Many of my most precious memories of my dad, now 97, took place at Peach Lake, Brewster, New York, where we had a family cabin from the time I was 15 years old. My father adored everything about the Lake, and so did I. On this quiet summer’s evening in 1999, I was alone at the Lake with my parents, perhaps for the first time ever. And I learned some things.
“Shall we go for a canoe ride?” Dad asked. I felt a lift in my heart. Perfect. Dad got the old life jackets out of the moldy-smelling basement, threw two in the aluminium canoe we’ve had ever since I can remember, and got in the back: I knew he’d steer from the stern. I sat on the bar across the front of the canoe and began pulling the wooden paddle through the water hard, like Dad taught me.
“Not so hard. We’re not in a hurry,” Dad surprises me a little by saying. He’s a little wary, I realized, practicing the restraint and common sense of an 85-year-old canoeist.
We paddled near the shoreline, past the public beach, and around the corner where the weeping willows lean over the water, their boughs draping graciously right into the Lake. A man was at the end of his dock, fishing.
“What’re you after?” Dad calls.
“I caught a 4-pound bass right there 75 years ago,” Dad says, and I’m intrigued. A new story.
“I didnt’ know you came here as a kid.”
So Dad proceeds to tell his story. When he was 11, he and his mother and father came to a small cabin at Peach Lake. At that time, it was mainly tents, with a few cabins. On the first day there, Dad and Grandpa caught the bass, and Dad expected to do that every day and eat fish all vacation. It was the only fish they caught. Grandma prepared it for supper.
As we paddled, I felt a sense of peacefulness fill me — the sun kept sinking deeper and the scene was poised: early evening, tranquil and ready. We saw a duck and two swans.
We turned back, reluctantly for me, because darkness was coming. Dad wanted gentle strokes, slow progress. Skiers on the Lake caused waves and the wake caused Dad some concern. But it was a beautiful time.
We pulled up on the sand at our place before dark. I spotted, to my delight, fireflies twinkling in our yard. We don’t have these in western Canada. My mom and dad and I sat on the deck for a while and watched the final pink glow in the sky, the stars become visible, the last motorboat buzz across the water.
I realized that from the time we had started driving to the Lake today to the time I went to bed in my old room in the cabin, it had been an unhurried time, a time to listen. It had been an intimate moment with my dad, a sacred time. If we just listen, the truths are known.
“Gerry and Star Weiss” © Star Weiss Photo
“Gerry Weiss in hot tub” © Star Weiss Photo
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