The lake is many things to me. On any given day, I have mixed feelings about the money we spend owning and maintaining our little place there, the oft-perceived hassle of packing, getting there, and keeping up with what amounts to two homes, and with the separation from home and activities that happen here without us when we're away. For the better part of seven years, we've lived a dual life. Life is different at the lake, for sure, and whether it's spring, summer, or fall, it's a big part of our family dynamic and who we "are."
The lake has given us many wonderful things. For starters, Andrew has had the opportunity to swim, to explore, to fish, to drive a boat (with assistance, of course), to rub elbows with the Coasties, and just to be outside doing stuff, which is lost on a lot of kids these days. The quality time he has spent with his grandparents there is priceless. He will always, always remember the golf cart parades, the "Wookie hunting" laps around the campground, the bonfires, and just getting to run around on his own and be independent as he traipses back and forth from our place to my dad's, or takes the opportunity to walk back up the hill from the dock on his own. These days, as he tries to convince us that he needs a dog, he's taken on the dog-walking responsibilities for my dad, and he and Pooch have become great pals. He's hung out in a "bar" playing ring toss and listening to music on many a summer night. He knows how to tie off a boat, the difference between port and starboard, and a wealth of boating regulations that many adults would be hard pressed to recite.
The lake has been a difficult place to be sometimes as well. Anytime you have a lot of family members in a confined space, or just spending a lot of time together, there's bound to be conflict. It can be nerve-wracking to try to juggle multiple agendas, to try to appease everyone's moods and attitudes. I don't know about other families, but we're a testy bunch sometimes (present company included), and you just have to adopt the mindset of letting everyone do their own thing and letting things slide sometimes. I like that Andrew sees that as well, though, because in spite of the bickering and the eye-rolling, we all still keep coming back together as a family, and that's what it's all about. Edna's last summer is forever attached to the lake as well, and for me, that's part of what still makes it hard to be there sometimes. Remembering the late night card games on the deck, her surprise at the purchase of the "new" boat, how she always organized things so well and never complained about the fact that the more of us that were there, the more work she had to do...all of that is hard for me, and I miss her as much there as I do anywhere, if not more so.
This weekend was a mix of all of that, and more. We got up early on Saturday morning to have breakfast at a local church that does a fundraiser on the first Saturday of each month. It's a tradition that we go...it has been for years. The food is good, nobody has to cook, there's a nice little playground behind the church...all of those are good reasons to go. But when I've been up late, usually drinking, getting up early and getting dressed to go out is not high on my list of things to do. I like my sleep, and I like sitting around in my jammies in the morning relaxing. Can't do that on a Church Breakfast Saturday! And there's the emotional baggage of remembering that we ALL used to go, and now it's just Dad. After his recent health scares, it's been in the back of my head that we escaped a close call with him, not once, but several times this winter, and it's hard to watch him struggling with a cane, or losing his balance and just being...frail. I'm not going to lie..I wigged a little bit Saturday morning, for all of the above reasons, then rescued myself by curling up on the couch with my favorite blanket watching 21 Jump Street and napping for most of the day.
Weekends at the lake are also for going out. There's a great place just around the bend from us that we like to go to, not just because of the atmosphere (waterfront, informal, bands most weekend nights), but also because it's close. We've had a lot of great times there over the years (and through multiple owners and name changes). Dad and Edna used to babysit for us while we all went out drinking and dancing...in the last few years, my dad hasn't really enjoyed a loud, crowded place anyway, and now that his hearing and perception is damaged, he really can't tolerate it. So, we all had dinner together on the waterfront patio before we sent the oldest and the youngest home. My dad had asked Andrew to spend the night with him, and I encourage their quality time whenever I can...besides the fact that it freed us up to stay out late. We stayed and drank, people watching (middle-aged men in large, frou-frou Kentucky Derby hats and 50 year-old strippers with matching yellow hair, pants, and stiletto heels...she was a hot mess, but that's a different story), and for my sister and me, dancing to party favorites like The Cupid Shuffle and The Wobble. It was a great night, and a fabulous way to end a day that had started in less than stellar fashion.
I guess the point of all of this is that the lake is, for me, a dichotomy of happiness and sadness, relaxation and activity, togetherness and solitude...of beginnings and endings...transitions is maybe a better word, since the most important things don't end, they just change. I vividly remember the "firsts" and "lasts" of so many things. The beauty of the lake is that there is always a new memory, a new "first" to help ease the sting of a loss. Here's to the start of a great season.