Tag Archives: Keith

Travel

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On the last day of November, I loaded my luggage into the car, brought the dogs to Andi’s kennel,  stopped at Aunt Katie’s to say good-bye and pick up the car keys and went to the airport. I was going on a trip!

I’d been unable to leave the island over Thanksgiving, but still wanted to get visits with my brother, sisters and daughters before the weather turned bad. My friend, Bob, hosts a Christmas Party on the first Saturday in December, so I planned my trip around that. Complications caused him to have to reschedule his party, but my travel dates had to remain the same.

My flight was at eleven 0’clock. This time of year, the water temperature is often warmer than the air. Steam rolls up from the water.  As I flew over it, the shoreline was completely obscured by huge masses of fluffy clouds beneath us; I couldn’t see the big lake until we were halfway across it. It was a calm day, though, and a good flight.

Upon landing, I retrieved the “mainland car” from the parking lot and pulled around to load my suitcases. Five bags for five days travel: one with changes of clothes: one with pajamas, medicines and my toiletry bag; my computer case, with computer, scanner, and some paperwork inside; one bag of paperwork and reading material; one bag – my purse – loaded to the brim with everything else I might need.

I had one stop to make in Charlevoix, and was then on my way. M-66 south through East Jordan then onto M-32 east to Gaylord. I filled the car with gas there, and went to the Big Boy restaurant for coffee and a late breakfast. I was a little disoriented, as the restaurant has a totally different look. Had I made a wrong turn?

“What town is this?” I asked the server.

“Gaylord.”

“Well, that’s what I thought…Didn’t there used to be a gigantic Big Boy statue outside?”

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, “that has been moved to the Big Boy Museum.”

Well, that explained that.

I got onto I-75 south after my meal, with about three hundred miles yet to travel. Just outside of Flint, I switched to the I-69 freeway, which took me right into Lapeer. From there, it was a quick drive to my sister Brenda and her husband Keith’s house, where dinner was waiting. That would be my “home-base” for the next several days.

Thursday, I drove to Clifford to see my daughter, Kate. As I walked through the door, she handed me her telephone, to say hello to my oldest grandson, Mikey. Kate’s house is cheery, decorated for the holidays and adorned with her collections of art, books and antique toys. She and my son-in-law, Jeremy, took me to Frankenmuth, for lunch and some shopping. I got my glasses fixed. We got back to her house in time to catch up with Madeline and Tommy, just home from school. Kate helped me solve some computer issues.

Friday, my daughter, Jen, came to Brenda’s. We set up two computers, and spread our paperwork over the dining room table and the kitchen island. We managed to sort out many billing issues for the Beaver Beacon, and plot out the next two issues. Jen helped me solve some more of my computer issues, approved my bookkeeping method, and straightened out my database. We managed a little bit of a visit, too, but agreed that – if time allowed – we’d like more opportunity to catch up on things. Friday night, sisters Cheryl, Robin and Amy came over for a dinner of salad, pizza, wine, with lots of laughter and good conversation.

Saturday, I picked up a small gift, and went to North Branch to help celebrate the first birthday of my grand-niece, Ellie. That turned into a good opportunity to see other nieces and nephews, and more of my family. That evening, Brenda, Keith and I watched movies.

Sunday, I drove out to Lake Nepessing to see my brother, Ted, who has had some serious health issues lately. They were getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree, so his whole family was there. Jen stopped in, too, and we traded ideas around the table on healthy low-fat and diabetic diets before my daughter and I left them to their decorating, and went to have a less-than-healthy lunch at the bar across the road. Brenda and I drove to Cheryl’s house that evening, for dinner and several games of Scrabble.

Monday morning, up at seven 0’clock to start a long, hectic day. First coffee, and write, then pack: dirty clothes separated from clean and crammed back in the suitcases; new acquisitions and gifts put in bags that would endure the luggage compartment on the plane; computer – with all of its cords and paraphernalia – tucked back in its case. More coffee, then, and last minute conversation with Brenda and Keith before the final sad good-byes.

I filled the car, again, with gas and hit the road. My next stop was Gaylord, where I revisited the Big Boy restaurant just off the freeway. In Charlevoix, I topped off the gas tank and handled a little business downtown before going to the airport. Back on the island, I checked in with Aunt Katie and returned her car keys, went to Andi’s to pick up my dogs, then home.

Monday night and all day Tuesday were spent catching up: loving up the dogs; unpacking; laundry; assessing what groceries I need, what bills I need to pay and what other things I neglected in my time away. Rest! I came home with a virus, and no energy at all. Travel takes it out of me. Today, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

What Brought Me Here

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What was it that drove me, with my young family, to leave relatives  and friends, to quit jobs and leave college, to take my children away from their home and their grandparents, to move to a remote island in northern Lake Michigan?

