Earlier this month, I returned to Columbus, Ohio to celebrate the life of an uncle who passed away. He was a husband, father, and grandfather, but to me, he was always my “Weird Uncle Doug.” The story goes that once when I was little, I referred to him as weird. My family thought this was hilarious and so the nickname stuck. I always appreciated Doug’s ability to be silly and sense of humor, so if this is “weirdness,” then it’s an honor that I hope I can continue. Doug had received a lung transplant in 2012 and gracefully battled complications with pulmonary fibrosis until his recent passing
I really can’t remember the last time I visited Ohio. It must have been when my grandpa passed away. My folks, Ohio state grads, grew up in Cuyahoga Falls near Akron, Ohio and we visited both sets of grandparents often. Many others in my family also graduated from OSU and I think I always knew what a buckeye was. A real buckeye, not just one of those peanut butter candy ones.
One of my earliest memories from Ohio includes collecting buckeyes from the sidewalks on walks to the park with my grandparents. I always thought Ohio was beautiful. I remember riding a train along the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, hiking around Brandywine Falls, and walking along the Beaver Marsh Boardwalk in the Cuyahoga National Park. My grandparents were avid hikers and never went anywhere without their walking sticks. They kept the walking sticks in a tall, circular holder in their porch. It’s funny what you never forget.
My grandpa Roger was a retired engineer for Firestone Tires and an extremely organized man. My folks would giggle about how he had particular way about doing everything. We could always identify gifts he wrapped, because they were reinforced with many layers of tape. My grandma was organized, too. Like many who lived during the Great Depression Era, her storage spaces contained boxes of boxes and bags of bags, twist ties, and used wrapping paper. My mom also inherited the desire to make order from her surroundings in a way that I’ll never understand. While every object in her kitchen cupboards had a specific place, mine are intentionally jumbled and that’s the way I like it.
Of all of the loved ones in my life who’ve passed away, my grandpa Roger is he only one who spoke to me in a dream. As a grade schooler, I found this very alarming. We had a whole conversation in which he told he couldn’t come back, but not to worry because he was doing just fine. The others make occasional appearances but never say anything.
It was good to be back in Ohio, but it was hard to be back. I reconnected with some of my relatives and my dog-cousin Nicholas.
I dined at a Bob Evans for the first time. Even the kitchen was decked out with a Buckeye banner.
I tromped through The Ohio State University and listened to my relatives reminisce about their college years.
We paused at Mirror Lake. Supposedly, the founders chose this location because Mirror Lake included a drinkable spring that supplied water to a farm. The spring dried up in 1891 with officials added a storm sewer to the campus. Eventually, the sewer system was repaired so that the spring could flow again. It dried up again in 1918 due to construction projects around the lake and so the University pumped in water from the Olengangy river. The river water was sulfuric and stinky, so the City of Columbus took over supplying the water ever since. It’s still a little stinky.
There’s a lot of history of students jumping into the lake before and after football games and the University is currently looking to rebuild the lake so that it’s more sustainable.
I giggled as I watched a new graduate run around campus with his parents posing for photos in his cap and gown days after graduation. The university’s fifth president, William Oxley Thompson stood watch.
We left just as the dark storm clouds moved in.
In the fall, I’ll return to Ohio to attend Bloggy Conference at Cedar Point in Sandusky with a few North Iowa blogger friends. While I’m there I plan to revisit our old stomping grounds and pay some respects. Of course, I’ll have to eat a Swensons Galley Boy cheeseburger. It really wouldn’t be right if I didn’t. I always did love Ohio.
Oh come let’s sing Ohio’s praise. . .