I was a pretty independent teenager. When I graduated college, I moved away from home — to Delaware, Maine and Pennsylvania. Never all that far away, but out of New Jersey. As a parent, my hopes for my boys meant “launching” them, about making sure they had the skills and mindset to move ably through a world by turns big and small. I always want to be connected to them, but my desire was that they be able to make a home for themselves wherever their lives took them.
So it’s with relief and gratitude that Virginia and I returned on Monday from a trip to see our younger son Kelly in Utah. Kelly, 24, moved to Salt Lake City about nine months ago after a period of time spent adventuring (cross-country trips, Appalachian Trail) and discerning where he wanted to stay for a bit.
We went out last week, picked up him and his girlfriend, Gabby, whom he met in Utah, and headed four hours southeast for a few days of hiking through the nearby parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse). A few of Kelly’s friends joined us. We spent three long, fruitful days hiking, cooked up a second Thanksgiving at our Airbnb, got to know each other and generally had a blast. Virginia and I came home feeling that Kelly had found a home — a girlfriend who got him, work that engaged and frustrated him (which is pretty par for the course), and a community that supported and knew him.
He’s 24, there’s a long way to go, and it seems he’s launched. It was a nice, early Christmas gift.
We decided on our family trip to Italy more than a year, and have been actively planning it for 6 months, so it was kinda surprising just how surprising the trip was. We weren’t prepared for just how much we’d find in Rome, the Cinque Terra, Venice, Tuscany and Florence. Here’s what we saw, with tons of photos.
We landed in Rome on Friday morning and took a bus into Termini station, and eventually found our way to the AirBnB apartment, on the west side of town, at Valle Aurelia, near the Vatican—but first, the bus just happened past the Roman Coliseum (above).
After that, we napped—then we started to work through Rome: Forum, Vatican, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Hill, the biggest, baddest equestrian statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius that made me want to watch Gladiator in the Capitoline museum, the Diocletian baths, the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.
Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue at Capitoline Museum. People in photo for scale.
If it’s Rome, this is a She-Wolf.
Roman ruins near victor Emmanuel monument and Trajan’s Column.
St. Peter’s, after we visited the Vatican.
The hallway to the Sistine Chapel.
The altar in St. Peter’s.
The Roman Forum.
Fountain in the square near the Pantheon
Kelly being goofy at the Pantheon.
Virginia in Roman baths
Sculpture in museum garden
Quatro Formaggio pizza (blu cheese was the kicker)
Pete joined us on Day 4
The Fallen Gaul in Capitoline Museum.
I think this cherub strangling a duck was at the Vatican.
On terrace overlooking Rome at Capitoline Museum.
Glory that was Rome
I knew Pompeii’s story but the thing I had to see to understand is just how much of Mount Vesuvius is missing—how much higher it must have been until it blew its top in 79 AD and dropped 10 meters of ash across the countryside, burying this city for a millennium and moving the Bay of Naples back half a mile. Virginia really enjoyed our tour, and wished she had a lot more time there.
This “vertical city” literally falls down the mountain to the Mediterranean Sea. It was gorgeous and one of Virginia’s few regrets on the trip was not buying any clothing there.
Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast
This path donw to the sea at Positano was amazing
Positano, from the waterfront
This bride was owning the walk to the church.
This might be my favorite photo of Virginia from the trip.
The artist an his work, with Virginia and Kelly
These “five towns” are a couple hours north of Rome, past Pisa, and totally picturesque. We stayed in Vernazza, which is a one-street town that sorta pours down a mountain to the sea, with an adorable, tiny harbor. Our AirBnB was on the second floor and our bedroom was extremely pink (you’ll know it immediately below). We ate by the harbor on the first night and in a restaurant perched 100 feet up on the second. We also hiked from Vernazza to Monterossa, which is one of the most glorious, beautiful walks you could ever take in your life.
Day 1 hike to Carniglia
Vernazza snakes its way to the water along a stony backbone
our very pink main room in Vernazza.
Vernazza from above (day)
The hike to Monterossa, beautiful.
Headed down to Monterossa
Monterossa was more of a standard beach town. Oh, and gorgeous.
