My stepmother's mother passed away on Saturday after a long illness. Liz and I made the quick and easy decision to go to Somerset, PA, for the service, which was today (Tuesday). My childhood home is in Johnstown, PA, not far from Somerset, so it was a chance for me to go home, even if it was just for a day. We rented a car on Monday morning for the 6+ hour drive there. We got a 2006 Chevy Malibu, with the pleasant surprise of complimentary XM Radio built-in. We enjoyed the classical and blues stations along the way, in addition to the CDs and podcasts we brought with us. (By the way, in this week's show Dave Raven read an e-mail I sent to him after we saw the Wiyos live in Brooklyn a few weeks back. Just in case anyone wants to hear my name mentioned on the radio.)
Along the way, Liz marveled at the beautiful fall foliage throughout Pennsylvania. It has been over a decade since I've been in my home state during the peak days for foliage, and seeing all the magnificent colors reminded me of the autumns of my youth, with football, school, and music all making it my favorite season. We got to my house about 4:30 PM, before my mother was home from work, so we had a chance to see some of the changes and improvements she's made to the place since we were last there (Christmas 2003). My room is still in the same condition it was then -- some things never change. We had dinner with my mother before leaving for the viewing at the funeral home, then later that night got to watch the exciting finish to the Steelers-Chargers game, as well as see the Yankees get ousted from the playoffs again.
The funeral was sad and uplifting, as a good funeral should be. Her granddaughters -- my cousins and longtime friends from high school -- wrote some wonderful memories and thoughts about their grandmother, which were read by one of their husbands. After the service we had time to eat with the rest of our family, but too soon it was time for us to get back on the road. Despite some bad weather in New Jersey, we got the car back to Hertz before they closed, almost exactly six hours from when we left Somerset. Apparently if you can go 70 mph the entire way, you can get from there to New York in that time. We'll be back in Johnstown for Christmas, so it wasn't so bad to leave so soon.
Of my step-grandmother, I will say this: she was a part of my life for almost twenty years, and during that time she always treated my brother and I as if we were her own grandchildren by blood. She came to our high school and college graduations and to my wedding, as well as many other concerts and events. She was a truly special person that I am glad to have known for as long as I did. I will miss her, but she is in a much better place now.