Tag Archives: Aunt Katie

Not Quite

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This is the season, it seems, for qualifiers. My birthday is almost here; I am not quite sixty-five years old. Summer is nearly over; fall is coming soon. It’s that “in-between” stage that begs for evaluation and invites plans. That’s where I’m at right now.

Summer. It came in slowly, with cold, rainy days through most of June. Even when it warmed up, it seems the hot summer days were often balanced by chilly nights or cool, windy or rainy days. Mosquitoes were never unbearable. I almost always slept under a light comforter.

I spent the early part of the summer getting my back yard reconfigured and my garden planted. Though it was a lot of work, it has pretty much taken care of itself since then, and has been a source of satisfaction and fresh vegetables for weeks now.

Most of my flowers are finished blooming, though the ones that are still offering their bright faces are more appreciated than ever. The low hedge of  “Autumn Joy” Sedum is healthy and bright green. Before long, its flat flower heads will be glorious bronze tones.

Aunt Katie’s illness dominated the summer season. When she was home, the goal was to buoy her spirits; the wish was to see her improve. “How are you today?” I’d ask whenever I stopped. “Not good,” she’d answer, discouraged. “I wish I had a different answer,” she once said, vehemently.

I brought her a large potted tomato plant, to grow on her kitchen porch. My cousin Bob planted a tub of salad greens just outside the door. His sheep grazed just behind the farmhouse. She watched them from her kitchen stool as he did her breathing treatment.

Morning Glories came up from seeds dropped in other years. Aunt Katie was never well enough to put up the rows of string for the flowers to climb; I never thought to do it for her. Now, in August, the vigorous  vines have tumbled over and formed a thick mound, reminding me of my neglect.

When she was getting care on the mainland – between two hospitals and a rehabilitation facility – telephone calls became a focus. There were calls to Aunt Katie’s room and to her cell phone. There were calls to the keyboard and to the nurse’s station. Because she was often out of her room, away from her phone, or unable to talk because something else was going on, and because the nurse’s station was poorly staffed in the evenings when I was able to call, I was usually frustrated. When I was able to get updates, I called family members downstate to spread the word. My cousin Keith changed his route to be able to visit with Aunt Katie on the way to and from his cabin. His phone calls were highly anticipated and welcome for the good information on her spirits and her progress.

When Aunt Katie finally came home, she knew – as we did – that she was coming home to die. Friends started calling, and stopping by. Dishes of food were dropped off. Family members altered their summer plans to get to the island. Though she was clearly weak, struggling, and in decline, I thought she’d be with us for a while. I packed a week’s worth of clothes, to bring to her house, and anticipated being there a month or more. That was not the way it worked out.

On, then to the services to honor my aunt. Bringing together many of her nieces and nephews and their families, islanders who knew and respected her and the contributions she made in her long life, and friends who wept openly at the dear heart we had lost. It was exhausting…and wonderful…as many events like this are, but a fitting send-off to a wonderful woman who has been a big part of my life.

The funeral was a sad start to the planned, week-long vacation on Beaver Island for my sisters and their families. Still, good company, fine weather, and lots of little children helped to bring perspective and joy to a transitional time. For me, especially this year, their presence was a blessing.

Work was the second major focus of my summer. Extended hours at the hardware store made for long, busy days. In addition, there was writing, event-covering and business to be taken care of for the news-magazine. Getting artwork where it needed to be – and myself where I was supposed to be to promote it – was another pull in yet another direction.

Though my diet and exercise plan went out the window less than two months into the New Year, I have somehow managed to lose about eight pounds. Walks with the dogs went from daily – as promised – to a couple times a week, as time and weather allowed. Our rides down to the Fox Lake were often foiled by other people and dogs on the shore. I only made it to the Lake Michigan beach a couple times this summer, and I never went swimming. That should be considered at least a venial sin in the evaluation of both my summer and my 65th year. I live on an island, for God’s sake!

So, as I look back over the year, and the summer season, I’d have to say it was not quite as successful as I would have liked. That’s okay. There was joy, and progress, and change. It was not quite a failure, either!

 

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Aunt Katie’s Eulogy

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Since my Aunt Katie died a week ago, I’ve had many people come to me to offer their sympathy, and to tell me a memory or an impression she left. There was the baseball cap she often wore, or the big truck she drove, or the dog that waited in the car while Aunt Katie attended mass. Always, though appreciative of the thought, I was left thinking, “There was so much more to her than that!” I was anxious for the chance to honor her for all that she meant to so many of us.