Vernazza by night, from above.
in the morning.
One of those places where East and West meet. St. Mark’s Basilica was strange and beautiful. I loved how different it was than St. Peter’s in Rome. No gondola ride for us.
The Doge’s palace
The boys headed to the casino this night, but it was closed by a strike. Pete can’t write the trip off as a business-related expense.
St. mark’s on the inside, with lots of influence from Constantinople.
From Rialto Bridge.
In Salutan cathedral, this altar tells the story of Venetians imploring baby Jesus and the Spirit of Venice (not Mary) to lift the plague, and a cherub then chasing away Old Lady Plague. Agist Beauty.
Gondola drivers need a break too.
This was our “time off,” aided by our friend Kris, who directed us here. We relaxed by the pool, hiked around the town of Artimino, checked out the Medici family hunting lodge, ate like kings (and queen), and were treated to a great wine tasting by Cristina.
View from the Artimino resort.
only rain we saw in 2 weeks. Never reached us.
We did a wine tasting with Cristina Bandini Fonte, who was so very kind and generous to us. Kely and Pete learned a lot.
Pete and I ran into this big dog and about 6 aggressive friends on a hiking path near Artimino. Thank god for the fence.
The Medici family hunting lodge
The resort’s pool.
Cristia took care of us at dinner, too.
View from our place.
Florence was our final stop and, in some ways, I wish it had been our first. It had so much to offer, but we were starting to get fatigued. One of my favorite times in our trip was a late afternoon stop at the Piazelle Michaelangelo (it’s his hometown), enjoying a refreshment and looking over the city.
Jesus visits Limbo
Outside the Duomo
Along the River Arno
Medici Chapel, Michaelangelo sculptures
Pete overcomes his fear of the boar
From Florence, we caught the train to Rome and the airport and headed home—well, Pete, Virginia and I did. Kelly booked a flight to Paris and went there on the way to Amsterdam. He comes home Wednesday.
It was great to visit Italy. Even better was the chance to spend uninterrupted time with the boys, which is difficult now that Pete works and Kelly has school and his job as a counselor at summer camp in upstate New York.
We did AirBnB everywhere but Artimino and it was for the most very good. Locations were good, and most of the master bedroom beds were good. The boys’ beds, not so much, though they were good sports. The best place we had was in Rome, with a great terrace. The worst was Florence—centrally located, but right on a small, but busy, road and apparently sitting directly in front of a sewage tank that needs to be pumped out on Wednesday mornings. Yuck! We’d do it again.
Speaking of “gig economy” companies, we used Uber, once, in Rome, to get back home from a dinner in Trastaverte. Guy pulled up in a very sweet Mercedes sedan. Uber wasn’t available outside Rome.
One bit of curiosity fallout: I am completely intrigued by Michaelangelo. He is simply a transcendent genius. Listening to The Agony and the Ecstasy but I’m thinking there’s a better book to read. What is it, people?
Time with the boys was great—and when Kelly left us at 3:30 am on the last day, to catch a flight to Paris, I felt both sad he was leaving and buoyant that he was brave enough to strike out on his own. That he texted us later in the day that he’d befriended his hostel roommate (a 20-something copper miner from the Yukon Territory—you can’t make this stuff up) and was rapturous about the city was icing on the cake. Virginia and I have always wanted to hold our sons close and launch them as adults. This trip felt like confirmation that we could do both. And that was a great feeling for the trip home.
We celebrated Kelly’s graduating high school with a party Saturday. About 50 adults and many students were there. We could not have done it without the help of the Kirk and McKeone families. One thing Susan and Emily Kirk helped with was a set of table placements that included photos of Kelly and facts, real an dubious, about the kid. Kevin made up most of the dubious ones. Emily did a great job connecting images and facts. Give it a look. And prepare to laugh.
Kelly and Peter have been agitating for more formal clothing for a matter of months—Peter because he hopes to be working/interning soon, Kelly because he watches the cable show “Suits” and thinks Meghan Markle might give him the time of day if he was dressed better (speculation) . So we went to the King of Prussia Mall Saturday and found Kelly a suit (not the one in this photo, ultimately). Peter had gone by Friday and picked one out (thank god for the Jos. A. Bank 3-suits-for-the-price-of-1 sale!), so once the alterations are in, family can look forward to seeing the boys looking better at the Big Events.
