Wednesday, June 1, 2011

For Whom I Write

Elgin, Lagrange and Oak Lawn, down in Illinois, for Memorial Day.
by Charlie Leck

I was with a couple of the grandchildren this weekend – down in Illinois. Anne was judging a horseshow on Saturday (28 May) in Elgin and it seemed a good opportunity for me to join her and take the train from Elgin to downtown Chicago and then out to Oak Lawn to visit my daughter, son-in-law and two of our grandchildren. Mind you, I’m six weeks out from my hip-replacement surgery and everyone surrounding me wondered if I should be taking trains to Chicago and walking through Union Station and climbing up into a commuter train to the suburbs. But I – I – well, I love trains and I love venturing out on my own and I’ve been feeling a strong dose of cabin-fever lately. I needed out.

Oh, my! I had a wonderful time.

Anne dropped me off at the railroad station in Elgin. She was having some trepidation about the whole thing and beseeched me several times to just let her drive me all the way into Oak Lawn.

“Nonsense!” I told her with great firmness. “You know how I love trains. I’m excited about taking the Metra Line to Union Station and then finding my way out to Oak Lawn.”

I wasn’t putting her on. I love trains. And, I love riding on them. A few weeks ago I made a list of the half-dozen things I’d like to do before I die. Two items on the list had to do with trains.

I’d like to take the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul!

I’d like to take the Canadian VIA train from Toronto to Vancouver (Sleeper Touring Class)

This September I’m trying to work it out so that I can take a train from Paris to Prague. Another of the items on my “bucket list” is to visit the city of my maternal family’s heritage.

A young man – of twenty or so – helped me move around in Union Station and joined me in the long ticket line to purchase passage for the short run out to Oak Lawn.

“Can’t I just buy a ticket on board?” I asked.

“But you save $3 if you purchase the ticket here,” he explained to me.

The line looked to be a half-hour long and I don’t stand around to well after this hip surgery, but the boy was so genuine and helpful that I tagged along with him as we wound around and around the queue barriers. We learned a lot about each other’s lives (his certainly sounded more exciting) and I enjoyed my time talking to him. On top of that, I fell in love with the lady behind the protective glass shield at the ticket window.

“I’d like a one-way to Oak Lawn,” I politely told her.

“Are you a senior citizen?”

“Why, yes. Yes I am.”

“Sure? Sixty-five?”

“Indeed,” I laughed. “Seventy!”

“You certainly don’t look it,” she lied with a wink and a big smile. "Take the Manhattan Line on Track 14."

It’s a 35 minute ride out to the Oak Lawn station. The first 20 minutes of it are spent creeping through the rail yards that lead into and out of Union Station. The rush hour had started early on this Memorial Day weekend and extra trains had been added. It slowed the trip down as the trains traversed the crowded tracks near the depot. Once away from the yard, the train made up the time it had lost and flew through the Southside of Chicago with stops only in Wrightwood and Ashburn before pulling into Oak Lawn. They were waiting there and they were a beautiful sight for my tired eyes and I loved the hugs and kisses they shared with me.

Well, seeing two of my grandchildren – for whom I write this blog (so that there will be something of a memoir left behind me) – was just wonderful. Oh, my! How they grow. The oldest grandchild, now seven, was reading to me like an adult – swift and smooth and with meaning!

They made sure I had a good time – and Grandma, too, when she joined us on Saturday night. A family barbeque with lots of my son-in-law’s uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, plenty of time playing children’s games, an attractive tattoo for my arm and a really lovely visit to Lagrange – a really handsome and colorful town that I will always remember as a special and good place. Breakfast at Mulberry Hill was terrific!

I’m home now and I’m ready to tackle some of life’s complex problems. Here I go again! I’ll be offering solutions for world peace, ending homelessness and hunger, growing jobs for America and the industrialized world and improving agricultural out-put. Tune in again when I’m not so melancholy about grandchildren and trains.


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