Saturday I headed to the airport for a 7:20 a.m. flight. Unfortunately for me, I forgot about the big Wal-Mart shareholder’s meeting. I got there at my usual 40 minutes beforehand, but there was a hugely long line in the security lines and check-in. The fortunate part was that, having flown so much, I know a lot of the airport personnel and the sky cab came right over to the car and checked my bags. But I still had to face the security line and it was long. Much to my chagrin, there were many people in the security line who weren’t regular flyers and therefore, had all kinds of impermissible items in their carry-on luggage and who didn’t realize they had to take off their jackets, their belts, whatever. It was moving really slowly and I was afraid that I was going to miss my plane. Fortunately, a logistics person from Wal-Mart came through the line checking our departure times and moved several of us up so that we were able to catch our flight which (of course) was delayed.

We got into Chicago about 9:00 a.m., which was fine. But, unfortunate thing #2 was that when I arrived in Chicago my luggage didn’t. By 9:30 a.m. it still hadn’t shown up on the luggage carousel, so we (there was another guy there, too, his last name was Cook and I’ll tell you later how I knew) walked over to the claims desk and the woman told us very snappily, “It can take up to an hour to get your luggage, so you need to just go back over there and wait.” Now, knowing that other flights had come and gone (and the baggage as well) since we had been standing there, we were not accepting that answer. So, I called the American Airlines’ executive platinum desk and asked them about it. They called the baggage supervisor and all of a sudden our baggage claims person came back over to the carousel and was very concerned about our luggage. We walked back to the desk and filled out the claims form and in the meantime my Aunt Linda (one of the Aunties that you’ve heard me refer to) had to keep circling because they won’t let you sit outside the airport. You can only stop long enough to load your passenger and his/her luggage.

So, I was calling back and forth to her and waiting in line for the luggage. We got the forms filled out and Mr. Cook (and the reason I knew his name is because when I called in, I gave them his name, too) says, “ Hey, I think it’s here!” So, we ran back over to the carousel and got our luggage. I was very relieved about that because I wanted to go to church with Aunt Linda the next day. One of the cool things about her church, Metropolitan Community Church, is they have very well trained ushers. The young people, junior ushers, compete in national championships and they took second in the country last year. Being a Lutheran, we don’t have anything like that, so I love to go to her church because the signals are very subtle. It’s really cool. There’s a signal for things like somebody needs a fan or to give a visitor a gift bag. All these things they very subtly signal. I always like to watch her to see if I can figure out what the signals are, but as usual, I digress. Anyway, I was glad to get my luggage so that I had my suit to be able to go to church.

When we got to Aunt Linda’s house (and she always spoils me this way), she cooked a gi-normous breakfast. It was huge! Over my protest (lbs.), we sat and ate breakfast and sipped coffee. Then my cousins came over and we hung out for a while and later drove to the South side of Chicago. My aunt lives in Bellwood which is a Western suburb of Chicago, and we drove in to Chicago to see my Great Aunt Roberta who is one of the prizes of my heart. She’s super special to me. It’s hard to explain. We drove over there to her house and my other aunt from Battle Creek, Michigan, Aunt Alleen was there. That’s why when I say I’m going to Chicago with the Aunties, I truly am because I get to hang out with all the Aunties. We were all there visiting and vigorously talking politics. As you might imagine it was a really fun visit. After a while Aunt Linda and I had to leave because we wanted to get back to Bellwood before too late, and also another aunt, Aunt Yvonne, was in the hospital at Loyola Medical Center out in the suburbs, so we drove and stopped and saw her. We had the same political conversation and caught up with her on her life and how she was doing. She seemed to be doing well, all things considered. Then we went home and had a quiet evening watching the news and catching up with each other and turned in not too early, but not too late. We knew we had to get up early to get to church and it is about a 45 minute drive to get there.

My aunties are my dad’s sisters and they really gathered around me and were so supportive when he died. It was a very difficult time and they were there. They continuously check on me and pray for me and I really love them all. They’re so funny. When I became Dean and the first time I came home after that, all three aunties and I had to go shopping. I have another aunt in Battle Creek, Michigan, also, and her name is Bernita. So, Aunt Bernita, Aunt Linda, Aunt Alleen, and I went to shop for business suits because “I had to look like a Dean”. It was a really long day because they would help me pick out things and then I had to try them on and get the approval of all three. But that’s when you know that you have lots of love and joy in your life, when you have people who care like that. They always spoil me with these rich wonderful homemade meals. When I go there, I know I’m home. That’s a little bit about the Aunties and for those of you who know me, you’ll hear me abbreviate, “I’m going home to see the Aunties,” and that’s what I mean when I say that.