I had history on Beaver Island. My father and my grandfather had been raised there. I’d enjoyed many wonderful family vacations there. I always cried when I had to leave.

Still, surprisingly, it was my husband who suggested it.

We had come to the island together in 1970, at age seventeen, before we were married. I had managed to get a weekend off from my job at the hospital. My parents were on the island, on vacation with my brothers and sisters. We decided to drive up to join them. When we called to let them know we were coming, my mother gave us instructions, “When you get to the Boat Company, be sure to tell them who you are,” she said, “and they’ll be happy to help you with parking and everything.” What she meant was that I should let them know who my family was, so they’d know I had island connections.

As instructed, we walked in and Terry introduced me as “Bob Ricksgers’ daughter.” Before we had a chance to ask about parking, the man behind the desk said, “I don’t care who she is, don’t come in here with that long hair and a cigarette, with that attitude…” It was a poor start to a sad weekend. My Grandpa George was an old island gentleman who always put on his good clothes to go to town; Grandma Florence always wore a dress, even when doing farm chores. Her only exception to that – in her entire life – was when she had put on overall’s one day to help with haying. They both thought Terry’s patched up bell-bottomed blue jeans were a disgrace, and didn’t mind saying so. They found him a place to sleep in the barn. The Homecoming Parade – that I had sold pretty heavily when planning this trip – consisted of (this is his assessment), “one beat-up pickup truck, a few kids carrying signs, a manure spreader and two Indians on bicycles.” He was glad to get away.

The next time we came to the island was in  1976, for my grandfather’s funeral. He had died at the beginning of the year, in Chicago, but the funeral was planned for spring on Beaver Island. My sister Brenda and I each left our children in the care of in-laws, and brought our husbands. With all of the family gathered, it would have been a good time for Keith and Terry to impress on everyone what good husbands we had. Instead, they went out to the bars together, and left a different impression entirely. We were embarrassed, and furious. We hardly spoke to them all the way home.

So, my husband’s history with Beaver Island was much more lackluster than my own.

We had talked about moving away from Lapeer. We could both see reasons why a fresh start in a new location might be good for our family. We had discussed other locations in Michigan. We had researched opportunities in Yakima, Washington. We looked into jobs associated with the new pipeline in Alaska. We had not considered Beaver Island.

One day, while Jen was at kindergarten and Kate and I were visiting my Mom and Dad, I happened to pick up Dad’s most recent issue of the Beaver Beacon. An article talked about a coming visit to the island by recent Nobel Peace Prize winner (with Betty Williams), Mairead Corrigan. What an opportunity!

I made arrangements to go to the island at the time Mairead Corrigan would be there. My friend, Linda, came with me. We stayed two days. It was a wonderful trip for a hundred reasons, not least of which was hearing a wonderful, inspiring talk by a woman working for peace in our time, and dancing the Irish jig with her later, in the bar. I came home with lots to tell about the good time I’d had.

I was happy to be back home with my family, though, and anxious to get back to classes. Life settled back into a normal pattern.

But then, my husband did something to make me very angry. He broke a promise, quit a job, wrecked a car…or some combination of those things. I was really mad. I’d been giving him the silent treatment for a couple days. In an effort to get back on my good side, on a whim, he threw out the suggestion…”What do you think about maybe moving to Beaver Island?”

Well, that was that!

After the Party

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After days of covert travel and secretive blogging, I arrived at my sister Brenda’s house in Lapeer on Friday evening. She was surprised to see me.

“Your blog said you were going to Jen’s first!”

True. I told Brenda – on the phone – that I was coming to her house. In my blog, I said I was going to meet up with my daughter, to work on the news-magazine.

That’s because my sister Amy also reads my blog. If I had said I was coming to Lapeer, Amy’s suspicions – that her daughters were going to throw a surprise birthday party for her – would have been confirmed.

Actually, Amy’s surprise 50th birthday party was my sole reason for extending my travel beyond Aunt Katie’s doctor visits.

Since I’m here, I will get together with my daughter Jen to do some work on the Beacon. I’ll get out to see my daughter Kate’s new house in Clifford. I will stay for Thanksgiving. I thought I’d even get into North Branch yesterday, for my mother-in-law Pat’s surprise 80th birthday party…but weather got in the way of that.

Though big wintery clouds were constant, the weather was clear for my drive down-state. Yesterday morning there was just a dusting of snow. I planned to drive to Clifford, then to North Branch (the surprise was scheduled for 3PM there), then back to Lapeer to be at Amy’s party by six. We had visitors, so I didn’t get out of the house as early as planned. Then the snow started seriously piling up, accompanied by winds that kept the roads slick and the visibility low.

