Saturday, September 15, 2007

"In-Laws Out-West" The Story

"Big Don" and "S." arrived at the Denver airport from North Carolina on Saturday 8th of September. They have been visiting us in Colorado once or twice a year for about ten years now. It's quite a change from their everyday life in North Carolina and we try to make the visit special for them.

First of all let me set the record straight right now....I get along with my in-laws very well indeed. Part of the reason may be that they are only 12 years older than I am. They could be older brother and sister rather than in-laws. Whatever the reason we have been graced with a very easy going relationship and I enjoy their visits as much as The Bride. This visit, however, was unlike any other. There is the possibility that this visit may be their last to Colorado.

Big Don is now 72 years old. In his youth he was a major league baseball pitcher with over 16 years in the league. He even sports a World Series ring. That was forty years ago however, and age has taken a nasty turn for him. Big Don is slipping away into the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. The good news is that he is well enough at this point to make the trip and hopefully enjoy some of it.

S. and Big Don have been married for over 50 years and the burden now falls to S. to care for her mate. It's a big job and no doubt is a terrific strain mentally so we hoped this trip could be a "relief" for her as well. With that in mind we planned for two nights in a little cabin in the mountains between Twin Lakes and Aspen.

Wednesday morning we headed up to the mountains by way of I-70 and over Fremont Pass to Leadville. Leadville is a great historic mining town that is struggling to survive long after mining ceased to pump money into the town. Several years ago we stayed here with Big Don and S. in a bed and breakfast and they have fond memories of that trip. First stop was a fudge shop. Big Don has always had a sweet tooth for fudge and nowadays it's a real big pleasure for him. We were to make sure that he had plenty of fudge on this trip.

Lunch was at the local brewpub, billed as "the highest brewpub in the U.S.". Because Leadvi
lle is at 10,430 feet altitude there was a definite chill in the air. Chili, burgers and a brew were just the thing for an afternoon like this. A little more shopping and we were headed south for the tiny town of Twin Lakes.

We were hoping that we would be able to see some autumn colors on this trip but we also realized that we were a little early in the season. Much to our pleasant surprise we found that the leaves were showing some color in the Twin Lakes area.

We were at the cabin by 3:30, unpacked and sitting on the deck viewing the splendor of the mountains, the autumn colors and some local wildlife. The chipmunks and the Stellar Jays entertained us w
hile eating the bird seed we brought along. A bonus for staying at this place at this time of the year is to listen to the eerie almost mournful sound of the elk bugling potential mates. I'm sure they don't think it's eerie or mournful but take a listen and decide for yourself.

In the ten years that Big Don and S. have been visiting us, we have never taken them to Aspen. Our cabin was perfectly situated to take a day trip over Independence Pass and let them see the sights. Independence Pass is one of the more spectacular, paved passes in Colorado. It's only open from June or July to early October. It's narrow, (two places are only 1 1/2 lanes wide so if you meet someone going the opposite direction...someone has to back up) twisty, steep with scary drop-offs and no guard rails. It's also fairly heavily traveled because it's the shortest route between Leadville/Buena Vista and Aspen.

I'm pretty sure they enjoyed the ride...while they had their eyes open, but I think I'm going to have to buy some more door handles for my car. It looks like they were squeezed to a fraction of their original thickness by a hydraulic press!

We saw all that was expected of Aspen. Beautiful people, fancy cars, expensive...e
verything. We had a quiet lunch on a restaurant patio and headed back to the cabin in the early afternoon.

Back at the cabin we sat, talked over snacks and libations and just tried to enjoy the place and the togetherness that might be forever changed. Dinner from the grill is always good in a place like this and so it was this night too.

Friday morning it was time to head back to the Denver Area, but not before we stopped in Fairplay for a special treat for Big Don.

About 7-8 years ago I took Big Don into the Colorado Mountain Hat Company. Readers will remember that I have a hat from there as does The Bride, Guitar and Too Tall-Two Timing.
Well, Big Don has bought several hats from Smitty and Cherie and developed a friendship with them over those years. Our plan on this day was to stop and visit for a while.

Smitty and Cherie were gracious enough to block out some time for our visit and not only did we have lunch together but Smitty made Big Don a present of a new custom fedora. One of the side effects of the medication that Big Don takes is that he is constantly cold. This fedora was just the ticket to help him keep at least his head warm!

The visiting time passed too quickly and before you knew, it was time to head the last bit home. Today (Saturday) The Bride has taken her parents to Georgetown for a little more sightseeing and shopping. I opted to stay at home to do some chores and to give them some time alone.

Tomorrow Big Don and S. leave for the trip back to North Carolina. We hope there will be another trip in the future.....only time will tell.

Thanks for visiting.

1 comment:

Janna said...

My grandmother has Alzheimers too.
I understand the frustration and heartbreak it causes.

Hang in there.


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