Last Monday, I returned once more to the lake after a two-week leave. Two weeks filled with familiar routes on two uncertain journeys. I know the way to Green Bay, Wisconsin very well. For twenty-two years I’ve driven it -- all 23 hours of it. Rarely have I had the opportunity to fly over I-35, I-44, the Mississippi River, I-55, I-39, and I-43.
In previous trips along this route, I wanted the miles to drift by with quick ease, for at the end of the journey, my parents would greet me. But this trip, I didn’t mind watching each farm go slowly by. In fact, I almost wanted to slow down for I knew when I reached my destination, the familiar embrace of my mom would find me, but an unfamiliar welcome from my dad lay ahead. My dad, dying. I didn’t know how to greet that scene.
I had hoped he might pass before I arrived. My dad, his body and mind devoured by Alzheimer’s disease, had fought this ugly demon for ten years. When I walked into his room at the nursing home, my fear of seeing him completely helpless and on his way out dissipated and diluted itself into the excited air of Packer camp brewing down the road at Lambeau Field. After all, he was just my dad -- whom I loved and I knew loved me.
For four days, a seat in a chair beside his bed became a comfortable place.
After he peacefully passed, my family gathered to honor him and celebrate his life. Within 28 hours of his burial, I was on an airplane, passing over the interstates and Mississippi River to return home to prepare for another trip, a day later.
A mere 12-hour drive this time to take my youngest son to college. With previous campus visits behind us, the road now familiar through towns along HWY 31 in Texas and I-20 all the way to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
My game face on. Once again across the Mississippi to deposit my boy in his new home and encourage him on the grand adventure before him.
Another Mississippi River crossing, tired beyond words and home again, I retreated to the cabin only to discover during my absence, the silky, sandy bottom of the lake had been invaded. Without our watchful eyes, weeds had annexed every inch of our waterfront. Of course, they didn’t choose only us; my neighbor’s plots covered in the garlic smelling green vegetation also.
The languid heat of summer had crept in with indexes and temperatures in the 100’s encouraging the weed growth. With no one tending the floor of the warm water, the squatters took up residence.
I hate weeds. I hate the way they coil around your feet when walking out to swim. I hate knowing they’re down there when I’m floating above them.
These weeds, for which I’m at a loss of heart to research an accurate name, have shallow roots and tiny tendrils that swish across your toes. Rather unobtrusive for the weed world actually. I can use my toes to roost them easily out of the bottom, but this infestation wasn’t like the sprinkling of past years, easily harvested to restore our sandy bottom.
I turned my back on the heat and the lake and slept for two days, letting the weeds have their way. I watched the first two seasons of Mad Men on my laptop. I made a batch of gumbo and ate the entire pot.
On Wednesday, I wrestled a three-foot wide rake from the shed and tackled the lush weed bed.
I began in a grid-like fashion, following up and down the dock, across to the neighbors and back, collecting the weeds in the talons of the rake. I lifted the full catch up through water and spanked them with a harsh clang into piles on the dock. It was easy to follow my route, like walking up one street and down the next.
I tried to mark off my progress in squares, but every once in a while I’d take a crisscross route, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, my rake yielding a few recluses here and there.
At times I found myself bored with the section I platted. I’d meander making a new pass, marking new territory, winding this way and that. It reminded me of my father’s hearse, or coach as they call them now, weaving its way through the lovely oak covered cemetery trails, finding its way to his final resting place.
As I worked, the lake was calm, quiet and I was alone. Only an occasional jet ski or fishing boat’s motor droned in the distance. No one mowed their lawn nor arrived to pound hammers into the cabins around us enduring endless updates.
Just me, and a few turtles curious as to my motion. A couple of ducks hoping I might break to feed them while the raking of the lake fed me. The peace of my work, underground. Tearing free the weeds, so when I swim, it will only be the gentle sand cushioning my feet.
After five hours of work, more boats joined the lake creating synchronized waves. A breeze erased any remainder of calm water. My arms ached from sifting through two, three, four feet of water. I climbed the ladder and sat on the dock.
My arms tingling.
With sincere gratitude, I thank the Fragrant Liar for hosting during my absence.