Baby Road: Day 6 Part 1 & 2 by Bill Pike

By my usual Sunday schedule, I had overslept.  Outside the streets were quiet as was the condo. At some point today that quietness would disappear for a long, long time—Hudson comes home. Baby6.jpg

Soon the condo had some life. The Princess and Nahna were planning breakfast. I was waiting for my grocery list and navigational orders. With running temporarily off my exercise list, I was going to make the walk to Trader Joe’s. Nahna was going to start cooking some meals to carry us through the week.

But before I headed out, a friend of our daughter’s who she knew in Richmond from high school was going to stop by. The friend who now lives in Mt. Prospect, Illinois was dropping off a care package of items from prepared frozen meals, ingredients for meals to fix from scratch, and a freshly made coffee cake from the Central Continental Bakery. In the baking business since 1922, one bite of the coffee cake affirmed why this bakery is still in business.

After offering our thanks and saying goodbye, I prepared for my departure to Trader Joe’s.

Nahna had given me a list of items to purchase and directions. The walk would be just over a mile, and it only involved three left turns Armitage, North Kenmore, North Clybourn.

It was cool, but no breeze. Many of the store fronts from past walks had managed to survive another year—some had not. The quietness of a side street of homes was broken by the clanking of an extension ladder.

Some entrance areas to homes and apartments still had small piles of brown leaves long forgotten from the fall hanging around. Newspapers fading in their plastic bags were hoping someone might pick them up.

In warmer weather, the always bustling firehouse would have its bay doors open proudly showing their wares, but not on this cool morning. The now antique Schlitz Beer sign still hangs prominently above the door at the bar on the corner of Halstead and Armitage.

I walk under the elevated train bridge getting closer to the left turn on Kenmore. A Catholic church at the corner of Armitage and Kenmore has a few patrons hustling in for a service.

On Kenmore homes line both sides of the street. I meet a friendly dog walker, and overhear young parents across the street talking with their oldest child about losing toy playing privileges—a tough start for his day.

The twists and turns on Kenmore lead me to the left on Clybourn and Trader Joe’s is in sight. Once inside, I start working through the list, and I only make one call to Nahna asking for advice.

With two recyclable grocery bags neatly packed, I started the walk back.

Eventually, I was across from Lincoln Park High School. I noticed a sign advertising Second City Church. This non-denominational church meets on Sunday mornings at 10 in the high school’s auditorium. At the bottom of the sign were the words: Second chance. Second life.

Made it back to the condo. Unloaded the grocery bags. Nahna prepped and then added ingredients into the crock pot for tonight’s dinner.

Our son-in-law used public transportation for a quick ride to come back to the condo to pick up the car. We were all anticipating an afternoon dismissal from the hospital.

Soon it was lunch time for the Princess with a nap to follow. She too was anticipating the arrival of her parents and her little brother, Hudson.

At some point after lunch, Nahna received a text—they had left the hospital.


Baby Road: Day Six Part II 

Sometime after three, they arrived. A parking spot awaited them in front of the condo. I headed down the three flights of stairs to meet them and help unload. Baby6-2.jpg

Snuggly tucked in his car seat, Hudson was wearing a cap colored to match the blue afternoon sky. I grabbed some bags to take upstairs. Then headed back down for another load. I met our son-in-law in the stairwell. He had the remaining items.

Eventually, we both ended up at the entrance to the condo with his wife and Hudson. They wanted a photo of the three of them before they entered the building. My daughter handed me her iPhone. This was going to be an experience as I am still the proud owner of a flip phone.

The other day she called to FaceTime from the hospital. I was the only one available to pick up Nahna’s phone. I assumed it was just a phone call. My finger swiped the button and I put the phone up to my ear. Clearly, my daughter on the other end didn’t expect to be looking into an ear.

But this afternoon, the technology gods were on my side. After a quick lesson, I snapped a couple of photos on the iPhone. Luckily, they met the standard.

It was a long climb up the three flights of stairs for my daughter, but she made it. Nahna was at the top of the stairs waiting to greet her and Hudson.

The Princess was going to be waking up from her afternoon nap soon. She was going to have a nice surprise awaiting her.