First I delayed going, then I decided not to try it at all. The first snow is always the worst for accidents, before we remember how to navigate through winter weather. I’d been on the road seven hours the day before, and wasn’t up for more, especially fighting through a snowstorm. I would have loved to give Pat my good wishes, but wasn’t crazy about being stranded with my ex-husband’s relatives. Finally, I couldn’t chance missing Amy’s party.

My other sisters – Robin and Cheryl – had arrived at Brenda’s shortly after I did on Friday. Cheryl thought we should do a “production number” to honor Amy. She had several ideas in the works, that we tossed around. We finally decided on “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” re-written to say “Aaamyyy…Don’t Let Age Get You Down,” with lyrics pertaining to her legendary forgetfulness (can’t blame that on age!) and the fact that all of us are older than she is. My grandson Brandon found the background music for us (“Make it really loud,” I told him…to drown out our poor singing voices and help to keep us on track). My brother-in-law Keith did a mid-night shopping run for poster board, glitter, ribbon and markers. We made a giant four-part birthday card, that we’d wear for our “performance.” As Cheryl left, she suggested we all arrive a little early, “for rehearsal.”

With snow piling up, we received phone calls throughout the day from cousins and friends that weren’t going to be able to make it. Keith came in shaking his head about the bad roads. Brenda accidentally exploded a whole spaghetti squash in the microwave oven: clean-up was necessary. Still, we all managed to be showered and dressed in reasonable time. The party was less than four miles away…no problem. Well, in Keith’s little hybrid car…on un-plowed roads…with snowfall of close to a foot, plus drifts…in a blinding snowstorm…that was a long four miles…ending with getting firmly stuck at the end of the driveway!

We made it though, and the party was wonderful. Amy seemed surprised and pleased by all of it. Our little production number went without a hitch except for our bright blushing faces.

Today, the storm is over. The snow has transformed the landscape into a beautiful winter wonderland, and I’m happy to be here with my family.

 

 

My Week Away…and Other Distractions

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The sun was shining yesterday, when I made my way home down the Fox Lake Road after a week away.

Today, it’s raining.

That’s fine with me, as I have work inside. I’m finding plenty of things to lead me away from the writing and other desk work I have to do; I can live without the further distractions of yard and garden.

After a day’s delay in leaving the island, several hours of waiting for the fog to clear for the flight to the mainland and a great deal of traffic and road work to make the drive a nerve-wracking one, I had a good time down-state. My sister,  Brenda, included me in her twice-a-week water aerobics class. Another sister, Cheryl, arranged for all of the sisters  – along with our friend, Joel – to play Pub Trivia one night. Another evening, we played Scrabble. I had good visits with each of my daughters. I received a beautiful hand-forged gift from Kate’s husband, my son-in-law, Jeremy. I had the opportunity to become better acquainted with Jennifer’s friend, Jamey. I met my two little great-granddaughters for the first time, and managed to get hugs and smiles from each of them. I spent a wonderful afternoon with Madeline and Tommy, wandering in and out of the galleries, bookstores and specialty shops that – along with a few good restaurants – have come to define downtown Lapeer, Michigan. I met the newest member of our family, my grand-niece Hannah, just ten days old. I had a nice visit with my brother, Ted. My brother-in-law, Keith, presented me with a pair of cowboy boots that he found for a price he couldn’t pass up. They fit me perfectly! The week was filled with walking and shopping, and lots of catching-up. There were meals out and meals in, all wonderful, and even better for the companionship and lively conversation. .It was a good week!

Now, it’s time to get back to work.

I made a pot of coffee and turned the computer on first thing, ready to get at it.

And yet…

The little dog reminds me frequently that – after a week alone in the kennel – she needs attention. Rosa Parks is a very social animal, and this was her first trip to the boarders without Clover to share her space. Dropping her off alone was traumatic for me (I saw none of the usual tail-wagging when we got there) and I’m thinking it seemed like a long, lonely week for her. When she wants attention, I indulge her; I was lonesome for her, too.

I have made several trips to the laundry room, to keep things moving there.

I’ve paused more than once to page through new reading material – books and magazines – that came home with me.

I called to check balances on each of my credit cards, to assess my spending habits while away.

I threw out a bouquet of long-dead tulips and watered my houseplants.

I went through a stack of mail, made a grocery list, answered a few Emails and returned a couple telephone calls.

I balanced my checkbook.

Then, it seemed of absolute necessity to report here, on my trip.

That’s it…I’m done! It’s time to get down to work…just as soon as I put those clothes in the dryer.