News, updates, and happenings with the Kragnes family: Phil, our Seeing Eye Dogs, and (me) Rebecca.

I couldn’t believe how smoothly things went Friday morning once we got to the airport. We were slowed down a little by the friend driving us forgetting something important for the trip, but it didn’t take long to get it right. The flight to Baltimore didn’t involve any plane changes, so once we were in our seats, I could relax. We had a third person in our row from Atlanta to Baltimore, who was pretty gracious about my big self and the small space.
Phil’s middle sister (of the three) Janice and her husband Tom met us and were basically our drivers throughout the trip. It made it easier getting the transfer chair routine down and being acquainted with one car. We were late for dinner Friday night, but it was wonderful, as were all the meals. I can’t believe how much eating we did! After dinner, more family arrived, and we all trooped up to our suite where there was plenty of space for people to spread out and hang out. Phil, his sisters, and some of the nieces and nephews went through photo albums and other memory pieces related to Anna. I hung out in the living room where family members went in and out. Someone told us later that Phil’s Dad Earl just sat and smiled at all of the goings-on. Phil’s oldest sister Kathy took him on a tour of the suite after some people had left. I knew I’d forget half the stuff, and that’s the kind of stuff Phil’s memory holds like a steel trap. Over the weekend, I had to ask Phil multiple times where things were, so I’m glad he got the tour — not me.
Phil’s youngest sister (of the three) Cheryl set us up with doughnuts, yogurt, and OJ for breakfast. She also had yummy baking for us and this huge tin of popcorn of three different kinds for me. (I crave popcorn, but Phil can’t have it due to his tendency to get diverticulitis(.
On the way to the church, Janice casually mentioned that they’d forgotten to ask me to play piano and wished they would have. I indicated it wasn’t too late, especially when I learned the minister (a woman with a fabulous voice) was singing “On Eagles’ Wings”. That song originated in the Catholic tradition, so I knew it very well. The Minister (whose name was also Cheryl), practiced with me, and we seemed perfectly in sync. Because of Anna’s love of plants, Phil requested I play Seal’s Kiss From a Rose, a song family and many people in the congregation recognized.
Janice and the male former pastor of this church had readings from 2 Corinthians and Ecclesiastes respectively. We did a call and response on the 23rd psalm along with other prayers, and Phil’s two sisters Kathy and Cheryl made presentations. Phil was last and incorporated a lot of humor in his talk. Then Cheryl the pastor had a sermon or “Message of Hope” which made me definitely decide I was coming back the next day to hear more. I recorded a lot of the talks and Janice’s reading. 
The family Internment service and pictures were touching, and I know many of you have seen a picture or two from this time on Facebook. The weather was sunny with temperatures in the forties and fifties that day. At home the negative temperatures had set in. No one wore black, and I made it a point to where green after finding out in recent days that Anna and I shared this favorite color. I had a necklace with a domino, and it reminded me of Phil and I playing dominoes with Anna and Earl.
There were two receptions, and both had tons of food! At the church, we talked more to family and met a few friends of Phil’s sisters’. The reception at Asbury (the retirement village where they lived and our’ suite was located) was mostly Earl’s friends and one or two workers who had helped him cut through a lot of red tape in terms of government forms for Anna’s care during the last years of her Dementia. From that reception, it was time for dinner, and yep, we ate again! Saturday night was a time for rest, because it had been a super long day for everyone.
Sunday morning Phil awoke me with “Good Morning Mrs. Kragnes”, and it made me realize I was now the only Mrs. Kragnes.I could get up later, because church didn’t start until 11. By then, we discovered just how backed the drain could be and how much it flooded the bathroom. Phil got ready for lunch while we were at church. The pastor Cheryl had another powerful message, and I felt honored that the musician who did the rest of the music at the Memorial service plus at church Sunday was effusive with his compliments. He wouldn’t have had to come over and say anything at all. The music was great, but when the last song was dedicated to the Kragnes family, my tears started again. My tears surprised me, because I really didn’t expect them. I wasn’t as connected to Anna as the rest of them, but it made me realize how much more I need to talk to my own mom. Lunch was the last meal with the whole family together, as some had to go in different directions. Throughout the whole weekend but especially at this lunch, so many memories were shared. The siblings broke out in songs Anna taught them, and somehow the song called “The Prayer” came up. So did the Mrs. Kragnes conversation. It seemed to be more of a celebration, even though there were tears, too. For the next couple hours, Kathy and Cheryl read some of Anna’s memory album pieces like report cards, newspaper articles, high school awards and certificates, and what we really looked forward to hearing — Earl’s love letters to Anna.
It was a nice transition to our friends, a blind couple Jane and Patrick Sheehan showing up. Phil’s sister Cheryl showed them to the suite, and then family said goodbye. The four of us talked about all kinds of things the way blind people do when we get together. We showed them our phone cases, and Phil showed them the lanyards he makes called Pals (Phil’s Adjustable Lanyards). Phil and I both got our dog fix from Jane’s 9-year-old Yellow Lab guide Nugget who was just a lover and a half. He hadn’t been fed, so they only stayed maybe an hour and a half or so before starting home.
We planned to have ham sandwiches for lunch the next day with Janice and Tom before they took us back to the airport, but Phil and I felt like ham sandwiches Sunday night. The outlet for the toaster wasn’t exactly cooperating with me, and by this time, I was really starting to crave being home with its familiar surroundings and placement of things.
After a morning of showering, gathering, and packing, we had lunch and made it to the airport a little later than planned but in plenty of time for our flight. During our layover at Midway, the walk from one concourse to the other end of a second concourse was pretty long, but I was grateful for Kimberly the helper who made it tolerable. There were no chairs at our gate, so I sat in a wheelchair. It was another full flight, but this time, we chatted with an art professor from Minnesota State Mankato all the way home. I friended her on Facebook, and we ran into her one more time at baggage claim just long enough to confirm we both knew a former professor at Mankato. 
Finding the friend who drove us home was no problem, but we thought we had a serious problem on our hands when Phil couldn’t find his keys in his carry-on. I didn’t bring mine, because I thought I’d lose them. Luckily he spotted them in one of many pockets. We asked our friend to right a check which was overdue, because we had no reader. We were dismayed to see our last reader hadn’t written any of the checks he told us about, so we had a few more things to contend with. Still, it felt so good to be back in our own environment. 


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