Loaded with restful energy, the Princess was all smiles to see mom, dad, and Hudson.

Slowly, things settled down. Our son-in-law was headed for a short walk to the CVS to pick up assorted prescriptions.

Nahna, the Princess, and I were going to walk over to Bauler Park for some swing riding. The Princess rode her tricycle, and she enjoyed rolling over the bumps in the sidewalks.

Bauler Park was in constant motion— kids in every direction. Parents chatting and watching out for unpredictable collisions.

On our previous trips to Bauler Park, we had noticed blue ribbons tied to tree trunks and lampposts along the way. When we returned home, I asked our daughter about the ribbons.

The ribbons are a tribute from the neighborhood to honor the memory of a Chicago police officer who was the commander for this section of Lincoln Park. Sadly, the officer was killed in the line of duty.

When we returned from the park, I was asked to run an errand to CVS. Our wonderful son-in-law had forgotten to purchase a bottle of stool softener.

I make the quick walk to CVS. Walk in the door and immediately I start scanning the aisle signs. An alert employee noted I was searching for something. She asked if I needed help.

While I’m sure she was trained to know where every product in the store was located, I wasn’t about to blurt out stool softener, nor would I have exclaimed Tampax or condoms. I thanked her and politely declined, and in the laxatives aisle I found the product.

Once back at the condo, the Princess had finished her dinner. Bedtime wasn’t far off for her.

Hudson was being Hudson, a baby, trying to adjust.

The walk to Trader Joe’s had been worth it. Nahna’s crock pot magic produced a delicious chicken dinner. We ate in shifts. Then cleaned up the kitchen and prepared for bed.

Little did we know, Hudson was going to give us a long, unrestful night.

When we make the decision to become parents, long unrestful nights are to be expected.

For whatever reason, young Hudson made sure that his first night in his new home was going to be etched forever in the minds of his parents and grandparents. He apparently was thinking—I’m here, and there is nothing in your bag of tricks that are going to settle me down.

Hudson was correct. It was a long, long, long, long, long night.

Weary faces and bodies found it hard to greet the light of a new day.

Baby Road: Day 5 Part 1 & 2 by Bill Pike

Not that I had been a slug since our arrival in Chicago, but I needed some exercise. So, on the morning of Saturday, April 21, I resolved to head out early for a run down by the lakeshore.BR5

My only concern was the hamstring area of my left leg. Not sure how or when, but some muscle in there was out of sorts. And despite my efforts to be nice to the muscle, it was still bugging me when I go for a run. Interestingly, there are no problems while intensely riding a stationary bike.

Loaded with a strong dose of male stubbornness, I headed out. Within my first few turtle steps, I knew this run was a bad idea. But, my pig-headed mentality over ruled the practical side of my brain.

A gray sky, a 43-degree temperature, and an east wind greeted me. My path through the neighborhood revealed a still present drabness from winter.

On the fringes of the Lincoln Park Zoo, I found my familiar path. The crushed stone and sand crunched beneath my feet as I plodded behind fields used for softball and soccer. Next, was the footbridge over Lakeshore Drive that would take me to the Lakefront trails. At the crest of the bridge, the faint colors of a still rising sun came into view embedded in gray clouds.

I departed the bridge and hooked a left heading toward another familiar landmark, a windmill and a weathered statue of an American Indian perched on his horse. This carved out green space along the trail is a tranquil spot.

A few bike riders, runners, and walkers were out. Some were whipping by me, others like me trudging along. I saw one brave boater and three hopeful fishermen at the edge of the lake with tautly cast lines.

Sections along the trail revealed a landscape worn from winter’s whims. The sandy beaches needed a grooming to clear assorted debris. Signs of repair crews were present where segments of eroded asphalt and concrete had been cut away.

Lake Michigan’s surface barely moved in the light east wind. Once in a while the shoreline rippled from the slight push of a tiny wave.

A younger runner passed me and said, “good work.” He must have known I was struggling as I was barely making turtle pace.

That windmill looked a lot closer when I started, now I hoped I could make it that far. Slowly, my old body delivered me to that point, and I made a right turn, then looped back to the left on to the trail.

