Sunday, August 7, 2011
The Flag Flies
At my dad’s funeral, my mom was presented with an American flag as part of the military funeral service. Afterwards, she said she wanted the flag to be flown somewhere that had significance to Dad and to the rest of the family. It didn’t take long for her to think of the perfect place: at my brother-in-law’s family’s lake house in Hague, New York.
This past week, my mom traveled with my sister’s family to that location, and now, in memory of Dad and in honor of all the memories that we have there with him, the flag flies, near the front porch of the house, nestled in the trees, overlooking Lake George, in one of Dad’s favorite places in the world.
This house holds many good memories for my family. Traveling there has provided us not only with opportunities to spend time together under the same roof as an extended family but also to do some things we might not have ever had the chance to do otherwise.
Several years ago when we went there, we went tubing on the Hudson River. Last summer, we attempted the Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course, a very challenging obstacle course of ropes, suspended bridges, rope swings, and ziplines, all nestled high in the trees.
These pursuits were fun, exciting, and, most of all, full of memories for all of us. But the things we loved the best were those we did at Lake George every time we went there. We always boated to a tiny secluded island in the middle of the lake and cooked out. After supper every year, Dad and anyone else who dared to join in swam to a neighboring island.
Dad also challenged anyone in the group to complete the 2-mile swim across the lake each year. He looked forward to this swim all year long and was so happy to have another notch in his belt by completing it each time.
Dad and whoever else was up for it also ran on the trails in the area. Dad, of course, literally left the rest of us in the dust on those runs, and loved every minute of it.
But, as much of a thrill as Dad got from his athletic pursuits at Lake George, he also thoroughly enjoyed relaxing there and several times commented that he felt it was one of the most peaceful places on Earth.
He loved hanging out down on the dock with Mom and the rest of the family, soaking up the sun and bantering with us about whether or not the water was too cold to jump in.
The very best part of our time there together, though, in my opinion, was when we were just hanging out together in the house and on the porch. We played board games and card games, took turns cooking and serving meals, talked about memories in the past and our plans for the future, and laughed and laughed.
On more than one occasion, Dad was the catalyst for the hysterics that erupted there. His son-in-laws amused themselves every time we got together by plotting to find a time when Dad was unsuspecting to dump ice water on him; he was a good sport about it every time.
Dad always liked to try to keep up with slang and colloquialisms that were being used by the younger generations; the problem with that, though, was that he often only got the expressions half-right, if even that. Last summer, he heard us talking about the way that some words could be intentionally substituted for a not-so-appropriate phrase as a kind of decoy. My sister gave him some examples to demonstrate the effect: “Mother-Father!” “Shut the front door!” and “Son of a business man!” Dad thought these were hilarious, and, in an effort to be “with it,” he said he was going to try to start using these expressions sometimes too.
The last night we were there, Dad decided to go to bed before the rest of the adults, and, as he walked off towards the bedroom, he left us with his attempt at hipness by saying, “Mother Father – shave your legs!”