H. Visiting Loved Ones, Family, and Meeting New Friends

Throughout this year, I visited many loved ones.

In Elk Grove Village, Illinois, I visited a best friend from youth. He was a seminarian back then and has since joined a religious order here. He introduced me to their Provincial and Community. It is so wonderful when old friends can just pick up where they left off on the last visit and also be united in prayer.

In Ohio, besides my high school friends I mentioned, I visited with my host family from my exchange student days. We grew up together and had many fun and happy memories, especially of the winter storms of the century. It’s so good to see their families growing up. I was able to see some dear friends who closely looked after my student and musical life and took me to musical events and a Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 performance of Venezuelan pianist Horacio Gutiérrez that made a lifetime impact on my musical development.

In Idaho Falls, I had a chance to linger around the area for a few weeks, visiting my daughter-in-law’s family, who I truly enjoy. The first time I visited in 2020 was a very brief visit while I was still working at a job and they said to me that my stay was too short. So, this time I made it a point to relax and enjoy their company.

I made a new friend in Rawlins, Wyoming, who had just been assigned to the parish there. He’s a Filipino priest from the other side of our island of Negros. He was so happy we could converse in our local Ilonggo language. He is fun-loving and said he has a master’s degree in selfies. We dined at a very good authentic Mexican restaurant. He was pastor at Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a number of years and like many people there, learned and enjoyed snow skiing.

In Arvada, Colorado, I visited dear friends from my student days, a family that hosted me on many weekends, and an early parishioner of my late uncle. It was so comforting to feel at home again in their home. Their children now have families of their own in other states. I have precious memories of them when they were very young.

In Denver, Colorado, I visited my cousin from childhood. She said I am the first relative to visit her in her new state. She is happier here and enjoys the many outdoor opportunities in Colorado. We reminisced about our childhood days and posted pictures on social media. I even made her some macaroni salad based on their nanny’s recipe.

In Farmington, Minnesota, I visited my classmate from elementary school who I haven’t seen since our college days and turned out that his wife was my classmate from kindergarten. They especially served me achara, a Filipino papaya pickled relish. It’s rather unusual to see classmates in this part of the country.

In New York, I visited my cousin who immigrated to the USA together with me. We both worked in commercial arts and have always related on the artistic and personal side. She took me to a fine restaurant in Central Park. It was my first time strolling through picturesque Central Park, even though I had lived in the area during my teens.
New York and New Jersey photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FpEqvFNgR8xCGj9dA

In New Jersey, it has been a long time since I’ve seen my mother’s side of the family there, even though we connect through social media. My cousin had a grand wedding celebration and it was a marvelous experience. I am the firstborn among the grandchildren on my mother’s side and my cousins who were born in New Jersey are already a generation younger. We had an enjoyable reunion over pizza. My aunt who is a painter invited me to the artists’ reception in New York City.

In Minnesota, my sister asked me to stay for a while to help care for Mom who had a stroke in the year 2020 so they can catch up with their homeschooling. My sister and her husband have five children. They have layer hens and a vegetable garden. They were in a better position to take Mom in after her stroke, so we moved her here from Washington and New Jersey.

In my new parish, I met our pastor who is also a Discalced Carmelite Secular OCDS and introduced me to a wonderful OCDS couple. Their OCDS community has welcomed me warmly to join them for prayer and study any time I am here. Eventually, my community will be in the Philippines, as I am currently in transit. I am still with my OCDS Community in Washington State, and I teach remotely for a Hispanic Study group there. My Community has members coming from far distances in the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas and considering that we have long exceeded the threshold size, we have split into a group in Bremerton.

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