I wake up to pitch black and hear some rumblings going on downstairs. It sounds like sheets of metal are being dragged around. I wonder what Dad is up to at this hour then fall back to sleep. Next comes the faint smell of something burning. I open my eyes and sniff. I imagine tying sheets together to lower Sam out the window. The thought crosses my mind to get up and check to see what is going on but I’m all cozy in my little nest of a room which overlooks the woods at the cabin and opt instead to pull the quilt up around me. I yank hard and Sam travels up with it. It was freezing when we arrived the night before and Dad had said he would make a fire.
When I wake again it’s light out and there’s white stuff blowing around outside the window. “It snowed!” I yell down the steps all excited. “What’s going on down there?”
“I looked at the thermometer before I went to bed last night and it said zero. I woke up at 4:15 and thought I may as well get up and make a fire.” A man of his word, Dad had the wood burning stove shooting out heat before the sun came up. “How’s the temp up there?”
“Perfect, I didn’t turn the heater on in my bedroom.” I stand on the landing looking out over the lake. There sits Dad below, in front of his fire, on the couch with a Reader’s Digest in his lap. Sam thuds down the steps and jumps on top of him.
Dad and I came to the Island this weekend on a mission. He had seen a Lannon stone company in Green Bay on his last trip up. The idea came to him to have a stone engraved for Mom and placed near the sandy beach she had always kept free of beach grass. She had pulled it out right up to the last summer she was here in 2011. Dad wanted a special place for her ashes. Earlier, they had decided on a sunflower field just past Mishicot on the drive up but we’ve tried several times and haven’t been able to find any sunflowers. As an alternative, Dad decided he would lay the stone overlooking the water at the cabin. “That’s where we’ll both go.” He told me. I thought it was a great idea because I had never really been sure how we would get their ashes scattered over a stranger’s sunflower field.
Dad hadn’t been exactly sure where the stone company was so I googled it when we left Milwaukee and then typed the address into my GPS—1003 Rogue Street. We got across the bridge in Green Bay and Dad said he thought the place he had seen was before the bridge.
“Huh, maybe this is a better place,” I coax him on. There was a lot of construction and neither of us had any idea where we were headed but I trusted the lady in my phone who was giving us our directions. I was determined to find this place, to buy the stone and finish our mission.
“Heavens,” Dad says. “Where are we going?”
“We’re getting close,” I say pretty confidently but feeling like this is more of a trip than we had bargained for.
“Do I turn here?” Dad asks as he turns.
“No, next one.” We make a U turn. “Make a left and then another left. It looks to me like we’re getting close from what I can tell on the screen of my phone.” We drive on for another five miles or so. As we reach a residential area I’m hopeful that there will be a Lannon Stone Company just past the street with houses we turn onto. “There it is, Dad. Roque Street!” Dad’s staring out the window. My theory is squashed when I see the numbers 1003 on the side of one of the houses on Rogue St. “Do you think they keep it in the basement……?” I reset my GPS with just enough battery left to get us back en route to the Ferry. We were aiming for the 3:00 o’clock. with a backup plan for the 5:00. Good thing. It was the last one of the day and except for one space, it was full.
So, click click click go my computer keys the next morning as I sit at the table a jig saw puzzle is often spread out on. I have a plan to get a lot of writing done over the next two days. I’m trying to focus on my story while Dad putters around.
“Debbie, I guess I need your help here.” I need you to climb up and loosen the screen at the top of this window. Someone put the screen in here and we always leave it out because this is the window we load the wood in through for the stove.
I climb up and we lift the screen out then I start to crank the window open as Dad goes outside. He suddenly stops.
“Oh I need to sweep the snow off the wood first. Close ‘er back up. You go on with what what you were doing.” He had fetched his work shoes out of the garage where they were now stored because Mom had said they smelled up the bedroom. I had heated them by the fire for him. “I guess I’ll go put on some heavier socks first.” He says as he disappears into the bedroom.
“I guess I have to go buy some heavier socks.” He comes back out.
Click click click click click. “Do you want to try mine?” I ask him. “I have some stretchy ones.” Click click click click click….
“No, your stretchy ones won’t be thick enough.”
“Yes they will. I’ll go get ’em.”
“Oh…..these are nice,” he says taking them from my hand. Why they’re perfect.”
I sit back down…..now, where was I………..?
“Okay I’m ready,” Dad says. “Open that window.”
I’m up and cranking.
“Turn the handle on the stove to the left.”
It won’t budge.
“….to the right.”
Still won’t budge.
“Use your knee, that’s what I do. Maybe it’s the left.”
“Have I ever shown you how to lay the wood in the stove? Like this, lay two of them flat—get them all the way in there or you won’t be able to close the door. Leave 1/4 inch between them.”
“What if it’s an inch?”
“That’s too much.”
The wood pops and crackles as I get them positioned on the pile of red coals and then Dad starts passing the wood in to me to fill up the box. “Aww Honey…” he says to Mom. Do you see what she’s doing? Just like you would do. Standing where you stood, wearing the gloves you wore. She’s doing a good job!” Then he looks at me as I’m reaching for another log, “You’ve got room for more?!”
“You’re questioning my ability to tell when the box is full? One more.”
“Wow, you fit a lot in there.”
We finish and I go back to my typing.
Dad comes in through the porch door and announces, “This is when I’m happy! Work shoes with stretch socks!
I think I love it here in the winter too—maybe even more than in the summer because you have to build a fire.” He goes to check out the wood box, “Why you laid them vertically. We always laid them horizontally!” then heads out the kitchen door towards the garage.
Now where was I……….? Click….click….click……