This story comes to us from Crystal in Royal Oak, Mich. About her story, she writes: “Story is about the meaning of life and the permanence of our Great Lakes as a source of comfort for two generations touched by sadness. Thank you for doing this contest to help promote the ecology and tourism of the area, and for considering my submission.”
You’re welcome, Crystal. Here’s her story.
People are un-reliable. At least that’s what Dad used to say. Who could blame him? My mother left when I was six. Others had disappointed as well.
But Dad never let me down. The best memories of my childhood were times every summer my father would take us for an “adventure.” Often we’d follow the Circle Tour signs, which led to all the pretty spots around the Great Lakes. We were poor. We slept in the van and bathed in the lakes. Our souvenirs were fossils, feathers and pinecones. Our entertainment was the setting sun.
It was my fathers only break from 50 weeks of work and raising a family alone.
I left Detroit at 18, determined to be free. I went to college and did homework on top of a dune, finding answers in the sand. At times I forgot about my father back in the city. Our road-trips were left behind.
My junior year he died.
His wishes had always been clear, though strange. He wanted me to take his ashes, put them in an empty Pepsi can, and give him a final road trip. He told me to dump just a little bit of his body out at each of our favorite spots: At the end of Pier Marquette, in the river by the cabin, in the chilly waters of Lake Superior where Michigan and Canada share a city-name, in the waterfalls of the U.P., and of course near our favorite tourist trap – The Mystery Spot. There was so much that we had seen through the years. He wanted me to photograph his ashes at each place, and tell my kids about them.
I didn’t do it. I wanted to, but a 21 year old parentless kid could not afford such things – emotionally or financially. I kept his ashes in a box on the backseat of my car for two years.
Finally I broke down. Not my car, my heart. I stood on the beach and cried. Angrily I ripped the funeral home box, and threw out his ashes to the cold winter waves. I screamed to the sky “why?” It gave no answer except the sound of permanent movement and the way it moved to kiss at my feet. The water would never leave.
I have moved a lot since then. Muskegon, Houghton Lake, and now back in Detroit. Like my father, I dream of the times I can get away from the world by driving myself closer to it. Mother Nature’s love surrounds me here in Michigan, literally. My heart is now only in her hand.
Thanks, Crystal, for sharing your story.
For those who have not yet entered our Great Lakes story and photo contest, it’s not too late.
You can also help in the effort to restore the Great Lakes and protect our drinking water, our economy, our public health and our way of life. Get involved today!