Pittsburgh


In my twenties, I remember my girlfriend talking about sleepless nights with her sick daughter. They were horror stories to me full of broken sleep, house-bound days, and snot wiping events.

And then came Maria and Mario. And broken sleep, house-bound days, and lots of snot wiping. And survival through lots of ice cream, 5 hour energy shots and Vela blogs.

Almost two weeks ago, Maria developed hard-core allergies. Her eyes swelled and watered and became bruised. We went to the doctor three different times over an eight day period to try to find the root cause. At first, it was diagnosed as allergies, then pink eye, and then a skin infection with allergies. It took her out of school for the last three days of the school week. I stayed with her for one of them, my mom for one, and Patty for the last (thank god for family). Patty was going to keep Ri for the weekend until I told Ri that I was still heading to Pittsburgh for Sarah’s graduation. Ri freaked and begged to come even with swollen eyes. I couldn’t say no since she looks up to her aunt so much so I agreed to meet Patty half way in order to get Ri Friday night. At the same time, Mario had no desire to go to Pittsburgh. He was starting to feel hot and had a rash on his cheeks. Patty offered to take him so that Ri and I could go to Pittsburgh without the stress of a sick kid. What a god-send she is. Not only did it help me but it also made Mario’s day because any time with Grandma is the best time ever for him. I have no doubt that he would choose Patty over me anytime.

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After driving back to get Mario and sitting in major traffic, we arrived at the Wendy’s in Delaware for the exchange. Mario hopped right into Patty’s car without hesitation. Ri jumped in mine and begged to head straight to the farm. She wanted to see Savvy who recently returned to the farm. She also wanted to be closer to Pittsburgh to see Aunt Sarah. And so I downed my Five Hour Energy at 8 pm and we were off. Ri played market on the iPad most of the way asking me what foods I wanted to buy and re-asking me after the first grocery trip was completed… and second… and third. I didn’t mind the constant interaction, however, because I needed stimuli.

We got to the farm way past Meg and dad’s bedtime and Ri was so slaphappy she laid next to me giggling for 20 minutes. Meg and I both commented the next morning how soothing it was to hear that core laughter coming from her little soul.

We woke Saturday morning to an exquisite day and headed east to Pittsburgh. We made it to Sarah’s apartment and Ri ran inside to greet Sarah and Jorge, and most importantly, the dogs. Maria got her fill of kisses and we were off to graduation.

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The Cathedral of Learning has been Sarah’s second home for the last three years. It sits amongst the bustle of traffic and looks like a building out of Florence, Italy. You just know minds are churning away inside of it. When Ri and Mario and I visited two years ago, we met Sar in her classroom. She hadn’t arrived yet so Mario did a dance for her class and Ri stood near him completely embarrassed.

It was a good thing that Mario stayed back because the graduation included an hour and a half of graduate readings. Each grad read a piece of their work for five minutes. I gave Ri the iPad but hoped she would listen to the stories. I didn’t think she spent too much time listening until she and I were walking to Stauf’s this week and I said “let’s make up a poem. I will start. One day I walked in the woods.”

Ri stopped me immediately. “No mom. You should say ‘One–day–I–walked–in the woods.” She had totally picked up on the voice inflections during the readings. I Love It.

Sarah read a lyrical essay about my grandma. Ri knows how sentimental I am so she crawled down to my chair and rubbed my cheek as Sarah spoke. Always the caretaker. I could listen to Sarah for hours and read her writings all day long. She is talented beyond belief (and her professor, Jean Marie completely agrees).

Afterward, Ri and I walked down all 36 flights of steps and took the elevator back up to five to chow down on desserts at the reception. There was a little girl there and Ri gravitated right to her while Meg and I spoke to Sarah and her professor. It really was a lovely afternoon.

And the loveliness continued when we dined at a Thai restaurant with an outdoor patio. They had a warm atmosphere with vines of flowers surrounding us and the sun laying its rays upon us. It is such a beautiful thing to be able to have an entire conversation with another adult without a child interrupting me. And to eat amazing food.

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After stuffing our face, we took the dogs for a walk in Frick Park. The ride over in Jorge’s and Sarah’s little car and the two dogs was comical. Stella sat on Mona and then leaned over and licked Ri too death.

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Sar let Ri walk both dogs when we got to the park. That is a helluva job seeing that Stella is a big mamba jamba and pulls whenever a dog or squirrel comes near. But Ri surprised us all. She jerked back the leash when Stella pulled and bellowed “NO!” Sar and I turned our faces to one another and cracked up. She’s no joke.

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We sat in New York traffic in the middle of Pittsburgh but finally arrived back at reached Sarah’s apartment and gave her graduation present to her. A little bubbly and cheez-it’s as well as a Street Food cookbook and wooden cookbook holder. Ri knows her aunt.

We hit the road back to the farm to spend the night again. When we arrived at 9:15, we got to surprise Peepaw at the cabin. He had his friends around the table getting ready for some poker. We decided to leave them be and stay down at the house. Grandma Meg had some Nashville clips to show us on Hula. Ri was addicted at first blush and I was soon thereafter. We finally hit the hay at 10 pm and Ri’s cough only kept us up half the night. When we got up in the morning, Ri got to ride her Taz and even persuaded me to ride for a second. She loves her horses.

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We drove home at noon and I was exhausted. I told Ri I needed 10 minutes to rest and before I knew it, we both woke up two hours later. Sarah tired us out. Jon arrived shortly after our nap with bad news – no turkeys. We all laid on the carpet and talked about our weekends as the sun faded away. We were in bed by 9. Mario, to the contrary, was busy wrestling Grandma Ionno until 11 pm.

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