Leaving the Lake

“The past is a story I tell to forget about the present.”

Yeah, yeah, I know.Bear Lake Michigan 1960s

I wrote that the past is nothing I’m particularly fond of. That the beating heart of this blog lies in the questions that arise out of what I thought my reality was—even when the diaries, journals, calendars, and photographs reveal otherwise.

Maybe it’s more truthful to say I’m not a big fan of the future.

If that were true I would’ve gotten through college sooner, would’ve made all the necessary concessions to raising a family of my own—AND I’d probably be way more financially responsible. Well, 20/20 hindsight is … like having no vision at all.

You see, I got four drafts into this post and hated reading it every single time.

It was because I was rationalizing, and I had strong feelings about the Family Project photos I’d discovered. Without documentation, original source material, a journal entry, a letter or note—it was just more thinking about old feelings.

And thoughts about feelings are unreliable.


It wasn’t always that way. When I was young all I did was dream about the future.

When I look at the top right photo of my toddler self, tossing a rock near Michigan’s Bear Lake, it makes me happy. It brings together the Best Me with the independent child I once was. I’ve no doubt that by that deep blue lakeside I felt joy all the way down to my tiny toes. And in those sparkling waves I saw worlds of possibility.

MomDad_80sBoatThe photo at left was taken in either 1979 or 1980, probably for my Lakewood Community College Photography class. Casco Point pal Dan Rogers, with moustache newly grown at his university, is to the left of Mom at center, with Dad at the wheel of our boat, heading out into Spring Park Bay. We were taking what would likely be one of our last boating excursions of living nearly a decade on Lake Minnetonka.

By late summer 1980, the old place would be sold.

It’s a great informal shot—rare in that nobody is putting on appearances just because a camera’s pointed at them. But it brings back mixed feelings: where I was at that time in my life, trying college again, living at home for the summer, and hoping to one day escape the orbit of the Family Project.

My foremost feeling is of Dad driving the boat. He was in those days the Type A controlling person, always in charge, always with a plan—or at least a backup plan—and intolerant of people who didn’t share those qualities.

Mom and I were more alike. We were flexible; we shifted with the winds if necessary. But we were also caught in storms of our own making. For years those storms dominated our lives. Likely they will continue to roll through mine, but I no longer give them the power they used to demand.

That is probably the only wish I have—the only vision I have—for the future.


Perhaps leaving is too easy.My beautiful picture

Walking away from a bad relationship or failed marriage. Quitting a hateful job. Or abandoning skills and talents out of fear of failure (or success). Maybe it’s not the right thing to do.

Or maybe it is.

Leaving the lake was easier than I thought: a moving van was packed, furniture put in transit, maybe a quick look back, and—poof!—gone. Never to see that person, that place, ever again.

I don’t remember the exact day we left Casco Point. And I’ll probably never know because I didn’t keep a journal that year. Can’t begin to tell you how much I regret that.

But based on other leave-takings: setting out from Maryland to Minnesota, the last year of summer camp, last day of high school, I do know it’s all about distance. The pain of leaving always lies in its reflection, the passage of time after the car door slams and the past quickly fades in the rearview mirror.

Well, here I am now. In the present, sitting at my desk on a beautiful summer’s day. The windows are open. A fan gurgles in a corner. Green leaves burn brightly through windows overlooking backyards and fences. The air is cool and sweet. I’m feeling rested and content.

But that’s where I stop. Because thoughts about feelings are unreliable.

Bear Lake FinalI need to learn how to better trust the future, to dream about how it could be and realize it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bitter continuation of the present.

Perhaps it’s just a muscle that’s grown weak over time. You need a strong imagination to see into the future. And I want to know where I’m going.

Could it be toward a new family (that seems impossible at my age), new people and places?

Mom’s no longer here to comfort me. Dad’s no longer steering the boat. I’m alone in the boat. I’m the one steering the boat.

Maybe I am the boat.

And when that boat comes ashore, will I have truly arrived?

~ by completelyinthedark on July 11, 2014.

One Response to “Leaving the Lake”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Best of the season and Happy New Year! Here’s a fav for reposting, then back with all-new CITD posts starting Jan. 2, 2015—this blog’s fifth year.


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