Cal and I went to one of the Nice Grocery Stores the next morning, to get stuff for Timprov to cook with. The Nice Grocery Stores are Lund's and Byerly's, and we went to Lund's. But either will do. Here's what they are: they are to Cub Foods as Andronico's is to Safeway. Is that clear, for you all out here? Lund's and Byerly's are where you go if you're having a Nice Dinner and want particularly swanky good food. (Their potato salad is also acceptable to a true believer in the Potato Salad Commandments, which is saying something.) So after lunch, Mark and Timprov and I headed down to Shakopee to meet Slacker at Culver's. (Where one can buy Concretes. Concretes are kind of like Blizzards, only with [frozen] custard instead of yogurt.)

There is no picture of Slacker here. He didn't want me to take one, and I didn't push. Slacker is one of those people who's hard to read over e-mail -- he tends to send simple, specific responses to specific questions or comments, very little in the way of elaboration. Slacker is good for some of the best conversations I've ever had --but you can't plan them that way. You can't say, "I'm going to see Slacker, and we'll schedule Really Good Conversation from 3:30 to 4:15, and then we'll talk about silly stuff for awhile and then go home." I stayed up all night with Slacker once, one of the few times I've ever done that -- it was the night before Steve Brust came to give his reading at Gustavus, and by the time we got around to noticing it was time to go to bed, it was 7:00 a.m. Oops. But that's a tangent. Seeing Slacker again was as I had hoped for: just fun.

Timprov's dad's cousins came over for supper that night, and Timprov made Ahi A La Timprov, among other nummy things. And we hung out there for awhile.

Saturday, we went over to Aunt Ellen and Uncle Phil's. Aunt Ellen and Uncle Phil, again with the scorecard, are my substitute grandparents on the Lingen side.

That's us. Aunt Ellen and Uncle Phil are quite easy to tell apart. You remember Cathy, my cousin in the last batch of trip pictures? That's their daughter. She was there, too. And she's coming out to visit us again on a business trip, at the end of the month. Which will be cool.

Aunt Ellen and I went to see Great Grandma Lingen for awhile in the afternoon, and Great Grandma told stories. I was prepared for her to be doing terribly. I think I was overprepared. She wasn't well, that much was clear, and she's aged considerably in the year since I saw her. But she was mostly clear-minded, able to tell stories, although not very well able to hear them. There was a bit of an issue with her not taking her noon medication on time...ah well. The aunties have come to an agreement that they're going to be looking for nursing care for Great Grandma, and I have to say I'm glad. I'm generally opposed to the overuse of nursing homes (old people boxes), but for people who need nursing care their families can't provide, they can be a Godsend. And I think it's pretty clear our family is at that point. We came back and chatted for awhile, giving Great Grandma a chance to nap (which she did not do -- too excited), and then Uncle Phil fetched her back for supper. Which, of course, featured very many things I love to eat best. Someone must have tipped my auntie Ellen off that I hadn't been eating very well. Or else she just likes to spoil me.

Here's me with my great-grandma.

I don't know. I try not to take her for granted. I really do. But she's been sick for so long that it just seems like she'll keep going on and being sick forever. It's hard for great-grandmas not to feel like a fixture. It's hard to remember that time passes for them.

She told me about my grandmother, Daddy's mom, the one who died before I was born. I like that. I would like to hear more stories, but it sounds like she wasn't a "story" kind of person, she was more a "behind the scenes" kind of person. Which is okay, too, but it's harder to get a feel for what she was really like. When I have characters in my head, they come with faults as well as good traits. I've never heard a fault mentioned of my Grandma Elaine -- not from her mother-in-law and not from her daughter-in-law, and those are the stereotypical fault-finding relationships. A couple of times on Saturday, my family slipped and referred to her as my mom rather than as my grandma. I think it was clear that they weren't confusing me with Aunt Mary or Aunt Ruthie. They knew who I was. It just seemed impossible to them, I think, that Elaine should be so far away that I could be the granddaughter she never knew.

Well. Sunday we went to church with Timprov's folks -- Cal was on vacation, so he didn't preach or anything, just sat in the congregation with us. It was nice. After we were done and were driving through the neighborhoods around there, on our way back to the Coopers', Mark said, "We could live here and walk to church in the summer." I agreed, we could. Bobbie had her own errands to run, so when she got back, we all had lunch, and then Mark and I headed down to Farmington to hang out with Heather and Dave and Miss Siri. We saw their new house, which was cool -- they got to work with the architect themselves, I believe, and Heather had sent me floor-plan sketches by snail-mail, so it was nice to see them made real.

Heathah is very pregnant. Doesn't show up so much in this picture, but trust me. She is. She looks good, though, and she's always pretty happy-go-lucky, even when she doesn't particularly want to wrestle socks on to take us to Carabou. Where we discovered, oh my land, some of the best blended coffee beverage. Caramel cooler. It's a caramel latte, blended. Oh wow. Muchly good. But Carabou uses good caramel. I already knew that from my old favorite turtle mochas there.

Dave and Siri. Miss Siri has her moments of shyness. She also has some rather opinionated moments. She wanted to show us her room. Evidently this involved running into her room, running smack into the bed (deliberately), and smothering Winnie-the-Pooh in a blanket. Social conventions vary by age, of course.

When we got back, Cal and Bobbie took us to Ichiban in downtown Minneapolis for my birthday. (Yes, yes, we all know when my birthday was. But I like birthdays. Bobbie says she's never known anyone to enjoy their birthdays as much as I do. This is because she doesn't know my folks yet.) It was teppanyaki-style Japanese cooking, with all the fancy tricks on the griddle in front of us. Our chef was not so good with the tricks -- kept dropping things, even knives -- but the teriyaki scallops I had more than made up for it. Oh, yum. Happy birthday to me.

(This restaurant, by the way, is near the hotel where World Fantasy Con will occur next year. In case you're wondering.)