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I Am My Brother’s (Lighthouse) Keeper – Prologue

October 11, 2012

It’s about time I took a vacation.

No doubt I’ve been busy with things at home and work.  If you’ve been reading these posts, you probably know I’ve got some pots to stir on the stove.  But I need a break, too.

What kind of break?  Someplace warm?  Well…it is near the water at least.  I’m going to be a lighthouse keeper on the Lake Michigan shore for the next week.  No, I’m not kidding.

Well, it won’t be just me.  My dear old dad’s coming with.  Truth be told, my dad is 79.  He is climbing that ever taller ladder of orbits around the sun.  Thus far in his life, he has been blessed with considerable health and remarkable dexterity.  Together, my folks have been all over the world–and they still travel as much as they can.  But being a lighthouse keeper was my dad’s idea alone.  Regardless, I’m totally on board with this.  It’s going to be a blast on a number of levels.

Now I’m not so fond of the term bucket list, but this certainly qualifies as something my dad has always wanted to do.  He’s always had wistful visions of pretty much anything nautical.  Huge naval craft, glamorous yachts, wooden piers, the lapping of waves on a shore–all of these make his eyes lose focus and fill with visions of valor, romance and adventure.  The lighthouse–that archetypal maritime fixture–a sturdy, lonely outpost with only a flashing light and maybe a foghorn to keep wayward sailors from dashing their ships against rocky shoals.  The lightkeeper, a stout, ever-so-dependable man literally keeping the flame lit within gales and without–sometimes entirely alone.  Tell me if that doesn’t tug on your soul.  Metaphors as thick as north Atlantic fog.  The more I thought of it, the more wanted to scribble this onto my bucket list.

My mom, dad and my family all spent a few days up in Door County, WI this past summer.  This peninsula alone has over a dozen lighthouses–some active, some not.  Again, I heard that tone in my dad’s voice when we toured them.  It would be so great to spend an entire day here.  I set about to make that happen.

Surprisingly, a few keystrokes on Google and I had found a large listing of lighthouses hosting “keeper” programs.  But how to choose?  For one, I wanted it to look like a lighthouse.  You know…isolated, tall, picturesque location.  And we needed to be able to drive to it.  I found it.  Look up “Grand Traverse Lighthouse” and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s in the “pinky finger” of the lower peninsula of Michigan, about 30 minutes drive north of Traverse City.

This lighthouse keeper thing does require us to trade our enthusiasm into sweat for the benefit of the lighthouse itself.  In other words, we’re volunteers.  We’ll be helping out by keeping the place tidy, collecting entrance fees to the lighthouse museum, giving tours, even running the small gift shop there.  If there is minor maintenance or carpentry needed, we’re on it.  My dad should be able to wow them with his skills in this department.  I can run the cash register.

In return, we get to stay at a gorgeous, restored, decommissioned lighthouse for a full week!  I say decommissioned because the actual lighthouse was automated in the early 1970’s.  Good thing, too.  (No need to trim the wick or haul up more whale oil from the basement.  There is a modern signal light adjacent to the original.)  Did I mention the place is over 150 years old?  And…some say it’s haunted!  Just in time for Halloween…

So, my pops and I are on our way up in the morning.  We’re required to bring our own food and bedding.  I joke to my dad that we need a barrel of flour, some salted cod, coffee and a crate of limes to stave off scurvy.  Oh, and a spyglass to spot distant pirate ships!  Yo ho ho, this is gonna be a riot…  I really need a break like this.  I’m hoping this to be what all vacations should be–fun.

From → Family Stuff

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