We buried Mom yesterday at the place on earth she loved most. Bolton Landing at Lake George, with her boys. She told us she met our Pop there, camping with friends, and for close to 70 years she returned there. We grew up camping on the islands every summer, and we brought our dogs, our friends, and then our families to enjoy this incredible slice of heaven on earth. It was free-range parenting at its finest. Often my Pop had to go back to work and she would spend 3 to 4 weeks with the band of wild boys who spent all day swimming, hiking, snorkeling, fighting, paddling, jumping from cliffs, building fires and forts and memories. She eventually bought a condo and her own boat up there to enjoy it year round.
She loved to go fishing up in Northwest Bay and Huddle Bay with Dan and I early in the morning. She liked to fish, but more she liked that she had two of her boys in a boat for hours to talk with. I always brought the coffee in a thermos that had come with a Rapala floating minnow, and that thermos lasted way longer than the lure did. She wanted to hear what our work was like, or what it was like for us with our families, and she shared stories we’d heard dozens of times already, in her signature lengthy and meticulously detailed re-telling.
At the time I would sometimes begrudge the conversations, but as the years rolled on and we knew the window was closing on these outings, they became way more important than any of the fish (and that’s something coming from me.) That these times were also shared with Dan make them even more luminous in my mind.
At other times we’d take her (in her boat that she’d always graciously lend us for the weeks we were there) to various picnic locations like Sarah Island– her namesake spot– and Paradise Bay. She’d spend the day with us, swimming and sunning, and talking with Cheryl and I. We shivered and laughed under boat covers and tarps as the sudden violent cold thunderstorms would catch us by surprise even after all those years. Our kids were able to see what makes Vermonters different from the rest of us ”flatlanders”!
She still camped every summer, for decades on her own campsites in the islands, then later with Dan and Danna and their family. She saw the state rangers come and go, some she knew as friends for years, but knew most all of them by name. They’d swing by in their boat at night to check on Mom at her campsite.
Just a few years ago, she wanted to try kayaking for the first time. She hopped in, paddled around for a while. When she came out she asked, “Where can I get one? I’d like to do that more.” And she wasn’t kidding around.
As late as two summers ago at age 85 she still camped, and Mike was able to join her on “her” campsite again the last couple of summers. Finally, last summer we brought her one more time, first to Brattleboro VT, her home growing up and then to Bolton Landing to see and say goodbye to all her friends up there. We had sold the condo and gotten a place in an assisted-living home, a term at which Mom bristled greatly. She didn’t like the idea of being assisted, but came to accept and then finally embrace the “new chapter”, as she called it. However, she wanted to make sure Dan still had her camping gear in case she wanted to go to Lake George again.
She had found a faith in Jesus later on in life, and that gave her strength and comfort as she neared the end. Tim would read from the Bible and she’d smile and nod. She told me she was ready for a “new, new chapter”. She loved a good book, and her life would surely be one. She was like Bilbo Baggins, always ready for another adventure. She was a tiny lady with a huge heart and a lot of “moxie” as they said back then.
As to her remains, she’s back for good at Lake George now. The time we had to say our goodbyes was fittingly in the pouring rain. She had asked that we sprinkle some Lake George water on her stone, and as usual Lake George offered up more than you asked for. But she’s surely found a much greater adventure where she has gone as she has trusted in Him who is the Spring of Eternal Life.
One thing she always did we when were leaving was come outside and stand and wave and blow a kiss goodbye. It didn’t matter what the weather was or what time we left, she would always do it. She wasn’t sad to see us go, she just was letting us know she looked forward to seeing us again the next time.
As I drove away from the cemetery I looked back one last time. In my mind’s eye that image of her waving and blowing a kiss, even in the pouring rain was so vivid and real. But whether it was the rain or the tears, she faded into the mist and we headed home.
We’ll be back Mom, and we’ll see you again. Till then I love you always, and thanks, it was a great adventure.