That included a visit to my hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa, where I enjoyed the company of relatives, reconnected with an old friend or two, and toured the city, taking photos of homes I've lived in, visiting many familiar landmarks and catching up on a few I'd either missed or have been added since I moved away.
One element of the visit caught me off-guard, however. It was triggered by a CD my mother gave me of some songs recorded by a musically-gifted uncle, Rick Andersen, and his wife, Harriette. It reminded me of the role music has played in my life.
I have the musical equivalent of two left feet, not exactly tone deaf, but close. I sang in the church choir as a teenager but it was one of those just-move-your-lips-Larry kind of things. My mother, on the other hand, had a wonderful voice and often did solos.
Although I couldn't sing, I once tried seriously to play the guitar. I fancied myself as something of a hybrid of Bob Dylan and John Lennon lyrically, but I was more of a Soupy Sales instrumentally. I did OK with the look and attitude, as the accompanying picture shows, but came up short at the actual musical end.
Still, I loved listening to music. Early in my writing career I wrote concert and record reviews, wrote a rock music column and met and interviewed people like Carl Perkins, Maybelle Carter, Waylon Jennings, Buddy Knox and Dion DiMucci.
Interestingly, there was a time many years ago when my uncle Rick and I were roughly equal in musical skills. But he stayed with it, adding the dobro and harmonica to his repertoire and regularly jamming with friends and relatives (including my fiddle-playing mother). He's even added a recording studio in his rural home and keeps busy recording others from the area. That's where he recorded the CD I was given.
Among the 17 songs he and Harriette put on their CD is a raucous number called "I Won't Go Huntin' With You Jake." Mom says my grandfather used to go around singing that song all the time, something I don't recall.
But, as I listen to my uncle offer his version of the number, it's easy to visualize grandpa enthusiastically spitting out the lyrics about wimmen-chasin' mountain men in his thick Danish accent, laughing loudly as my grandmother half-heartedly turns away in mock disgust.
That vision brings a smile to my face. Thanks, Rick, Harriette and mom.