I suppose it's time to get back to the business of this column, musings on life from the empty nest.
My wife and I arrived at Newark Pond in Vermont. I think it's more of a lake and any Minnesotan would agree. But in Vermont, I guess, this is a pond, the homestead of my wife's family on her mother's side. A picture will follow but rest assured it's a lovely camp that has risen from a chicken coop in the last century to a self-respecting second-home of the 21st century, except that as I write this, the power has gone off after a wimpy rainstorm moved through. Life is fragile, I guess, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
Her family has kept a journal of each visit going back to the 1980s and I determined today that the last time we were here sans children (her being pregnant in a 1985 visit does not qualify) was 1983. So this is our first time here without the kids in 23 years, and our first visit here since the death of her Uncle Henry, with whom I would play golf on our semi-yearly basis, an event that would easily be the highlight of my year and that has very little to do with the type of game I played.
His wife, Carolie's Aunt Bev, still won't stay overnight in the camp they have next door, but she and her family were here yesterday and it was great to have a picnic and then sit by the campfire for a spell. I suppose, as my wife says, that it's too hard to be here and not have Henry nearby.
I miss the semi-annual golf game, and I miss Henry's classic Vermont twang and easy nature, but in this spot, I do not feel that he is anywhere but here. Where people go when they die I don't know, but I tend to think they stay right where the place is that define them to others. For me, since I rarely saw him anywhere else, that is this spot and while I look out the window here and see an empty hammock and a closed-up camp next door, I do not feel there is a loss here, unless this spot should somehow itself disappear.
My children, I think, were quite young when they first started coming here for a few days at a time, usually in the middle of whirlwind New England tour in the short time we had available when visiting from Minnesota. We had so many people to see and so little time, we were the hummingbirds of summer vacationers.
There's very little television here and no computer connection and I'm sure they dreaded the thought of such a spot, but just as my wife did when she was a little girl here, they found plenty to occupy themselves on a small spit of grass next to a big, well, pond, surrounded by forests and mountains.
For us, it was hitting golf balls into the lake, then snorkelling to get them, only to hit them in again. Hour after hour, day after day. Often I would row the boat and one boy would jump off the back at the site of a submerged target, the other would patrol on a leaky raft, giddy at the sound a golf ball makes when returned into the equally leaky metal rowboat.
Today, alone, I hit, then retrieved the same golf balls, delighting in the new discoveries and the memories of those days with younger children.
Years ago, we took the kids to the spot where I had the most fun as a kid -- the north shore of Massachusetts and I recall watching my oldest son play in the sand and the water and feeling vaguely as though I was watching myself as a boy.
And today as I searched for each golf ball, I thought of that moment, the moments chasing golf balls with my kids, and all the moments here with Uncle Henry and the moments to come that keep them all alive. Sometime, somewhere, my kids will again hit a golf ball into some body of water somewhere, perhaps with their own kids -- perhaps not. They will dive in and shag them and they will remember this place and that time. They will remember their father and mother, and Uncle Henry, and Aunt Bev, and all the people who defined this place and they will feel as though they are looking back in time, as well they are.