On my way back, I noted a crow on a park bench picking through a random food container. The crow seemed content with the remnants left behind.

The skyline of the city was in front of me. From this distance, the city and its suburbs appeared deceptively at peace. I knew this was far from true.

I wondered what the world would be like for our grandson and all of the babies who were also born on April 19. That speculation instantly fills my brain with worry.

With every attempted stride on the way back, my body informed me—no more runs on this Chicago trip. I reluctantly accepted that order.

After breakfast and a shower, I had a kitchen chore to complete. This was followed with Nahna and the Princess leading a trip to the local Carters store followed by the ride down to the hospital.

Once in the hospital room, I encountered that deceptive peace again as I scanned the vast view of the city from the window in the room.

Resting comfortably in this mother’s arms, I hope that peace will not be a deception in our grandson’s world. I hope peace will become a reality for everyone.

Part II 

After our visit at the hospital on Saturday morning, a new game plan evolved. Our son-in-law, the Princess, and I would head back to Lincoln Park. Nahna would stay at the hospital with our daughter for a while.

Our son-in-law had some chores to do for the arrival of Hudson on Sunday. For the Princess, lunch and a nap were on the docket.

The Princess was a bit out of sorts with this transition, but she gradually came around for lunch and the nap.

Progress was made on the chores. With the paving complete on North Hudson Avenue, I made the short walk over to the next street to move our car back in front of the condo. After parking the car, I entered the lobby and found Fed Ex had dropped off some packages related to Hudson’s pending arrival. It took two trips, but the packages made it to the third floor.

Hopefully, I was going to be ready for the next challenge. With the Princess waking up from her nap, the plan was for her Dad to head back to the hospital and Nahna to return to Lincoln Park.

That meant I would be responsible for keeping the Princess happy until Nahna returned. Prior to making this trip, I wondered out loud if could bond with the Princess. Since our arrival on Wednesday morning, the Princess and I had been bonding.

Her father did a good job of explaining to her what was taking place. He left. There were no tears. We played.

Filling the newly acquired Princess castle with her stuffed animal friends, working on puzzles, and reading books helped to pass the time.

Nahna arrived, and my blood pressure went down.



Baby Road: Day 4 by Bill Pike

One of my favorite quotes comes from American writer, James Thurber. Thurber stated:  “Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”

I can personally vouch for this being true.

Our family’s first trip to Sanibel Island, Florida met the Thurber test. That first day of travel was motion sickness and barf bags from the first leg of the flight. This was quickly followed by there are no barf bags in rental cars.


Recently, a class on Carl Wilson that my childhood pal, Joe Vanderford, and I taught for the Osher Institute at the University of Richmond passed the test too. That one focused on technology and the accidental bump of a critical button.



But, I’m pretty sure nothing is going to compare to departing the hospital in Chicago after paying our first visit to our new grandson.

Early on the morning of Friday, April 20, a plan was developed to allow us to visit our new grandson. The goal was to arrive between 9:30 and 10:00.

It already was an exciting morning in the neighborhood as the resurfacing of the street was starting. We left on time, navigated Chicago traffic, and found our way to the parking garage across from Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital.

The parking deck is a busy place. We grabbed our ticket from the dispenser, cleared the gate, and made our way to level 8 where we found a parking spot. The Princess, Nahna, and I walked to the elevator. We took note that we were on the Barbara Streisand floor. The elevator was going to dump us out on Superior Street.

We crossed the street and entered the hospital. There we checked in and were given badges to wear. A quick stop was made in the florist shop to purchase an “It’s A Boy” balloon. From there it was a quick walk to the elevator and the appropriate floor for one more security clearance.

Caroline & Hudson

With the Princess and the balloon in tow, Nahna almost sprinted to Room 1369. Upon entering the room, our daughter was resting in her bed. Hudson was being held by his father in a chair looking out the window at the tops of buildings.

Our visit was a good one. We received a detailed report about Hudson’s arrival. Hudson was cooperative as we took our turns holding him with photos being snapped. A doctor stopped by to talk about the circumcision that was scheduled for this morning.