I thought I’d talk about Katherine’s life, and how she lived it: her work, the sports she loved, her garden…then Deacon Paul came to talk to me, to prepare for his homily…and I gave away all my best material. I was planning to interview all the cousins gathered here, to get specifics about how Aunt Katie influenced each of their lives…but there was a lot going on yesterday, and I didn’t get the chance. So, I’m speaking from my perspective alone in hopes that, by doing so, maybe others will identify with Katherine as I knew her.

My first memory of Aunt Katie goes back 60 years. I’m sure she was around before that, to hold me when I was a baby, and to try to hold me once I decided I was shy, and wouldn’t allow it. On this particular day, though, when she stopped in for a visit, my mother was giving baths and shampooing hair. The house was in an uproar. I was sitting naked in the middle of the living room, wailing. Aunt Katie swooped me up into her arms…and I let her. And I stopped crying. She did a little pointing to my dad, who was just as surprised as she was that I was allowing it. She said, “See, I’m not so bad…we could be friends…”

She was right. Aunt Katie was a consistent presence through my life. As a child, I looked forward to her Sunday visits for the cookies she often brought, and for the lively conversations that took place when she was around. As an adult, I appreciated my aunt as a mentor, a teacher, and a wonderful friend.

Aunt Katie was an example of a strong, independent working woman, when role-models like that were extremely scarce. She had a good job, and owned her own home. She always drove a nice car. She traveled around the state, and then around the country. When she came to Beaver Island on vacation, she almost always brought some of her nieces and nephews along with her. Once, stuck in traffic on the way back to Pontiac on a sweltering hot day, she said all four of the Evans boys had their long legs dangling out the windows!

Aunt Katie taught me how to get along with my Dad. “Don’t forget: I grew up with him, and three other stubborn brothers,” she told me. “It won’t do you any good to argue; you will never win. Instead, do this: drop your chin, bring your arms to your sides. Say ‘you are absolutely right.’ Don’t say ‘you could be right’ or ‘you might have a point’ because the argument will just continue on. Say ‘you are absolutely right.’ Then, just do what you want.”

I watched her put this into practice. My dad would rail on and on about the stupidity of the game of golf, and how foolish it was to go chasing a little ball across a field. Aunt Katie would nod, drop her chin, and say, “You’re absolutely right, Bob.” Then, next chance she got, she’d load up her clubs and go to the golf course. Dad would talk about how ridiculous it was to grow flowers. “If you can’t eat it, it’s just a waste of time,” he’d say. “You’re right,” she’d say…but she’d still run twine along the porch for her morning glories to climb.

Once, over dinner, Uncle Henry was talking about smoking, and what a nasty habit it was. “You’re absolutely right, Henry,” Aunt Katie said. Still, when she got up from the table, she closed herself in the bathroom and lit up.”She thinks I don’t know what she’s doing in there,” he said…as if she weren’t less than ten feet away. “It’s none of Henry’s business,” Aunt Katie spoke to herself…as if the walls weren’t paper thin. When she came out of the bathroom, in a cloud of smoke, neither one of them said a word about it.

And when my dad was on his deathbed, and he bellowed and sent us all, crying, from the room, Aunt Katie quietly kept her seat. No matter what he wanted, or thought he wanted, she wasn’t going to let him die alone.

Aunt Katie didn’t always shy away from an argument, though. There are a couple of people that she seemed to truly enjoy sparring with. There were others that she’d talk history with, or finance, politics, the stock market, gardening, dogs, or baseball. Katherine was an intelligent woman who could speak with great knowledge on any number of subjects. She wouldn’t waste her time, though, if she didn’t think you were interested.

She was always tuned in to what others cared about. She kept that in mind, too, when she asked for assistance. One niece helped with her taxes, because that was her strong suit. A couple nephews helped with remodeling projects. Aunt Katie called me if she needed something from the store; she called Bob for help with dinner. When Deacon Paul asked if I took care of Aunt Katie, I was stunned. “She took care of herself,” I told him. She was careful to spread out the help she needed, so that it seemed like she was asking nothing at all. Truly, in comparison to all that she gave, it was absolutely nothing.

