Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacation Observations

A couple times a year I get the opportunity to vacation with family in the Upper Peninsula. It’s an escape from the usual routine to a place that differs a bit from Wisconsin and Michigan’s Lower Peninsula if you will.

On the drive there and back here are a few things I encountered. I had to stop dead on Highway 41 northbound three times as I ran into traffic waiting to take the exit to EAA AirVenture. It wasn’t too bad except for the people who were in the wrong lane to hit the exit.

In Marinette I saw a place called Jerry’s Bar. I don’t know who owns it, but it struck me as funny because I have a former brother-in-law named Jerry who loves to have a few. In Rapid River there’s a restaurant called “Mikey B’s.” Not sure how the food is, but there are no golden arches.

In my hometown of Manistique a couple of businesses side-by-side have moose as mascots. They are not real of course. One is a moose in a white shirt and checkered bib overalls in front of the Big Boy Restaurant. One friend refers to it as Bullwinkle’s Big Boy. The other moose is decked out in a tuxedo in front of the hotel next to it. The only live wildlife I saw was a gray fox that crossed the road in front of me. Usually I see some deer too.

Shopping is different. Some of the products we see on grocery store shelves you can’t get in Fond du Lac and vice versa. I saw chocolate flavored Chex Cereal. I guess if you make the treat puppy chow that would come in handy. I also saw a Mexican-flavored pasty. They had regular pasties too.

I’m hooked on the news so I kept track of what was going on either through television or the internet. The story about the Fond du Lac man whose private part was glued to his stomach by spurned lovers was on the Today Show. One story making news in the U.P. was about a Schoolcraft County Judge caught drunk driving by State Police after a chase that exceeded 100 miles an hour. Judge Charles Nebel spent a night in jail and issued an apology saying he made some inappropriate decisions. Well, duh!

I tried to have a conversation with my 14-year-old nephew Max while I was visiting my brother John one night. I had to compete with X-box. He was playing a game online with some chap from England. As my 11-year-old nephew Derek put it, “Boy that guy Max is playing with sure is snotty!”

The sad thing about vacation isn’t that it has to come to an end, but how easy it is to step back into the routine. Well to put it in perspective I just remember something I saw just before I went on vacation. Across the street from the Fond du Lac Police Department’s parking lot a small bird was comfortably perched atop of a sign. The sign read, “Two hour parking only!”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cancer Comes To Dinner

Prayer is uniting family and friends of my cousin Doug whose life is being threatened by cancer. He got the news that liver and pancreatic cancer could end his life in 6 to 8 months. He’s seeking a second opinion as he begins chemotherapy to add months not years to his prognosis. We’re hoping a second opinion means a second chance.

I enjoyed dinner with Doug twice during a recent vacation in Michigan’s U.P. He talked openly about how ill he’s felt since March when he was tested and was still waiting for definitive word when we enjoyed venison stroganoff at my sister Kathy’s one night and a day later turkey at my mom’s.

As is usual with Doug he leavened the conversation with humor. Last year he found out he had diabetes. He joked at the dinner table that he had lost weight and was finally eating right and now that he is…well you get the picture. The cold beer he used to enjoy with the rest of us has been replaced by diet soda.

Doug and the rest of his family were originally from Illinois and vacationed in the U.P during the summer. As pre-teens up through our early adult years a bond grew tight between our families. I can’t say I’m that close to him, but my brother John the other day said for him Doug is like a third brother. That bond grew tighter after Doug and his longtime girlfriend, “Al”, as we call her moved to Manistique.

I’m not sure what challenges lie ahead for them, but I’m hoping somehow that life takes a kinder gentler road and the journey will take much, much longer. My sister Diana says she’s going to remain optimistic, I will too.

It’s unfortunate that cancer has reached the point that it can be casually discussed at the dinner table. It’s been the subject of too many family discussions far and near. It’s an uninvited guest. It demands too much from us and the people that we care about.