Kelly got an early birthday present when we stopped at the AT&T store on the way home from his job (yes, he has a job helping out at Tiny Tennis in Limerick) and traded in his Pantech Something-or-Other for a brand-spanking-new iPhone 5. He hasn’t looked up since.
Kevin brought his camera and took some pics while wandering around West Philly while with Kelly last weekend. Here are some of the photos. I laid off photos of Kelly, who doesn’t appreciate cameras in his face when he isn’t feeling well.
We’re home after a 4-day stay at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Kelly had been struggling with his IBD since we switched medicines this summer (he had developed an allergy to the medicine that had served him well for two year, Remicade, and had switched to another, Humira), and he slipped into a flare in October.
He received a big dose of intravenous steroids (prednisone) while in CHOP, and that seemed to do the trick over the weekend. On Monday, we came up with a maintenance plan going forward, and he was discharged by 5 pm.
It was an arduous span of days, but we are privileged to have the talented and caring folks at CHOP to help out (a special shout-out to Dr. Grossman, who guided the treatment) and all those who have lent their thoughts and prayers over the past 5 days. Whether we are in His grip—or Hers, or all of ours—we have felt it and are grateful.
Kelly goes back to school tomorrow and we’re hopeful things will become blessedly normal for the foreseeable future. Again, thanks for everyone’s best wishes. We’ll keep on keepin’ on.
Kelly had his usual great time at his two-week summer camp in upstate NY, Unirondack. Kevin drove up and retrieved him today, along with another camper, Calder, who lives in Annapolis, Md. It was a lot of driving, but Kelly looks forward to the camp all year long.
Also, Pete is back after his summer session at Bloomsburg. Next up, we’re headed to Rehoboth Beach, Del., for 3 days, then we’ll run over to Baltimore to see Virginia’s family (and the Baltimore Orioles vs. Red Sox at Camden Yards). Should be fun.
We picked up Kelly from Unirondack summer camp in Lowville, NY. As usual, he had a great time—even though this year he stayed for two weeks, rather than one. Also, his friend Trey was there for the second week, as well as Alex Kahn. We brought all three home today, eight hours in the car and very glad to be home, even if it’s 94 at 10:24 pm.
Kelly’s rec soccer team was a funny critter. They didn’t have anybody who appeared much interested in scoring a goal most of the season, except for the coach’s 8-year-old, who was a frequent call-up. But they played pretty good defense and the others teams were no great shakes … and the team surged late in the season. All of a sudden the team that couldn’t score was the second-best team in the league (ok, there were just four teams).
Anyway, that held through a single day of playoffs. First, Kelly’s team won 2-0 in the playoff semifinal. Kelly played a strong goalie, then scored in the second half of the game – truth be told, the 8-year-old did all the hard work and then made a great crossing pass to Kelly, who banged it home. Afterward, Kelly picked up the 8-y-o, who is tiny. It was a memorable moment. Why did we let Peter have the camera at that point?!?!
Anyway, the Revolution reached the final and … well, this wasn’t Hoosiers. Let’s just say it was a great season. If I can find everybody’s name, I’ll list the roster.
Kelly came home Sunday afternoon. Blood count was improving – a great sign – and he was feeling better after three quiet days at CHOP. On his discharge papers, we got the closest thing to a diagnosis so far: Crohn’s Disease. Kelly is in good spirits and we’re confident we’ll figure out how to manage this thing.
This is Kelly at the Weird Al concert back on Aug. 15. He hadn’t been feeling well since our trip to Ireland, England and Scotland at the beginning of the month. Now we know why.
A five-day stint at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP, around here) has uncovered that Kelly has an illness called inflammatory bowel syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that targets the GI track. It can be managed with medicines and generally good living. There is no cure. He is currently being treated at CHOP.
To everyone who has prayed, called or generally aimed some good energy at Kelly – and all of us – thank you!
He is feeling better and on the mend. We’re hoping he comes home this weekend. Wanna wish Kelly well? Click on the Comments section under this posting.