Letters from Ely - Down by the lake

by Duane Behrens

Down By the Lake<BR><BR>Aunt Mabel's normal aches and pains from arthritis had become worse. After a brief examination, her local physician wisely sent her to Rochester for additional testing. They found that, regardless of where the cancer may have started it now resides in her lungs, breast, cervix and bone marrow. And although she has accepted minimal drugs to ease the pain, Auntie has refused chemotherapy or radiation treatments, opting instead to take maximum enjoyment from a life lived day-to-day. <BR><BR>Then again, she has always lived like that. As a child, I remember my family showing up at her house often and usually unannounced. Her smile was always warm and sincere. Within minutes, one of her locally-famous German chocolate cakes would appear from the oven ("I was going to make it anyway!"). For years, we cousins would play inside or out as the weather (and/or our own behavior) permitted. In the summertime, the adults would sip beer in the shaded living room. In the winter it was coffee over the dining room table. <BR><BR>And as the years passed, the home itself seemed to acquire Mabel's own quiet humor, echoing her laughter at Uncle Woody's teasing; her wondering if we'd had enough to eat (we always did); her speaking with pride of the wild birds she'd coaxed into the yard with her feeders; her surprise at a new "volunteer" asparagus or rhubarb plant in the garden . . . and so on. <BR><BR>And though she never drove, when Woody's health eventually failed and she could no longer care for him, Mabel still found a way to visit him every day, her sole purpose to make him as comfortable as possible during every minute of every visit. <BR><BR>Some of those old memories were shared last weekend when Mabel's eldest daughter organized a family reunion at their lake home. Seventy guests - brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews - gathered to greet each other again. Many hadn't seen each other for 25 years . . . but as it turned out, 25 years doesn't really matter so much when greeting a childhood friend. <BR><BR>And at the center of it all was Aunt Mabel - living, breathing, sharing her joy and laughter with the group. Yes, she was tired. But she also clearly reveled in a simple truth she discovered early on in her life . . . the one simple truth that so many seem unable to grasp: <BR><BR>"You get what you give." <BR><BR>Well. Mabel got a lot of love last Sunday. Even the goodbyes were full of smiles. And while you may not have met her personally, perhaps the above has reminded you of your own special aunt, or uncle, or parent or grandparent. <BR><BR>Maybe you should give them a call this weekend. Find out when they'll be free for a little potluck reunion, down by the lake. <BR><BR>[ Duane may be reached at duanebehrens@cox.net ]