Pretty soon, we were working on saying goodbye for the day. A scheduled stop in the lobby for a Dunkin’ Donut was top on the list for the Princess.

Now, there was no trouble with the donuts, in fact, the donuts would come in handy.

The trouble started as we walked out of the hospital. We took the second floor bridge over to the parking deck. Then took the elevator to the eighth floor and there was Barbara Streisand just like we had left her, but we couldn’t find the car. Checked a couple of aisles, pushed the unlock button for the car, but no luck.

Next, we figured out we were on the Huron Street side of the building, not Superior where we had started. I’m sure there was a simple solution, but Nahna and I were too agitated with each other to think. Forty three years of marriage was about to be tossed into Lake Michigan.

So, I sent Nahna and the Princess down to the ground level of Huron. I headed toward the ground level of Superior. I remembered seeing  a Northwestern University Police office when we had exited the parking deck on Superior.

I found the police office and the Superior Street entrance. Then I took the elevator to floor 8, there was Barbara again, and I walked right to our car.

It gets better.

Nahna calls to tell me where they are waiting for me on Huron. By the time I make all of the twisting turns to the exit gate, I’m wishing I had a barf bag. I find the validated ticket, slide it into the scanner, and the gate doesn’t open.

I push the red button asking for assistance. A lady comes on the speaker and asks me to read the screen. It says something about a coupon. She tells me she is sending someone. An attendant shows up, works his magic, and the gate rises.

Nahna told me to make a right turn out of the deck. When I exit, I do, they see me, but I don’t see them.

Nuclear meltdown number two begins.

I am advised that a series of right turns will bring me back to the one way Huron Street. Of course, because of traffic, I miss the first right turn on to Michigan Avenue.

Nuclear meltdown number three begins, along with the planning for my funeral arrangements back in Richmond.  Nahna has Woody’s on speed dial.

Don’t ask me how, but by the grace of God, I navigated myself back to Huron Street to pick up Nahna and the Princess. I think the two donuts they ate possibly prevented nuclear meltdown number four.

Even better, our son-in-law’s car survived that ordeal without a dent or a scratch.

I’m still wondering how I pushed through 4-way intersections with stop signs, made a wide right turn at a construction intersection with the head of a worker sticking up out of a manhole, and making sure I didn’t go the wrong way on a one-way street.

Thurber was correct that whole set of circumstances was emotional chaos.

Painful at the time, but in the quietness before bed time I chuckle.

And I am thankful too.

I understand my funeral arrangements back in Richmond have been temporarily put on hold.

Baby Road: Day 3 by Bill Pike

The guest bedroom was gone. It was now the home of the Princess and her big girl bed. There was no coin toss, but I was assigned to the couch in the living room, and Nahna the inflatable mattress in what would become the bedroom for the new arrival. Baby3

I had slept well, but my internal east coast alarm clock woke me too early to be stirring around the condo. Somehow, I fell back to sleep.

When I awoke, the darkness of the neighborhood was just being graced by light from the east. Thankfully, the predicted snowfall amounts didn’t occur in Lincoln Park. A few traces were scattered up and down the street.

Yesterday, our daughter thought the new baby might return to the womb if the ground had been covered in snow. But, that wasn’t the case. This was to be a day of bright sunshine and blue skies in every direction. But, the non-spring like cold temperatures were still hanging around along with a constant nippy wind.

Slowly, the condo came to life. Breakfast for the Princess came first. While coffee beans were ground, sporadic recanting of the training from the day before filled out the kitchen.

At some point, there was a loud clunk on one of the clear pained living room windows.  I caught a glimpse of a stunned bird. Somehow, the bird recaptured the needed balance and landed in a tree still bare from winter.

The bird appeared to be a downy woodpecker checkered in black and white with a small patch of red on the top of its crown. Perched on a branch in the warming sun, the small woodpecker slowly regained its senses—shuddering a few times before flying off.

Just before nine, our son-in-law whisked the Princess away to an indoor Pee Wee camp at a local fitness center. An action packed morning awaited her with exercise, creating some collectible artwork, and swimming.

