Last weekend, one of our favorite groups of fishermen arrived to try for some trout. Some of these fellows have been coming up for more years than I have been here, so they know the lodge, the family, and more importantly, the lake, really, really well. I know that I've shared a tale or two about them on these pages. When I think of trout season, I often think of these guys.
Word over the weekend was that this was the last time one of the guys would be up. Wow, that was tough to hear. Fortunately, it wasn't that he is too ill to come--he's quite healthy. Rather, it just isn't so easy to do this anymore. He's getting on up in years, so mobility is more challenging, and staying warm in the cold weather presents itself, too. Even at my "tender age", I notice these things, albeit on a whole different scale. But he wanted to do a last trip, and so they came and fished, and with the aid of trucks and snowmobiles and space heaters, they made it a comfortable expedition.
That thought of a last trip stayed with me throughout the day. I contemplated it more as I lay in bed that night. Recognizing something as important as "the last time" is hard for me to do. I remembered when our oldest son Robert was getting ready to leave home and move to Alaska. It struck me that because we had not taken a family vacation that year, our last trip together had already occurred, and I didn't even know it at the time. It made me sad to think about it. But would I have done anything differently, had I known? Maybe not.
I think the tough part is that I would be attempting to get every last bit of enjoyment and importance out of each moment. And I would be sad at the same time, so that might actually interfere with the fun of it all. It's probably better for me to be clueless, in these cases. It's kind of the same way with good-byes for me. I prefer to say good-bye to someone when they leave with the hope that I will someday see them again. The nature of this lifestyle and business we have is that we do see people come and go all of the time. Of course it is impossible to expect that we will see them all again, but we've been blessed with many return customers and guests who have become good friends. I love the opportunity to check in with them each year, to have them back around my table so to speak. I guess I'll just forever be an optimist that can't say a final good-bye.
One thing I do know is that when a certain west wind starts to blow on Gunflint Lake, and the trout fishermen are waiting to head out, I'll be thinking of Wes. That's his kind of wind.