Sunday, July 16, 2006
Thursday night I left my daughters with my mother in Appleton, Wisconsin, got in my rental car, and drove three hours north to my dad's house on Vandercook Lake in the woods of northern Wisconsin. The locals refer to this part of the state as, simply, Up North.
Up North has special meaning for me. I've spent part of nearly every summer of my life here. For many years, my dad had a small piece of land with nothing built on it on Broken Bow Lake, several miles east of here. When I was a kid we would camp there. I would fish with my dad every day, swim in the lake, catch turtles and frogs, play in the woods, and sit by the campfire each night. I lived in Salt Lake City with my mother for most of my growing up years and saw my dad only during the summer and on holidays. I cherish the memories of the time I spent with him at Broken Bow. Even in my teenage years, when I often did not want to spend an entire summer away from my friends in Utah, I enjoyed the time I spent fishing with my dad Up North.
A few years ago, he bought a house on Vandercook Lake and the Up North tradition has continued uninterrupted. I still come to northern Wisconsin each summer, now with my family. This part of the world is a touchstone for me. A place where I can renew myself and share the experience of being here among the lakes and the trees and the wildlife with my family. It is a place where I can strengthen the father-child bond with my dad and with my own daughters. I wrote about an experience I had with my dad out on the lake on my old blog. I go back to it and read it every once in awhile, especially when I am feeling the need to connect with my dad or to remember what a summer night on the lake can feel like. This is sacred ground.
I am here for a few days, on this sacred ground, by myself. This is the first time I have ever been alone in northern Wisconsin. A year ago when I was here, I was in full crisis mode. I could feel my grip on my life slipping and my relationship with Keri deteriorating. Now, I am here to rest and renew myself after the most difficult 12-month period of my life. It has been quiet. It has been energizing. It has been relaxing. It has been what I hoped it would be. The promise of Up North has been fulfilled yet again.
It has also been difficult to be here without Keri. I have never been on vacation to this house without her. Next week, I will go back to Appleton, retrieve the girls and bring them here. We will do what we always do when we come--we will fish, we will swim, we will make a campfire and roast marshmallows and make smores. But we will do this all without our Mommy here with us. And I would be lying if I said that it doesn't make me sad to be here without her. She had become a part of the touchstone experience for me. And it is hard to imagine spending time with my kids in this very special place without her. But that is what we will do next week.
When I came out to Keri on September 17, 2005, our lives changed for ever. Since then, almost no part of my life or hers has been untouched by change. Most of the time, I think that's just good. We needed things to change. I needed things to change. As I wrote in my last blog, I think we are and will be better off. But that doesn't mean that I don't mourn the loss of the life I had. It doesn't mean that I don't miss some of the things we did together as a family--like come "Up North" to Vandercook Lake.