Saturday, August 20, 2022

Grand Hotel

In this life that swings between hellos and goodbyes, our time at the Michigan lake is at the goodbye swing of the pendulum. One more walk to the Baldy sand dune, one more splashing about in Lake Michigan, then my daughter and grandkids will pack up their suitcases and I’ll drive them down to Grand Rapids. After 12 glorious days together, the kids are yearning for home—and just in time! Ironic to be in a place that is just about pitch-perfect Paradise and still wish to be somewhere else, but that’s the way we’re put together, kids and adults alike. 


Last night, we completed our check-list of fun things to do with a trip to the Drive-In movie theater, that last gasp of 50’s Americana playing it for all it’s worth with music and posters from that time. Saw Minions: The Rise of Gru, which dutifully entertained us. Though not as heartwarming as The Parent Trap movie I saw at the same theater when my kids were kids. 


Earlier, it was miniature golf with Zadie, both of us with an exciting hole-in-one (well, actually, I had two) and the mandatory post-game ice cream cone. Earlier still, a walk to the outlet, tubing down the swift stream where the back lake pours into the big lake. Somewhere in the midst of that, my solitary swim in the warm waters of Lake Herring, my ritual return to the watery womb that I do most each day of each summer visit for over 47 years and still can swim to the raft and back without any sign that the old body is failing. 


Malik at the table with me playing cards, Zadie awakes and gives me the morning backward hug, her arms wrapped around me as they have each morning in a gesture of love that I’m going to miss. Truth be told, at 10-years old, she has spontaneously and sincerely turned to me often these last two weeks and said, “I love you, Pop-pop.” One could get spoiled. The first time she said it, we were on our way to the ice cream store and I responded, “So is that your way of trying to get a double-scoop ice cream cone?” My defensive way of admitting that part of me, part of all of us, can’t wholly believe we’re worthy of unconditional love. She assured me that there were no strings attached. 


Malik and I have also had wonderful connections together, with a heavy accent on balls. Playing catch, pitching wiffle ball to him, hitting wiffle balls to him, paddle-ball, football, frisbee on the beach and then basketball in town. At 7-years old, he’s good at all of them and it’s fun to play with him. Balanced by finishing the D-Aulliare’s epic book on Greek Mythology. He was mesmerized the whole time and can tell you about any of the Mt. Olympus gods and even their Roman names. 


Such a varied time. My wife Karen picked them up at the airport over two weeks ago, their Aunt Talia came the next day, the great uncle and aunts Barclay and Lori the next and then me. Some days all together and then Barclay and Lori’s daughter Zoey came when they left, followed by great Uncle John. Next door, another group of old family friends coming in and out, then Zoey left, then Talia, then John and now there are five. The comings and goings of the extended family and friends marking the days, stamping their signature on each and leaving their scent in the air. 


This would usually be the time for me to leave, but I have another five days here. It will be both eerily quiet and blessedly silent and then I too, will turn toward my other familiar life and return to San Francisco, Karen some 10 days later and the wheel of the year begins its turning. 


Like Grand Hotel— “People coming, people going, nothing ever happens.”


But in that nothing is everything.


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