|Hyde Park square in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. Babs last sat in this little park with Dad, Elijah, and Ezra on a beautiful afternoon last summer. This was her first time back since he died.|
For some time, Babs had been contemplating taking her first pilgrimage to Cincinnati since her father's death last Thanksgiving. The Cincinnati Pilgrimage has long been a part of the Leen family tradition, at least in the 20 years I've known them. I blogged one such Pilgrimage during a Christmas visit to Ohio right after Elijah was born.
In recent years during the summer while Mom Leen was at work and I was away on the class trip or some school conference, Babs, Dad, and the boys had begun taking an extended version of the Pilgrimage that included the Cincinnati Art Museum. For a long time, Dad seemed able to take or leave the Pilgrimage, but in the last years of his life, he came to really look forward to these trips, even asking Barbara when they were going to go to Cincinnati. Those beautiful summer days are some of Babs' most treasured memories of her time with her dad, and I know they meant a lot to him too.
Naturally, it was with no small amount of anxiety that Babs considered returning there for the first time without him. She didn't want an audience or the hassle of the children for the first visit, but she didn't want to exactly go alone either. So I agreed to accompany her, and less than two weeks before what would have been Dad's 92nd birthday, on a sunny Sunday morning, we headed down to Cincinnati. It was Memorial Day weekend, as fitting a time as an any to spend some time remembering Dad.
I expected our journey to be sad, and there were tears from time to time throughout. But what I didn't expect was how peaceful the trip turned out to be. I've always been the type of person to have a book or magazine at hand, and with the advent of the internet and mobile technology my desire to always be engaged is constantly being met. I almost never take the time to "just be" as Barbara likes to call it. But on this sojourn, I took the time to just be with my thoughts. I won't say I never took out the phone to review my daily Huffington Post, The Week, and Rolling Stone updates and Facebook feed, but those moments were rare. I spent a lot more time, just being quiet. And it was deeply restful, rejuvenating, wonderful.
|First Stop: The childhood home on Broadview|
|The next stop was green and tranquil Alms Park. The last time Barbara visited Alms Park, she and her dad brought pizza from LaRosa's for the boys and let them eat a picnic lunch at the table below before they ran off to play|
|We sat here for a long while together, just remembering Dad. Then Babs took some time alone, while I waited in the car.|
|Alms Park overlooks a small commuter airport. I love to just sit and watch, keeping an eye out for a plane coming in for a landing or taking off.|
|One of the old-fashioned, pedal-operated drinking fountains at Alms Park. The water is cold and delicious.|
|After LaRosa's it was on to Graeter's in Hyde Park. Dad would definitely have ordered something here.|
|We ended our day in Hyde Park square, eating our ice cream across from the bench where Babs last shared this special time with her Dadi. There was a woman sitting on the bench, reading, almost the entire time we were there. It would not have honored Dad to ask her if we could have the bench; that wasn't his way. So we sat, enjoying each other's company and missing Dad. There was sadness to the day for sure, but beyond that also beauty and peace.|
A little less than two weeks later, on Dad's birthday, June 5, 2015 we returned as a family to Cincinnati to spend the day. Like our earlier visit, it was less a celebration and more a remembrance. I'm sure there will be more Pilgrimages in the future. They will never be the same without him there, but they also will contain a similar bittersweet joy to our Memorial Day weekend visit, because those familiar places will bring to mind beautiful memories of the times we shared with him.