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August 13, 2011


Remembering Sault Sainte Marie

International Bridge Sault Ste Marie

When we were kids, we were lucky. We got to pack up in the truck camper and go on vacation. Sometimes we would head northeast to Maine. We spent a couple of summers in Worcester, Massachusetts while my dad attended classes at Holy Cross.  We went lots of places, and we would buy a decal for the back of the camper to commemorate each location we visited. The whole back right side of the camper was covered with the decals.

One of our neighbors told me that she used to watch us pack up and leave wondering where we were headed to that summer. She told me many years later how wonderful it was that we were able to travel as a family. We had two small dogs at the time, Maggie and Maxine.  They of course went with us, we all piled in the back of the camper and off we went.

I remember arriving at the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan.  We fell out of the camper and all went clambering up the dune. The dogs were allowed off leash back then and they tore up the hill, playing and zipping around in circles, ears flapping and tails wagging.  After wearing ourselves and the dogs out, we sat for a picnic lunch and then piled back into the camper to head on north to Sault Sainte Marie.

We passed through the gates of Soo Locks Park and over 150 years of maritime history. The locks enable ships of all sizes to navigate the 21 foot drop between  Superior and Lake Huron.  We visited the Point Iroquois Light Station along  the scenic Lake Superior shore.  My dad loved the water and whether it be the ocean or one of the Great Lakes, we kids learned to love the water too.  The whiff of salt air, the cool breeze, the sound of waves, the cry of the gulls, being with my family, I loved it all.

Last month while in that half awake, half asleep state all too familiar on long-haul flights I began to watch the flight path on my   personal entertainment device. The last three hours on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit were really dragging and instead of watching another lousy movie, I just sat and stared at the screen.   I had already completed the long flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam and only had about 90 minutes in between the flights to freshen up and stretch my legs.  Too tired to read and with no interest in any of the other programming, I just sat and watched the little image of the airplane and counted down the minutes until landing.

Then I saw it. We were  passing over  Sault Ste Marie on the flight path.  And just like that my heart broke all over again.  I felt that penetrating pain deep inside and the tears, uncontrollable running down my cheeks.  I missed my dad.  I think of him every day, but most days it is when I see the Ginkgo tree he planted,  or when I see his photo on my shelf or a fleeting memory of something he said.  It has been nearly two years since he passed away so nobody asks how I am doing since his death anymore, and  I don’t talk about him as much because I guess people just don’t want to hear about how I feel sad or that I miss him.  Most of the time, I just carry on with my memories. Then there are  times, out of the blue, something unexpected knocks the wind right out of me and the grief from the loss feels unbearable.   That is what happened watching that flight path, remembering Sault Sainte Marie and missing my family.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Malia Ragan
    Aug 15 2011

    Sweet story, Joanne. I know the same pain at times when the most unusual thing may set me off…that brings back memories of my mom; her laughter and her wisdom. I lost both parents in my mid thirties. Nothing is ever the same once you lose your parents. You miss the encouragement, the sound advice, the memories of fun times haunt you. I miss my mom’s sense of humor, which I inherited…Even after 16 years, I miss her, but I promise you, it does get easier. You are extremely fortunate to have had your Dad with you for so many years. Mourning is a long process which has to be accomplished in stages and for most people, it takes much longer than two years. Two years is a very short time in the grieving process. A dear friend gave me a book entitled “In Sympathy” by Stephanie C. Oda after my mom died. It helped me realize that healing will come, and that the grieving process may take awhile for “that great wall of sorrow to be lifted”.

  2. Joanne
    Aug 20 2011

    Thank you Malia.

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