We just returned from a long weekend visit to Western Pennsylvania, where both Jack and I grew up. There was a joint retirement/promotion party for one in the group of five of Jack’s life-long friends. Dale recently accepted the superintendent position at Butler High School, where all five of the friends attended high school, and his wife, Dreama, retired from a long career at Butler Memorial Hospital. We took this opportunity to also visit family, celebrate our 12th anniversary, and take in some of our favorite Pittsburgh places and activities; the Strip District, Shadyside, The William Penn Hotel, Pirates baseball, the National Aviary, and even a sunset cruise on the Gateway Clipper. I’m usually very happy to be home after traveling, but this time, I have to admit, the trip was too short, and my heart is torn.
Ten things I was reminded of during this trip home:
- How much I love my brother.
Scott is 3 ½ years younger than me. After attending college, living with me briefly in Louisiana, and working in Boston, he returned home to raise his family. Life passes by, and without our parents alive, the visits have become less frequent. I was reminded on Saturday how much he and his family mean to me, that we are the only two people on earth who share the same history, and there are things that only he and I understand. Relationships evolve over time and take different forms, but that does not change the deep love I feel for him, and the connection is eternal.
- That part of the bond Jack and I share is simply a common beginning. Even though we met much later in life, in another state, ironically, my husband and I grew up just 14 miles apart. We share the same outlook on many things. We share the same moral compass, strict worth ethic, loyal as a dog mentality, and raw sharing of emotions and opinions. We share the same love for sports, remembering our moms listening to Pirate baseball on the radio all summer and Myron Cope’s voice keeping us posted on our Steelers.
- Western Pennsylvania looks and feels much like Western Ireland. The first time I said this to someone, I was told, “well of course, why do you think the Irish settled here?” The varying shades of green, the puffy clouds in the sky, the rolling hills. The small towns, dotted with pubs and churches. The walk of a people who work hard, are strong of back, and return home each day happy to be only there. It may not be a coincidence that these are two of my favorite places on earth.
- The City of Bridges,
Pittsburgh has a total of 446 bridges, officially the city with the most bridges in the world, three more than former world leader, Venice, Italy.
- Sitting across the table from Aunt Becky, my mom’s little sister, is almost as good as sitting across the table from Mom.
- Forty-year friendships are rare and deserve white glove treatment because the return on investment is great.
- When you get invited to celebrate a major life event: promotion, retirement, “big” birthday or anniversary, try to make it.
- The best gifts to give, and receive, are those born of thoughtfulness and require more effort than money.
- Jack and I are good when we’re home. We’re always good, for the most part, but we’re especially good when we’re home.
- I experience an internal peace when I’m home like nothing I feel anywhere else.
I’m still torn as to whether we should own a condo in Pittsburgh, or a cabin in the Allegheny National Forest, where we spend part of our year. Would the peace I find while I visit be the same if I spent more time there? Three Birds Tavern “North”? Would I find inspiration as I work and write there? Or would the magic be gone if I spent too much time there? I’m not sure, but until next time, Pittsburgh, I thank you for another dose of good food, good drink, good times, but most of all, good company.