With that being said, I do want to thank the many people that helped Katherine as her health failed, to make it possible for her to live a good life, in her own home. Thank you to the priests that have stopped to visit, to Deacon Jim, and the ladies that brought Communion. Thanks to Bob Evans, who was always there for Aunt Katie, whether it was doctor visits, meals, or just good companionship. Thanks to Eileen, who was Katherine’s helper and, most importantly, her friend. Thanks to Greg, who was always close by, and checked in regularly. Thanks to Keith, who brightened Aunt Katie’s hospital stay with regular visits…and to all the others that came, called, or sent cards. And many thanks to the hospice nurses, Sue Solle and Donna Kubik, for all their help and encouragement in Katherine’s last days.

My Aunt Katie lived a good life; my life has been better for having her in it.

 

 

 

Today

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When I’m struggling for what to do, how to behave, what to say…I find a quote – or it finds me – and the message speaks right to me, and gives me direction to go forward. This one is a gift from my friend, Lisa, who writes from rural Ecuador:

“Today: Soak in what’s real and what’s real is unhurried. The ground. The air. The exhale. The planted seed. The shift. The season.” – Victoria Erickson

And there it is, just what I need to find my footing.

Saturday, my Aunt Katie came home from the hospital, weak as a kitten, and resigned to the fact that there was nothing more that could be done to improve her situation. My cousin Bob brought her back to Beaver Island, where she was born and raised, and where she has lived since her retirement, more than thirty years ago. We helped to get her settled in her own house, where her biggest wish was to watch the Detroit Tigers baseball game.

I moved in to her house, too, to be there, and help however I could. Though Aunt Katie was, at times, frustrated by pain, weakness or the inability to perform a task(“This hand just doesn’t work right anymore!”), she was always brave, rational and composed. “That’s the way it should be,” she said, speaking of the fact that she would die before her sister, Margaret, “I’m the oldest, after all.” When I showed concern over her discomfort, she told me calmly, “That’s just part of the process, Cindy.”

Though we both recognized that these were serious and important times, we stayed true to our own natures. I still managed to get on Aunt Katie’s nerves with my inability to find whatever she sent me after (her little pills, the breathing machine, oatmeal) though her directions couldn’t possibly have been more precise. Any show of sadness or sentimentality was met with a sharp rebuke. Once, when my hand rested on her shoulder a bit too long, she gathered enough voice to say, “Cindy! Cut it out!” She still managed, now and then, to hurt my feelings and aggravate. We were both able, though, to let little grievances go, and focus on the big picture.

I was rarely alone with Aunt Katie. Her niece, Shirley, grand-niece, Paula, and Paula’s husband, Tom, flew over for a day. They brightened Aunt Katie’s spirits, and left behind enough soup to feed an army! Her nephews Bob, Greg and Keith were present and attentive. Phone calls were frequent and welcome. I’d help Aunt Katie hold the phone to her ear as she listened and responded.

Friends stopped in with gifts of food, well-wishes and encouragement. Aunt Katie smiled and nodded appreciation as I named her guests. Bob’s fiancee, Joann, spent one long night in the chair at her bedside, murmuring love and comfort. Donna and Sue, the hospice nurses, were frequent guests, always kind, helpful and full of good advice. The deacon came, to offer communion and other sacraments. Aunt Katie’s friend and helper, Eileen, stopped in for a long visit, and she and my aunt had a beer together. When I came into the room, Aunt Katie was smacking her lips and, with a little grin, said, “That tastes good!”

My aunt died Monday evening, with family and friends around her. She was eighty-eight years old.

My sister Cheryl, and her son, Bob, arrived the next day. Together with those of us already here, plans and arrangements are moving along. Photos are being gathered; memories are shared. Last night four of us ordered Aunt Katie’s beer choice before dinner, and toasted her as we clinked our bottles of MillerLite together. We’ll have a steady stream of family arriving over the next several days.

This morning, I picked my dogs up from the kennel. I stayed home from work. I have not yet contacted the family to see what I should do next. Today, I’m taking time to let it all soak in. One step at a time.

Potatoes

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Aunt Katie would prefer potatoes every day with her main meal. She rarely has bread with dinner, and eats a well balanced mix of lean meats and vegetables, but potatoes are a mainstay. “It doesn’t seem like a whole meal without potatoes,” she has told me.