While he was doing the drop off, Nahna and I took out the trash and the recycling, made a short walk to mail a couple of letters, and stopped in CVS to buy a newspaper for the new arrival.

When our son-in-law returned, we had one more review of today’s game plan. Our daughter and her husband made a final check of all the things they needed at the hospital. The Uber was ordered, photos taken, hugs exchanged, and they were out the door.

A little bit before 12 noon, Nahna had us organized to go pick up the Princess. The fitness center was near the heart of DePaul University. When we arrived, all of the kids were in the pool working with instructors. Soon, the camp was over, and Nahna knew the drill for securing the Princess for departure.

We made the ride back. I dropped Nahna and the Princess off in front of the condo, got them in, and I left to park the car.

It was nap time for the Princess. After reading a book to her, the Princess zonked out.

Nahna’s phone rang. It was our son-in-law. Excitement filled us. But, he was only letting us know that they were still waiting to get in the operating room. An emergency procedure for another person had bumped them out of their 12 noon slot. So, we were in a delay, a holding pattern.

We briefly heard from our daughter around 1:30 with an update and maybe a hint that they would be heading into the operating room soon.

For the remainder of the afternoon, no matter how I attempted to distract myself, my always present demon, William Worry, was perched up on my shoulder. In every slow tick of the clock, I worried that something was going wrong at the hospital.

Finally at 5:05 p.m. central time, our son-in-law called. Hudson Leo Reinking had arrived. A big boy at 9 pounds 12 ounces and 21 inches in length. It had been a long afternoon, but his report was good.

I was relieved.

Seems like I forgot about the word “Trust” on the back of the tractor-trailer we had passed on Wednesday morning.

Baby Road: Day 2 by Bill Pike

The Fairfield Inn treated us well— good sleep. The breakfast spread hit the spot too. After breakfast, we regrouped in the room, then checked out, reloaded the car, topped off the tank, and found our way back to I-65 north.

All along our journey, tractor trailers were traveling on both sides of the interstate in heavy numbers. Sometimes, we even saw flatbed train cars hauling the trailers too.

This morning, I noticed on the back of a trailer from the Danny Herman Trucking Company the following words:

Isaiah 40:30: Trust.

Mr. Herman’s company is based in Mountain City, Tennessee. Scripture references are standard on the back of all of their trailers.

I-65 is straight and flat.  Both sides of the interstate are dominated by farmland. No signs of spring are visible on this gray overcast morning. In fact, if I didn’t know this was April, this morning easily looks and feels like November or February.

From the roadway, singular farmhouses, barns, and fields seem lonely, like they are looking for spring to swoop in for a rescue.

But occasionally, I see a slight sign of spring. A hopeful farmer has given his fields an early plowing turning the dark rich soil over as a message to the remnants of winter—you need to leave, I’m ready to plant.

We continue passing trucks. Soon we are connecting with I-90 that will carry us into Chicago. Behind us are once thriving industrial towns of Gary and Hammond, Indiana. Brief glimpses of Lake Michigan are cast in the distance, and it isn’t long before the skyline of Chicago comes into view.

With minimal unpleasant language from me, we are finally on Lakeshore Drive. Familiar landmarks serve as a reminder of poet, Carl Sandburg, poem “Chicago.” Yes, we are in “the City of Big Shoulders.”

The LaSalle Avenue exit is waiting for us. A few more turns and we stop in front of our destination. The street is deserted. New water pipes had been installed by the city. Per order of the city, no parking is allowed on the street prior to 7 p.m. until repaving is completed.

Our son-in-law is present to help us unload. The goal is one trip. With hands full, we make the hike up the stairs to the third floor.

It is a good aerobic workout, and worth every step. At the top landing, our daughter and granddaughter are waiting. The radiant, expectant mother is about to pop, and our granddaughter is dressed like a princess.

The Commander Supreme, now called Nahna, is quickly out of control with a bag of surprises for the Princess. Her sweet charms as a grandmother work their magical bonding and with no hesitation from the Princess, they are off to play.

After lunch from Potbelly Sandwich Shop, the afternoon is a combination of running errands and instruction. We receive instruction on  everything related to keys, vehicles, technology, and all of the finer details on how to manage the routines of the Princess. I’m told we will be quizzed before the expecting parents depart for the hospital on Thursday.

