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I Am My Brother’s (Lighthouse) Keeper — Epilogue

October 26, 2012

It’s only been a week since my dad and I returned from our strange “vacation” as volunteer lighthouse keepers.  But it seems like much longer.  I dunno if that’s a good thing or not.  Kinda spooky, in a way, to recall something so clearly yet to see it receding in the rear-view mirror as fast as warm autumn days toward winter.

Our time up there was special and for more reasons than I will probably be able to convey here.

For me it was a chance to step off of the unending treadmill of a home/work life, with its’ quickening pace and increasing grade.  For my dad, it was an opportunity to check off one more item on a long list of things he has always wanted to do.  Best of all these things, we got to do them together.

The actual lighthouse was a magnificent building dating back 162 years.  Its’ wood frame construction creaked and groaned in the wind like an old rocking chair beneath a sumo wrestler.  It was damp and stinky in the basement, like a cross between a septic tank and recently deceased rodents, both of which we found during our week stay.  But it was also cozy, warm and inviting–its’ bright white painted façade, green windows and red metal roof still sturdy and protective, truly a shining beacon of light on a very dark, very remote point of land jutting out into the chilly waters of Lake Michigan.

The house television captured just two broadcast stations reliably–both PBS.  But there were plenty of things to read on the bookshelves when we grew weary of Antiques Roadshow or Lidia’s Italy in America.  Tomes like Ghost Lighthouses of the Great Lakes, Mysteries of The Deep or U.S. Coast Guard Light Station Operational Standards circa 1951.  It was easy to lose track of time.  Which is what we did.  Suddenly the week was over.  My Pops and I spoke in stereo, “Hard to believe it’s already time to go”.  But it was.

We finished our morning chores of raising the flag, sweeping the steps and unlocking the Fog Signal Building.  We packed up the car, took one more picture together in front of the place, shook hands with the museum caretaker, left our lighthouse keys with her and then, like that, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse was too receding in our rear-view mirror.

With much care and attention from scores of lightkeepers, their assistants and volunteers, the lighthouse survives.  Long outlasting these hearty, dedicated souls, the light continues to guide mariners safely on their journeys through the Manitou Passage.

I reminisced with two close friends a few days later about my trip.  I told them how much fun it was to hang out, just me and my Pops, doing something unique that we both had genuine interest in doing.  I regaled them with the novel idea I had of interviewing my dad on camera, so I could compile an account of him for me.  And then I realized that the friends I was chatting with had both lost their dads.  I can think of at least 3 more close buddies that have lost one of their parents before it was time.  I winced for a second, then realized what a beautiful, priceless gift all this time I have been able to spend with my dad has been.  And not just a week at a lighthouse.  But over 26 years of my adulthood.

I concluded that sometimes we visit far away lighthouses.  Sometimes they keep us safe if we look and listen.  And sometimes we have them right next to us–still today, still shining.  We might call them “Mom” or “Dad”.  Sometimes we are lucky.  And blessed.

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From → Family Stuff

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