ryan, I first saw my other cousin Roger before entering to enjoy the look on my aunt's face, followed by a tight, tight hug once she processed who I was. I watched her mouth fall wider open as I started to move to Uncle Rene in his bed and Lisa came forward as the next surprise for her.

I said hello to my uncle, squeezed his hand, and kissed him on the cheek saying both hello and congratulations, while drinking in his genuine pleasure to see me there. And then I moved aside so that he could be surprised to meet Lisa, the daughter—whose existence he'd only learned about in the last couple of years—of his baby sister, Annette, who died this past February. One of my cousins later noted that they had never seen their father cry, but they did in the moment he was introduced to her.

Aside for my non-family readers: Unbeknownst to anyone in the family, my Aunt Annette and Uncle Frank gave up my cousin Lisa for adoption as a baby, and about 14 or so years ago now, on a quest to find her biological parents, Lisa found them. And then—finally—about two years ago, the rest of the family started learning about her. This aunt and uncle of mine, Rene and Rita, knew about her, and had even spoken with her in a Skype (a.k.a. Spike—inside joke:) session, but due to technical difficulties Lisa could see them, but they couldn't see her. This was their first time meeting in person.

At one point, while standing around my uncle's bed, my cousin Lisa became overwhelmed by a moment of recognition of the waviness of my uncle's hair, which she could see in her own son Christopher's hair. What an amazing thing for someone who has found their biological family to recognize some of their traits in her own children.

Before giving my uncle some privacy by heading over to the third-floor lobby, I saw my other cousin, Bobby, standing alongside my uncle's bed, too, and waved hello. Several of us walked to the lobby together, where I was reunited with my cousin Jeanne, met her husband Dave and their son Andrew, met Roger's 8-year-old triplets—Marisa, Brooke, and Ben, and Bobby's girlfriend, another Pam.

Somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30, I walked back over to my uncle's room and said goodnight to both him and my aunt, and Lisa and I followed my cousin Rene back to our hotel, where after saying goodnight, they headed to the airport to pick up their daughter, Tara, who had a late arrival in from Chicago, where she lives.



This picture's out of sequence—meaning it was actually taken on Saturday—but it's a put-a-name-with-the-faces picture of my aunt and uncle and their kids, my cousins:

(l-r): Roger, Jeanne, Aunt Rita, Uncle Rene, Bobby, and Rene, Jr.

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