I like potatoes. I sometimes make a simple meal of fried onions, potatoes and tomatoes. I enjoy a baked potato, with butter and sour cream. I like crisp baked potato skins, with butter melted inside. Mashed potatoes are good, on occasion. There’s nothing nicer, on a Sunday morning, than homemade hash browns with eggs and toast. I like potatoes cooked with boiled dinner in a ham broth, or nestled, along with carrots and onions, in with a beef roast. Rarely, I’ll make a boiled potato. It seems too plain, and needs gravy to make it taster good. I love pierogi, filled with cheesy mashed potatoes; my daughter, Kate, makes them from scratch. I make potato gnocchi, potato pancakes and potato bread. Still, I certainly don’t need potatoes at every dinner.

I am okay with sweet potatoes, as a special flavor at holiday time, but there flavor is not one I would want regularly. My healthy gumbo called for sweet potatoes. They weren’t bad, but over the years I’ve substituted carrots, which I prefer. My sister Cheryl and I used to always split a baked sweet potato at Thanksgiving, and that was just enough.

When I was in college, and my girls were in school in East Lansing, we were only on Beaver Island for three months in the summertime. We didn’t have time for a garden, but I always grew potatoes. I brought seed potatoes up north with me. I split the big ones, and removed extra eyes. Without even working up the soil, I planted potatoes. I pushed the shovel into the ground, jumped on it to get it in deep enough, tipped in forward and dropped a potato in the space behind the head of the shovel. Pulling the shovel out buried the seed potato. One giant step forward, and I’d repeat the process. On and on until all were planted. They took care of themselves, then, through our busy summers. Before we left at the end of August, we’d dig up our harvest. Any missed potatoes would grow up as new plants the following year. I often carried about a bushel back to campus with me.

A few years ago when my granddaughter, Madeline, was here, she was invited to help my cousin Bob with his harvest. I dropped her off on my way to work. When I picked her up, she was covered from head to toe with garden soil, with a great big grin. “You’d think she was digging for gold, as much as she loved finding those potatoes in the ground,” Aunt Katie told me. For that story alone, I like potatoes!

88 Wonderful Things

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Today is my Aunt Katie’s birthday. Tonight, we’ll celebrate with a good meal, cake and ice cream. This morning, I’m making a list…for her 88 years, of many wonderful things that I happen to know and love about her.