Gray clouds, no sunshine, below average temperatures, and a brisk wind keep us inside after the running of errands. Plus, the weather forecast called for the late afternoon rain to change to snow with a possible accumulation of 1-3 inches. Local media reports this April in Chicago has been the second coldest on record in 130 years.

Around lunch time, our daughter had received the orders from the doctor and confirmation of when to be at the hospital on Thursday.  After dinner, she and her husband made sure they had everything ready for the trip to the hospital. They were planning to Uber to the hospital.

Large snowflakes were falling steadily as we prepped for bed. I watched the flakes in light cast by streetlights as they tumbled toward the hard surfaces below.

Again, I was ready for some sleep, but thankful for a safe arrival in Chicago, and thankful that Nahna and I are available to help out.

I thought back to the Isaiah scripture reference on the the back of the truck with the word— Trust.

Thursday, April 19 would be a day grounded in trust. Trust that the good Lord would continue the baby journey with our daughter and her husband, and trust that all the medical personnel involved with this birthing are at their best.

Baby Road: Day 1 by Bill Pike

IMG_3117.JPGThis last week has been a blur. Too many responsibilities on the radar, life is moving too fast. Departure day for heading out to help with the coming of grandchild number three had arrived.

On Tuesday, April 17, we were hoping to be on the road heading toward Chicago by six, latest seven. At 6:30 a.m. we were pulling out of the driveway. The goal was to make it to Lafayette, Indiana. That would leave us with two to three hours on Wednesday morning to make it into the Windy City.

We had been experiencing wacky weather this spring in Richmond. In the 80s on Saturday, and now in the 30s as we are leaving. But, this morning, the sun was out with some clouds. A familiar route awaited us— Patterson to 288, to I-64, to I-81, and back to I-64 again pushing west. Past Lexington, Virginia, the teasing of the sun on treetops was gone. A gray sky contrasted early pops of color dominated by the purple flower of the redbud trees.

The ferocious storm front that caused havoc on Sunday left behind swollen, muddy rivers and creeks. As we prepared to exit Virginia and enter West Virginia, it appeared that snow was falling against the back drop of the mountains.

Sure enough, a flurry of fine flakes awaited us. Digital signs in the median flashed a winter weather advisory. Here we are twenty-five days into spring, and winter is making up for what it failed to deliver.

We kept going, admiring the snow-covered landscape, and we guessed it had steadily fallen during the night or just before dawn. The good news was the road surface had not been impacted, so we kept moving.

My rapidly aging body needed a potty break. We stopped at the West Virginia Welcome Center. I commented to the friendly lady at the information desk, “nice spring weather.” She responded, “Yes, I don’t know what we did to deserve this.”

We survived the twists, turns, and steep climbs of the West Virginia Turnpike. Soon the gold dome of the capitol building in Charleston was in sight. Parallel to the interstate at times ran the bloated Kanawha River where a single tugboat pushed an empty barge upstream.

The snow-covered hills had disappeared, and north of Charleston, we opted to exit 64 and pick up U.S. 35. Eventually, U.S. 35 would carry us into Ohio. The further north we pushed, the more the sun played pick a boo. But, we were well past Indianapolis before the sun decided to really show up.

Traffic around Indianapolis hinted at the rush hour exodus, but we kept moving at a steady speed. We connected with I-65 and Lafayette starting appearing on the mileage signs.

Wasn’t long before we had taken a Lafayette exit, the Commander Supreme’s research landed us a room at a Fairfield Inn by Marriott.  We checked in and figured out a dinner plan.

Our oldest daughter, her husband, and two-year-old daughter live in Chicago. Their second child was due April 26, but the ultrasounds revealed a baby in the breeched position. So, we are coming in early to help out with a bumped-up arrival date.

After a good dinner at the 25-year-old Lafayette Brewing Company, we purchased a couple of sweet treats from Kathy’s Kandies. Our iPhone navigator, Nigel, complete with a British accent, led us back to the Fairfield Inn.


Sleep was needed. I’m hoping for a boy!