It's been long overdue, but my favorite "little" cousin Joel, this cousin Joel, arrived for a visit with us this past weekend. "He shoots bad guys," the girls sometimes say, though that's not something we've told them, exactly. I've told them he captures bad guys, arrests them, gives them to the police to take to jail. They came up with the rest of that on their own. But he was our first house guest who, right after taking his suitcase into our guest room, took off his gun, disassembled it, and asked John to hide the pieces someplace John thought the kids wouldn't find them.
I told Joel I thought simply putting the various pieces back in his suitcase would be good enough. I mean, the girls don't tend to rummage through others' things. And even if they did and found all the parts AND managed to assemble the weapon correctly, I think I'd have to be more proud of them than mad.
He was too busy with traveling nearly all the time with work during 2007 and 2008 to visit with us, though I did get to see him briefly while he worked at a campaign stop in my area in 2008. After the campaign he talked to me about coming here for a visit, except that was the week when we were moving back into our remodeled house, and it would have been too chaotic.
Then he rejoined the Marines and spent a year deployed, which always had me kind of worried in the back of my mind. For that assignment he wasn't allowed to say where he was or what he was doing. Now that he's home and out of the Marines and back working with the Secret Service, he told me about how he spent his year and I now know that I wasn't worried enough. Yemen is no place for a nice, midwestern-born white boy, a Major in the Marines or not. Joel is from Chicago and currently works at the SS Chicago office. I got to know him when I was living in Chicago for school and during those years he and his father and I had many fun outings together and plenty of good memories.
When he arrived on friday afternoon, we had lunch at a nice restaurant sat outside, and then we took a drive up into the hills to a nearby winery, where we spent a couple of hours enjoying the views and wines and lack of predicted rain. We talked about the old days back in Chicago, friends of his I met there, friends of mine he met there, his year in the middle east, all kinds of overdue catching up. Before we knew it, it was time to pick up the kids from school and meet the rest of the family for dinner. "If there are any bad guys in the restaurant is Joel going to get them?" Erin asked.
The next morning, Joel got out his laptop with his collection of AP campaign photos and he and the girls played "where's Joel?" since many of them were photos taken of huge crowds at campaign rallies. John hooked up Joel's computer to our main TV so he could show us many of his photos from the 60+ countries he's visited over the past few years, with both the Marines and the SS. He narrated as he went along but Erin kept interrupting him to clarify details.
"What was the name of that city?"
"How do you spell that?"
"Is that in Asia or Europe?"
"What other countries does it border?"
"What's the name of that river?"
"What's the capital of that country?"
Joel thought she could have a future as a professional interrogator.
The girls also had their first softball practice of the season this weekend. Kate and Allison are on the same team, their first season playing. After practice Joel and Erin practiced some more in the yard.
On saturday evening, Brad joined us at home for dinner and then he and Joel went to a hockey game together. On sunday I thought it would be fun to spend a day at the coast. About a dozen years ago, Joel graduated from college and spent a week out here with me and we went kayaking along the coast in this area, but we didn't walk around downtown much or see the aquarium or eat a wonderful, huge dinner at a great local seafood restaurant, so we did all of those things this time.
The girls absolutely adored him. He and I took them to school on monday morning and he said goodbye to them there, and after a leisurely breakfast I took him to the airport. The first thing the girls asked when I picked them up was where Joel was and when we'd get to see him again.
It was so great to have Joel visit. He and John have tentative plans to attend a hockey game in Chicago later this season, if our teams meet in the playoffs. He promised to be back before another dozen years go by, and I hope to be in Chicago sooner than later as well. If we wait too long, we'll have to go to Washington to see him, since he'll be transferring to presidential duty sometime next year.