Posts Tagged ‘conneaut lake’


I’ll Be Seeing You.

April 6, 2010

Dear Buddo,

I heard the news that you finally went Home the other day. It was Good Friday. I was in a car with my Mom and my two boys…. down in Florida, on our way somewhere. Dad called and gave the report, and I passed the news to Mom.

Surprisingly, I was able to keep my composure. Maybe because the boys were there. Maybe because it was not an unexpected turn of events. Maybe because it was so good to know you weren’t suffering anymore. Certainly, there was no doubt about where you were going… where you are now… pain-free and in the company of Jesus!

[How many tissues will it take to get through this post? We’ll see.]

You celebrated 72 years of marriage just two months ago… and you would have turned 90 years old on Easter Sunday. Ninety years! I have yet to live half as long.

Even though we weren’t blood relations, you always made me feel as though we were. I have known you since I was born… ever since my parents first brought me up to Conneaut Lake on one of their yearly visits. Did you ever hold me and rock me to sleep in my favorite porch swing? I don’t know for sure, but I like to think so.

That old cottage was great, wasn’t it? I remember the spring house, and the little galley kitchen, and the living room with the piano. I remember the table that folded up onto the wall, out on the porch. You had a game of “Don’t Break the Ice” that I loved to play with. I remember a narrow staircase that went up to the bedrooms. I remember spending a night or two on a very squeaky cot on the other side of your room, while you and Graydon laughed and whispered to each other “our guest is a little restless.”

You were a wonderful cook! And yet, as a picky little girl, I was a bit fearful of eating at your house. Especially that time when I learned that a favorite motto of yours was EAT IT OR WEAR IT! Ha ha. I always smile when I think of you uttering those words. Your delivery was unique. I never wanted to find out whether you’d make good on that subtle threat.

When I was younger, we typically came to visit and stay with you about one week a year. Later, our family acquired the little cottage right behind yours, and so my lake visits were longer and more frequent. And even as your own house — rebuilt now, so that you could live there year ’round —  got more and more crowded with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you still made a point of telling me that summer didn’t truly begin until I showed up at the lake. I’m sure you were just being nice, but I always treasured those words. I pretended that you never said them to anyone else.

So many lake mornings began with me knocking on your door in the early hours, stealing a bite of whatever you had handy to eat, and relieving you of any stale bread so that I could feed the fish off your dock. Then I’d usually come back up to the house (but not through the front door! …always around back where you had a washtub ready for dirty feet!) and spend a little more time chatting. You would try to feed me more breakfast. You were always very concerned with whether I was the slightest bit hungry.

It tickles me to recall listening to you and Graydon gently correct each other as you both would give me a report of the latest news from the lake area…  who was in town and who wasn’t, stories about docks being put in for the summer, tales of how high the creek had gotten with the last storm, and perhaps a wistful recounting of a delicious meal you’d had at some local restaurant. Important news, all! And I loved to hear it.

The last several years were more difficult. You couldn’t do all the things you wanted to do. Eventually you couldn’t live full-time at your beloved lake anymore. You made a point to visit as frequently as possible, especially when all the family and neighbors were around for the 4th. You made valiant efforts to hide it, but you began to be more and more limited by pain.

I am so thankful that I had the privilege of sitting with you one Sunday morning last July, to keep you company while Graydon attended church. I enjoyed a few hours with you in your bright little house while we waited for a man to bring communion. You asked me to help pull out a few photo albums from a closet. We talked about random things. Then Graydon came home and we had a little lunch. I marveled at how deftly he divided one meal between the two of you without speaking a word…knowing exactly which things you would eat and which of your portion of things he could take for himself. The lemon meringue pie was slightly frozen in the middle, but we all agreed it was very tasty.

And then I left, with a final hug and a kiss on the cheek from my Buddo. I think we both knew in the back of our heads that we might not see each other again. I would never have begun to broach the subject, though. The sun was so very bright that day.

Lord willing, we will all gather again in a few months… the whole clan of extended family and close-knit neighbors… for another July 4th at our favorite lake. Bonfires on the beach, fireworks at the park, plenty of good food. There will be lots of noise and lots of kids running around.

And I will steal a moment to sit on your porch swing, and look out over the water and remember you.

Love always,



July 15, 2009

At Conneaut Lake, we get this kind of sunset all the time.

Click for a larger view. Really.



Tuesday Time Machine: Mischief makers

February 3, 2009


Wendy and me, we go way back.