  1. Aunt Katie was born on Beaver Island,
  2. the oldest of the two girls
  3. with four brothers
  4. (one of them was my father), and
  5. was the tiniest, at birth, in her family.
  6. They kept her warm by the wood stove,
  7. and she thrived.
  8. She attended Sunnyside School,
  9. which was next door to her house,
  10. so she would walk home for lunch.
  11. That was especially nice on the day her mother baked bread.
  12. Aunt Katie always loved to read.
  13. In her little bedroom at the top of the stairs, she would read by the light of the moon.
  14. At school recess, the girls played baseball right along with the boys.
  15. The nun played, too.
  16. They climbed Mount Pisgah one day on a class excursion,
  17. and another time traveled together to High Island
  18. where they saw remnants of the Israelite’s gardens, still coming up in rows.
  19. Aunt Katie’s mother died when she was eleven years old.
  20. Sometimes, then, she and her sister, Margaret, walked to their Aunt Lizzie’s house in the mornings, so she could braid their hair.
  21. Her father once bought metal dishes because there had been so much breakage,
  22. and she felt offended at the insult.
  23. She went to high school in town,
  24. and graduated with a smaller class than she had started with
  25. because most of the boys had dropped out.
  26. She worked, then as a waitress,
  27. at a restaurant that sat where the old part of the hardware store is now,
  28. while she waited for her sister to graduate, so they could move to the city together.
  29. She still remembers who the poor tippers were!
  30. She and Margaret shared a basement apartment in Pontiac, when they first left the island.
  31. Aunt Katie worked behind the soda fountain at a drugstore,
  32. until she landed a job in the mail room at Pontiac Motors.
  33. She worked there until she retired,
  34. during which time she often had to train young men to do the job,
  35. and then watch them be promoted before her, because “a man has a family to support.”
  36. The irony was not lost on my Aunt Katie,
  37. who recognized the injustice
  38. but lived with it.
  39. She had her own home, with taxes and expenses just like anyone,
  40. and a car payment,
  41. and she helped others when she could.
  42. She took in her Uncle Joe, and he lived under her roof until he died.
  43. On weekends, Aunt Katie played golf in the summertime,
  44. and was on a bowling league in the winter.
  45. By the time she retired, she had many trophies for both sports.
  46. Sometimes, on Sunday, Aunt Katie would come to visit us.
  47. If we were lucky, she’d bring a treat.
  48. Aunt Katie made the world’s best chocolate chip cookies.
  49. She still does!
  50. One Christmas, she brought “Harvey Wallbanger Cake,” with flavors of orange and rum.
  51. She was my Confirmation sponsor.
  52. On her vacation, Aunt Katie often came to Beaver Island.
  53. She rarely came alone.
  54. She’d pick up a few nieces and nephews to give them a chance to get away.
  55. Often, it was the Evans boys.
  56. One especially hot trip, when traffic was moving slowly, she remembers that all of those long-legged boys were sprawled out, with feet and legs hanging out of the windows!
  57. Once, she brought Brenda and I.
  58. First we got car-sick, then sea-sick, then home-sick. She sent us back, early, with Uncle Henry and Aunt Betty.
  59. Many years later, she gave me a second chance, and brought me on vacation with two of my cousins.
  60. She gave me my first chance to drive a car, here on Beaver Island.Not knowing what the accelerator was (as in “take your foot off the accelerator!”), I drove right into a ditch.
  61. Aunt Katie made a shockingly low wage, through all of her working career,
  62. but she was careful with her earnings, and wise in her investments.
  63. She took many of her nieces and nephews aside, if they showed any inclination or desire in their studies, and offered to pay their way through college.
  64. Several of us accepted loans from her for other reasons.
  65. Aunt Katie was able to retire on schedule…maybe a little ahead of schedule,
  66. and has now been retired longer than she worked,
  67. which was one of her goals.
  68. After retirement, Aunt Katie moved back to the family farm,
  69. where she has made necessary and helpful improvements to the house and grounds.
  70. She worked on the Board of Review for quite a while,
  71. and has always taken an interest in politics, both local and national.
  72. Aunt Katie has visited many areas of the United States
  73. and she has traveled the world!
  74. She keeps up with the news
  75. and knows more about the Dow Jones numbers than I ever will!
  76. She has been active in the church, and – until recently – rarely missed Sunday mass.
  77. She planted a big garden for many years,
  78. and now lets her nephew do the gardening.
  79. She just canned a dozen pints of stewed tomatoes for me!
  80. She still welcomes her many nieces and nephews when they come to visit,
  81. and she opens her home to our friends, Bob and Gary when they are on the island.
  82. Her sister is able to come, too, now and then.
  83. Aunt Katie loves dogs, and usually has one around.
  84. She grumbles about her memory, but it’s better than mine,
  85. and she has a sharp wit.
  86. She is stubborn – a family trait.
  87. her health is not what it once was, but she manages,
  88. and she still enjoys a beer and a bit of conversation.

May your birthday be everything you want it to be! Happy Birthday, Aunt Katie!

The Good Stuff

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The picture accompanying this post is a new image! It’s not the best, granted, but that’s not the point. The point is that I was able, finally, to figure out how to get photographs from my camera to my new computer! Since I lost the ability – with my new modem – to get my old computer connected to the internet, I have been forced to use old photos. They offer less inspiration, for one thing, for the “up-to-the-minute” writing that goes along beside them. Also, I have lived in fear that someone would notice. I imagined hearing from observant readers that the same image that illustrated my recent complaints about not sleeping were used in 2014 to accompany some whining about another issue.

I ordered an SD card reader, which may be an easier solution, but it’s on back-order, and won’t arrive until next week. Undaunted (well, daunted, but plugging along anyway), I continued to work at figuring this system out. It’s a long process, but – it turns out – not impossible. It involves downloading the photos from my camera onto the old – not internet connected – computer using its built-in SD card reader, plugging in the external hard drive and – with interminable pointing and clicking – moving the photos onto it. I then plug the external hard drive into my new computer and repeat the selection process to download them there. The final – and most important – step, which I happily just figured out, was finding the downloaded images so that I could actually use them. And I did it! Finally!

[The images are stored on the new computer in a document file rather than an image file, so I can’t see the pictures until I move them into another site (thus the “so-so” image today) but that’s  negative information that has no place in this good news post today!]

I had some time yesterday between getting out of work and another obligation in town. I stopped in for a visit with my aunt. I poured a thimbleful of wine, and told her the latest news around town (two deaths; one house fire; a lively township meeting). My cousin Bob showed up, and they invited me to stay for supper. Which, it turns out, was toasted bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with tomatoes fresh-picked from the garden. I had just enough time for one quick sandwich. Delicious!

