Sweet Winona, Beautiful Chicago: Another Tribute to My Family Matriarchs

A moment in time.

The last out of town trip I took with the women who acclimated me to road trips happened in July 2004; approximately 14 years ago. It’s been FOURTEEN YEARS since I shared mile markers with my favorites: my grandmother and my aunt Millie. My mom was never much of a road tripper. I can only remember no times when she was on the road with us but I know it happened here and there. She wasn’t much for going back and forth to Mississippi, which was a 9-hour drive that I learned to live for. My Gmom was spontaneous. Almost none of our road trips were planned, like the night my mom got married. Netria Parker Marlin’s idea of babysitting for the honeymoon was to hop in the bucket and hit the highway. I still see us leaving that night around 9 pm (it was dark) and driving the Buick Century 9 hours to Winona, MS on a whim. That’s how I can drive across the country and be unphased today.

But this trip in July 2004. The fourteenth to be exact. This was another spontaneous trip. Anytime there was a rental around, it almost always assured me that a trip was coming. My uncle had a Lumina that he rented to go to his hometown of Nashville. I drove the whole way there and up until the changes began in my family, he still laughed about how I drove 90 MPH the whole way there. I had NO license. But I got us where we were going safe and quickly; just like Gmom taught me. It almost brings tears to my eyes to think of the little nuances I took from my Gmom. She didn’t teach me to drive but I guess I was watching.

My uncle kept the Lumina for a bit and like clockwork, one afternoon my Gmom proposed we take it to Chicago to see my other aunt, who had relocated from Winona to Chicago w/her daughter due to a mental decline; she had Alzheimer’s and this trip would ultimately be my last time seeing her able to remember things. Me, my aunt Milli, my Grandmother Netria and my Uncle Lenny all hoped in the Lumina and set sail for Chicago: a three-hour trip. The trip would ultimately take the longest it’s ever taken me to get to Chicago and back. It was full of laughter, arguments, strange things and most of all, love. I had just started performing at Open Mics at the time and carried my notebook with me everywhere I went. This time was no different and man am I grateful for that decision. A week or so ago, I pulled this book out to troll it and saw a four-page entry from the trip to Chicago. As I read through it, tears shed uncontrollably. I remember this trip so well. I remember US – my family. Not perfect by any means but man, we were a good family. This journal entry is a great reminder of why it’s so important to journal and to write your stories. I remember how many times we got lost and how my uncle and grandmother, two alpha personalities, clashed on everything from directions to the weather. And then just like that, it would all be fine. Memories are not promised to us as my Aunt Anna Lee, who developed full Alzheimers shortly after our trip to Chicago and my Gmom, who also developed Alzheimer’s and passed away last June.

Wishing me happy birthday from my surprise video. I wish I could make the sound work so you could hear her voice.

But even if we don’t remember what is being recounted, the words are there. The stories are there. The energy lives. My grandmother’s birthday is August 16. Depending on when you see this blog, that’s tomorrow. It’s the second birthday without her; she passed just over a month prior to her bday. I can still see her in that bed. Still see her hand. Still see her gone. At no point as I stood frozen in front of her, waiting on the coroner, did it ever seem REAL. It wasn’t until we prayed over her and zipped her up at the foyer of the house i grew up in did I know my grandmother had left the building for the final time. I don’t know that I will ever ‘get over’ her death. Should I have to? As I prepare myself to receive my grandmother’s essence from the spirit realm rather than here on Earth tomorrow, I wanted to share this entry from our July 2004 Chicago trip. She drove the entire time and when I tell you, this entry doesn’t even cover all of it. There was so much but ALL of it was beautiful. I’d be grateful for any piece of it today. To be able to open this book and step back into this day was good but I really wish I could just have it all back. My gmom, who’s with God. My uncle, who can’t hear much and is alone and probably going to die alone and my Aunt, who’s in a nursing home slowly passing with each second. Then there’s Aunt Anna Lee, who passed shortly after our trip. Aunt Jessie, who’s death was the beginning of my family heartbreaks (I wasn’t that close to Anna Lee as she never left Winona). All of what we did together – the laughs, the trips, the existing in love – is gone. Even her dog passed about a month ago. But, thank God for memories. Thank God I still have my mom. She was never our road-trip buddy, but she’s no consolation prize either. We all we got. I hope we see a different part of Earth together, many times over, before it’s all over with. If for no reason other than it was once an inadvertent tradition to get up and go live. At least that’s one of THE ultimate lessons my Gmom imparted on me. Life is for living. Death is where the quiet is. Please enjoy this glimpse into my quirky, funny, loving and crazy, wild family and one of our road trips.

7.14.2004

 

I deem it absolutely necessary to document this trip to Chicago to see my other aunt. First, let me say we left at 10 oclock. The time is now 1:38PM. We have been lost more times than Waldo (where’s Waldo). My grandmother and uncle have traded one wrong direction for another. They’ve had yelling matches and I now feel like there is a sledgehammer continuously hitting me in the head.

