Monday, November 08, 2010

The Boys of Summer

One of the real tragedies of life is that unlike Peter Pan boys grow to be men and boyhood memories fade into the twilight. We lost our cousin Doug to cancer just before Halloween reminding us of just how little time we have to enjoy our lives. I guess I’ll always remember him as one of a small group of boys who enjoyed their summers on Indian Lake in Manistique, Michigan.

My brother John, myself, neighbor Randy, and Doug and Dave both from Illinois were reunited each summer to fish and swim, and tell tall tales that boys on the fringe of teendom do. Occasionally we ventured into mischief, but nothing criminal although Randy sometimes pushed us into doing some things that bordered on being stupid. Like the time he suggested we take some apples from someone’s tree and we ended up scampering home with curses ringing in our ears.

The five of us weren’t always together during the adventures, but always enjoyed sharing reports and comparing notes when we got together. As we grew up our stories got exaggerated depending on how much beer we had around the table. As our teens grew into our 20s we began growing apart as life, jobs, and family took us to other parts of the country. However there was and always is the chance to get reacquainted sometime during the summer at Indian Lake.

Dave lives in Illinois, Randy and I both in Wisconsin. John lives on Indian Lake and until a couple of weeks ago so did Doug. Doug loved Indian Lake and Manistique so much he moved back. His folks decided to retire there. His niece Abby got married in Manistique and her wedding reception was held at a State Park on the lake in June. I saw Doug and Dave, and my brother John at the reception. I’ve seen Doug the last couple of summers, but it had been a few years since I’d seen Dave.

I always kind of hate to see each summer come to an end. Maybe more so now because one of those memories now is a frank discussion we had with Doug around a dinner table at my sister Kathy’s during Labor Day weekend of 2009. Doug told us that he’d been diagnosed with liver and pancreatic cancer and was given 6 to 8 months to live. Throughout his battle he kept his sense of humor, but as happens when you’re dealt that kind of hand occasionally he got bitter because of all that he would miss out on.

The last time I saw Doug cancer had robbed him of much of his energy and the disease was compromising him appearance. Still the few moments of time were still enjoyable because he was in the process of cleaning out an old car he intended to pass along to my nephew Derek. Derek turns 13-year-old next month and like Doug shares a love of cars. Like my cousin the car had seen better days and will need a lot of work, but was one of Doug’s last acts of kindness. We don’t always recognize the baton when it’s passed along to us or the form it comes in. We'll miss you Doug.