That rounded out a whole day of good meals I did not have to prepare myself. Breakfast was a well-toasted asiago cheese bagel from Dalwhinnie Bakery and Deli. Lunch was a dish of (fantastic!) spaghetti with meat sauce that my co-worker, Kathleen, brought in for me. Dinner was that perfect sandwich over good conversation with Bob and Aunt Katie.

My downtown event was up-lifting and fun; The rest of the evening was spent on minor chores, walking the dogs, and blackberry-picking.

After three nights of restless, poor and not-enough sleep, I got a good night’s rest! I went to bed early (9:00PM) and read for not even five minutes before turning off the light to go to sleep. The dogs woke me up later to go outside. I’d been sleeping so soundly, I thought it must be the early hours of the morning. No, only 11:30. I was able to go immediately back to sleep as soon as the dogs came in. They wanted out again at 3AM. Sometimes, awake at that time, I’ll start thinking about all the things I have to do. I’ll debate about sacrificing sleep to make some progress. The thoughts themselves will keep me from sleeping. Not last night! I went back to bed and slept soundly until the alarm went off at 6:30.

Sometimes, it seems like nothing goes right. At other times, everything is just fine.

Leaving Beaver Island

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garden island 014By the time the summer of 1979 arrived, with all of its crazy activity, I was kind of ready for it.

My husband and I had come to an agreement. The girls and I would stay on the island for the summer. I would work through the busy months of June, July and August at the Shamrock, to repay their investment in training me, and to set aside some money for our future plans. Terry would continue to work on the mainland, with occasional trips to the island for visits. He would find us a place to live on the mainland, with consideration to school systems for our daughters, and proximity to his work and my college. We would both concentrate on paying back the huge fuel oil bill we’d run up. He said, “I can do this (meaning, depending on the day and the conversation: quit drinking, drink more sensibly, control his temper…), but I can’t do it on Beaver Island. Not right now, anyway.” We would keep our sights on island life, but would get our lives in order and come back with a more secure lifestyle.

Jen and Kate had made friends, and were looking forward to summer on Beaver Island.

I had gotten to know my co-workers at the Shamrock, and become more familiar with the job.

I was pretty confidant that things were going to work out…and they did.

Of course, no amount of planning could have prepared me for the onslaught of customers rushing in to the Shamrock every morning. We often served a hundred breakfasts before the morning ferry left at 11AM! Then, it was a rush to get everything cleaned up and ready for the lunch crowd. It was ridiculous and crazy, some of the hardest work I’d ever done, and a great bunch of fun. It was a gigantic confidence-booster,  to – day after day – handle problems big and small, and continually get the job done.

I’d pick up the girls after work, and we’d go home to get ready for the beach. Because the farmhouse was a short mile and a half from town, we often headed right back to the public beach on the harbor. We could easily get a few hours of relaxing, playing and swimming in before going home to get supper on the table. Because the farmhouse was used by all of the family for vacations, there were often aunts, uncles or cousins there to share the meal.

It was a good summer. Too soon, it was over. Jen and Kate went downstate with their Dad one week before I left, to spend some time with their grandparents. During that week, my friend Linda visited with her friend, Mary, and my Grandma Florence and Aunt Katie both came to the island. The night before I was to leave, I went around the island with friends, Beth Ann and Diane. I got home very late, and quite drunk. Aunt Katie was waiting up. “You’re never going to make that 8:30 boat,” she said, “You’re not even packed!”

Little did she know the powers of a life-long procrastinator! I was packed, ready, and had the car down to the boat on time the next morning. A dozen friends and co-workers were there to see me off. That’s when the tears started. By the time the horn sounded, I was crying out loud. Passengers squeezed my shoulders or patted my back in understanding. “Awww, I know…we always hate to leave, too,” they said. My friends drove to Whiskey Point, where the lighthouse sits, to wave a final farewell. I’m sure my sobs were audible across the water. By the time the ferry boat reached Charlevoix two hours later, even the most sympathetic of the passengers were getting fed up with my tears. “Come on…” one man said, “there will be other vacations!”

I pulled myself together for the four hour drive ahead. By the time I got through the “roller coaster road” and into Gaylord, I was anxious to see my daughters, and looking ahead instead of behind.