We were “lake friends” for as long as I can remember… our families have known each other for decades. She’s several years younger than me, but we always shared a sort of kindred spirit. Which really means that we enjoyed getting into mischief together.

My family has always spent vacation time up at Conneaut Lake, usually over July 4th, staying with family friends. Then, in 1984, my parents were able to buy a cottage in the same neighborhood as our friends up there. And, WHAM! I suddenly got to spend a LOT more time at the lake during the summers. It was fabulous.

That first summer after we got the cottage, my first order of business was to learn how to water ski. Once I picked up that skill, Wendy and I were ready to make trouble.

To this day I’m not certain why our parents agreed to let us engage in such antics… but the first thing we worked on once I knew how to slalom ski was, we would both ski at the same time behind the boat, me on a slightly longer line, and then we would cross back and forth. Wendy would stay low and I’d cross the wake and lift the tow line up over her as I passed to the other side.

I’d lift that tow rope up, you know, so as not to decapitate her.

We’d go up and down the lake practicing this maneuver because… because… perhaps we aspired to put on a show someday? Who can say? But we had fun. We were so determined to have this sort of fun that we would get up at 6:30 or 7am on summer mornings when we had no other reason to be awake, just so we coud get the smoothest water.

Also, did you know that in the autumn, when it’s very chilly in northwestern Pennsylvania, that you can still go water skiing as long as you have a boat and skis? You would think there would be some sort of law against it. But no, no there is not. I think our record was skiing in 50º weather in October. The lake water is actually warmer than the air then. I know because I would sometimes fall deliberately, just to test it.

So anyway, we carried on with the crazy skiing for a couple summers at least… learning how to do deep water starts without crashing into each other on the way up, learning how to share the same side of the wake when the boat made a sharp turn, learning how to signal each other to do different things. We had a good thing going.

And then the day came. I don’t even remember it really happening. But apparently, I… just once… I kind of… well not deliberately, mind you… but I kind of hooked Wendy’s neck a little bit with the rope as I was crossing over.

Oh, she was fine. We were fine. I didn’t totally get her tied up or anything. Somehow I got to the other side, and like I said, I really didn’t know anything had gone wrong.

But her mom saw it (hi Kathy!).  And that was it.

Party over.

Everyone out of the pool!

After that, we still skiied, but I don’t think we ever did it together again. Instead, Wendy and I went on to make other mischief… Like taking the sailboat out to the middle of the lake, turning it over turtle style, and then practicing getting the boat righted in deep water.

[Well, we had to do something to keep ourselves occupied…]

Here’s to you Wendy! I hope you get to read this sometime, and have a nice chuckle remembering our crazy lake days.



Conneaut Lake in Fall

October 20, 2008

Why do I drive 400 miles north in October for a 2-day trip?

Oh yeah… here’s why:



July 9, 2008

I was up in Pennsylvania last week, on a quick trip to retrieve my boys from a week with my parents, and also because tradition demands that I spend July 4th at Conneaut Lake. (I can count on one hand the number of Independence Days that I have NOT spent there… but that is a story for another day)

During my brief sojourn I made a point to visit the grounds of Conneaut Lake Park. I have been visiting this century-plus-old amusement park since I was very young, and I have many great memories associated with the place. The Blue Streak Rollercoaster (amateur POV video here) is still among my favorite coasters, even though it is 70-some years old, wooden, and relatively small compared to the giant coasters of today.

Nowadays, things are not looking too good for the park. Years of bad management and serious financial troubles have contributed to its current state: closed and slowly decaying. Then in February of this year, an arsonist set fire to the Dreamland Ballroom – a 90-year-old landmark that featured a gigantic dance floor, supposedly “the largest dance floor uninterrupted by columns between New York and Chicago.” The building was a total loss, and shortly after the fire another building directly across from the ballroom collapsed in on itself. Not a good year so far for those who wish to preserve the park and its history.

I wanted to see the park and take some photos, even though I knew it would be depressing. And it certainly was. It’s bad enough to visit the place in the fall, when things are simply closed for the off-season (I have done that a few times in the past)… but now there is a much deeper sense of finality to the quietness that covers the old rides and buildings.

I don’t know if there is a real chance that the park will re-open in the future; the odds seem long at best. I like to think that there is someone out there who is willing to take a big financial risk and save the place for something besides condominiums.

If anyone reading this has been to Conneaut Lake Park, please add a comment to this post and share a memory. I will probably write some of my own soon.