Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - September 26, 2014


We had decided to make it a surprise for our girls. But in a way, it was a surprise for us. German "son" Tim had spent six months with us beginning last February while he was completing an internship at the local airport. When he returned to Berlin in July, we knew he had two more internships ahead of him followed by graduation in the spring. Then it would be off to the world of work, and so who knew when we might see him again.

But we never would have guessed it would be less than two months!

While husband Art and I were at our cottage in Wisconsin in early August, Tim mentioned in an e-mail how much he was missing the United States and some of the things we were doing. Art kidded him that he should come back. But that kidding turned serious when Art discovered that Tim had a one-month gap between his internships at the Berlin and Frankfurt airports. As the years pass, Art and I have learned to take an opportunity when it presents itself. So Art made arrangements for Tim to return to his "home away from home."

I doubt our attempts to surprise our gals were too effective. We waited until the day before to tell them "someone" was coming, adding it was for just a short time. That was to encourage them to come to the airport for his 10:15 p.m. flight. It wasn't really a fib as the plan was for Tim to travel to Wisconsin with Art two days after his arrival to do some trout fishing. Tim would then fly back to Manhattan five days later, but we left that part out.

When daughter Mariya immediately gave her trademark "okey dokey," I was pretty certain she had an idea who would be stepping off the plane. Normally-curious Katie only wanted to confirm the time so it wouldn't interfere with some school-related matter earlier that evening.

All went as planned, and as we were driving back to town from the airport, the girls confirmed they had guessed our "someone" would be Tim.

After a day recovering from the overseas flight, Tim and Art commenced their 14-hour drive to Wisconsin. I later asked Art what they talked about, but despite talking all day, he couldn't recall - other than some of it was about football.

But two less fun surprises were unfolding. It rained several inches just before their arrival, making the streams too high for good fishing. But between trips to a couple of favorite restaurants and the local ice cream parlor, watching football and more talking, the first two days passed quickly. They went fishing the next two days and, while conditions were far from ideal, a few fish were caught.

But the rain was just the first curve thrown by the weather. Although Tim made it from Wisconsin to Chicago just fine on his trip back to Manhattan, he spent the night in O'Hare because the flight to Manhattan was cancelled due to a large line of thunderstorms along the Kansas-Nebraska border. When Tim finally arrived via Dallas the next day, he was one tired fellow. He said he was sure he had walked nearly 20 miles to pass the time waiting in the various airports.

Most of his first day back in Kansas was spent sleeping. In the days that followed, he watched old episodes of "Modern Family" with me, helped me celebrate my birthday at Famous Dave's restaurant with Mom, Mariya, Katie and her boyfriend Matt, played video games with Mariya and her girlfriend Miriam, and completed his daily run and exercise routine.

But by far his favorite experience was attending the K-State - Auburn game. Tim's a football fanatic and he has a real passion for the Wildcats. So at about 4:30 on game day, Tim, Katie and I parked far enough from the stadium that we wouldn't get caught in the post-game traffic. Walking was hot, but we didn't mind. Our senses were overwhelmed by the aroma of food cooking on grills, the sounds of the Pride of Wildcat Land band mixed with the roar of Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the sight of thousands of K-State fans wearing all means of purple hats, wigs made of purple and silver foil, Willie-the-Wildcat-emblazoned T-shirts, and PowerCat-painted faces. By kick-off, more than 53,000 fans had packed Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

While K-State lost the game 14-20, fans and sports pundits alike were amazed that the 'Cats held the number-five-ranked Tigers to such a low score. And for Tim, it didn't matter. He said:

"What I liked about the game was that it was the full package. The weather was perfect, watching folks tailgating is always fun, meeting your family and especially having the chance to talk to [my brother Dave's son] Paul again was really nice, watching the crowd go wild (especially the student section) during pregame activities ... watching the marching band ..., watching a thrilling and tight game between two power houses in college football, the warm welcome of the Auburn fans before the game started (heard many folks talking to them and giving them a warm welcome to Manhattan; you would never see something like this in Germany when two soccer teams play each other), ["Modern Family" television star Eric] Stonestreet doing the coin toss, first times like watching the Harleys driving through the stadium and watching the aircraft formation before the game, the extremely packed stadium, the atmosphere during the game... Everything was so exciting..."

So just like in July, it was hard to tell him "goodbye" after this "surprise" visit without any idea when we will see him again. But I'm sure life will surprise us with another opportunity ... and we'll be just as quick to take advantage of it when it comes.

Before the big game, Tim, top left, stands next to Dave's son Michael and brother Dave. In front is Katie, Michael's wife Kristina and sister-in-law Linda.

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