HELP ME PLEASE!!!!!

We are finally here. Thank the Lord. There are people on the corner selling regular bottled water, towels, every and anything. N-E-Way, back to the trip here. We got off on the wrong exits, even when we were on the right one. We were in Chicago for about 45 minutes just lost. It’s about 91 degrees and it’s hot as hell. I saw pictures of Yolanda’s wedding (cousin) and she looked beautiful. Now about to go see my other aunt. We are following Lillie Ruth & Nate (cousins). I will conclude this data later. They live on the nice part of Chi. Didn’t know that existed.

*Back*

We are about to leave the nusing home and my aunt looked so pretty. We all had some laughs and overall this has been a rewarding trip. We’re going back to Lillie Ruth’s so I can eat, then we are going home. My aunt thought I was my mom, but it’s ok. I hope she doesn’t get full-blown Alzheimers. But there are definitely signs of it. I hope the trip home is easier than the ride here or should I say once we got here.

*Back on again*

We are attempting to get on the highway to go home and he arguments have all started and the curse words and yelling have begun again. Lord if I make it home with my sanity, I’m good.

*10 mins later *

We are now on the highway and the argumetns have ceased for all of about ten minutes. Then they fired back up; now they’ve stopped again. Everything is quiet and we are in between Gary & Chicago.

*25 mins later *

We’ve managed to take another wrong turn and when you mess up in Chicago, you got to travel the 7 seas to get back right.

HELP ME PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

*15 mins later *

Okay, we are going back to the highway to try this all over again. We should reach home at this rate by this time tomorrow. I need a blunt and a glass of wine. WE ARE BACKING UP ON THE HIGHWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok, I’m lost. But I’m not the driver, so it shouldn’t matter. We’ll see what happens.

*15 mins later *

I don’t know if I’ll ever see home again. My grandmother cut her seat heater on by accident, my uncle couldn’t get his back window up. My aunt called him a dummy. I don’t know where the hell we are. Where is Onstar when you need it??? I have a –wait a minute. MY AUNT JUST FARTED IN THE BACK SEAT!!!(***Added 8/15/18 – my grandmother had the window locks on. We had to live through the fart. I remember that, LMMFAO).

As stressful as this trip to and from has been, it’s been absolutely hilarious. N-E-Way – I have a headache this big (H E A D A C H E HELP ME PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

It’s 8:28. We left Lillie Ruth’s house at 7:00 PM. We’ve been lost the whole time. My uncle keeps spitting something out of his mouthbut the windows are up. WHERE IS IT GOING!!!??? He’s right behind me !!!!!

I hope not in my hair.

OKAY! We’re 140 miles away. My uncle said he got bad hips. My aunt responded and said “Bad LIPS”.

Lord, please take me to Indianapolis safe.

 

*****Aftermath.

I think it was after 10pm when we got back to Indianapolis. This was a great trip. I had a lot of fun and more laughs than the law should allow. My grandmother drove 90 MPH the whole way home, which leads me to believe she was sick of us.

My aunt and uncle brought me home and we stopped at Kroger, which was another comedic experience. Overall, my dysfunctional family is the best, funniest family in the world.

I wouldn’t replace them for nothing.

~kendria

To the Parker/Marlin/Moore/Harris family that loved me like I was the greatest thing that ever happened to them, I LOVE YOU and God knows, I miss you with each passing breath. I miss US.

Old traditions gone forever. Gmom & Mom/Summer days in the van.
One of our last photos. She was smiling. <3
Such a classic photo of a G.
My uncle and my gfather. Alonzo Harris and William/Blood Jones. This is where we all sat always. #ThePatio
My uncle Lenny. My Gmom’s hand. We loved.
Isn’t she lovely??? I just love this pic of my mom!!!!!
Easter in Winona, MS. Only child face.
Mom w/the eye liner on point! My resting bitch face is similar but not as perfected as this!!!
My gfather. Aunt Jessie in the gold shirt. Lillie Ruth (aunt anna lee’s daughter) in black; her kids.
Aunt Millie in Winona on the porch of the house she grew up in.
Uncle Lenny in front of Gmoms house. They were next door neighbors.
Aunt Millie and Uncle Lenny w/the winning Nibby Gal. I miss these stories.
Chewy (left) was my gmom’s dog. She died about three weeks ago. She was such a sweetheart.
Final goodbyes to a real G. This day is so blurry.
Usie. She wanted to know what the hell I was doing.
I owe my aunt so many visits. Nothing changed about that number; it’s still the same. She loves me so much. I’ve hurt her more than I care to admit.
Aunt Jessie. Lafayette Square. I damn near remember this day.

Kendria, 8.15.18

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