Meeting Grandpa Poncho

Last weekend, we had plans for a little trip up to Glenview, a suburb north of Chicago, to visit with Francisco's family.  His grandfather was visiting from Chile, and it had been over a decade since Francisco had seen him. We gain an hour going north, so we figured if we left by 11:00 AM, we should be there by about 4:00 or so.  Zharo climbed into our suitcase as we were packing, but he wasn't accompanying us on this trip.
It was shortly after 4:00 when we pulled up, and Grandpa Poncho was resting. He had injured his back shortly before our visit. :( He made his way out to the living room, and yes, there were tears. Such a touching reunion.
This was only my second time seeing Francisco's family, and my first time ever meeting Grandpa Poncho. The short story behind this is Francisco's father passed away when he was 13 - shortly before we met each other in 8th grade, actually - and as the years went by, he slowly fell out of touch with his dad's side of the family. Years later - thanks to the wonders of Facebook! - his cousin was able to reconnect with him and reopen the doors of communication. We visited for the first time over Thanksgiving weekend, and it was such a pleasure to meet these wonderful people. They are the kindest and most adventurous people I have ever met.

We had all but three of Francisco's cousins in attendance for this gathering. As everyone snacked on hors d'oeuvres and sipped wine, the energy that filled the house was just amazing. We had brought our photo album from our last vacation to Egypt to share with Grandpa Poncho and everyone because they had all lived there for 2 years many years ago.  There were so many shared stories of past travels and experiences. 
Clockwise: 1. Francisco chatting with [uncle] Juan Carlos (sitting), [cousin] Joaquin, and [uncle] Juan Pablo; 2. [cousin] Matias and girlfriend Martha; 3. Kitchen prep with [aunt] Gina, Grandma Yolanda, Matias, and myself; 4. Gina, Juan Pablo, and myself.
Gina had prepared a smorgasbord of delicious food, including eggplant feta sandwiches and quinoa with spinach. 
The evening just flew by with such good company.  
1. [aunt] Pati, Gina, Juan Pablo, Grandma Yolanda, Joaquin's girlfriend - Casey, Francisco; 2. Juan Carlos, Grandpa Poncho, etc.
Casey, Joaquin, Grandma Yolanda, Matias, Gina, Juan Pablo, me, Francisco, [cousin] Julian, Pati, and Juan Carlos
We spent the night at Gina and Juan Pablo's house. After breakfast the next morning, Grandma Yolanda came over to join all of us and Grandpa Poncho and watch some old family videos that had been converted to DVD. She also brought some photos that had belonged to Francisco's dad, and Gina had some boxes from Francisco's childhood for him to take with him.

Can I just say that I love these people? I have only spent, what, maybe a grand total of 10 hours of my life with them ever, and it took a fraction of that time to fall head over heels for this family. They are everything a family should be to each other, and I'm so glad that we've been able to connect with them. My own family seems to have drifted apart more and more over the years, and Francisco's family is another reminder of the kind of family relationship I would love to have.  Family that goes out of their way to see each other and stay involved in each others' lives regardless of where life takes them. Relationships are rarely easy to maintain across time and distance...but I think it's worth the extra effort to spend time with those you care about. :)

Oh, and of course no trip to Chicago is ever complete without a stop at Chicago Diner. Even though we were still relatively full from breakfast, we couldn't resist.  Francisco had some amazing Country Fried Steak, and I had Chicken and Waffles. There is no better feeling than being at a restaurant and knowing I can order anything off of the menu and it will be delicious.  :)


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