Letting go…

This past week my parents sold their home–our family “gathering place.” 

My parents bought the property on Grand Traverse Bay in my teen years. For the summer, before the cottage was habitable, we lived in a visqueen “tent” that my dad designed. Yes, it was see-through, but oh the stars at night! As my brother told the next door neighbor when asked about the fact one could see into the tent, he said, “just don’t look.”

First it was the family cottage, a modified geodesic dome that my dad designed himself. Fourteen-sided, the wall and roof panels were built in our garage in Grand Rapids and transported north. The “roof-raising” weekend was a party event with uncles and aunts and cousins all helping. The last piece fit perfectly, just like a large jigsaw puzzle!

Over the years we’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, even a couple of weddings… as well as just getting together as a family. It’s a place all the grandchildren grew up with and loved. We remember with great fondness the plays and concerts put on by our children in the Round House and the art show that preceded performances, where we were encouraged to purchase our children’s artwork for pennies,nickels, or sometimes a quarter, depending on the entrepreneurial spirit of the artist. Such special times!

When my dad approached retirement, my parents decided to build an attachment to the “round house”… what came to be known as the “big house”… my parents’ dream home. It was large and modern and could accommodate even more family members in great comfort. My parents loved it there…

About 4 years ago, my father was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia. PPA is a form of dementia, and as his neurologist told us at his last appointment, as different forms of dementia progress, they all begin to look alike. Right now it’s looking more and more like what we know as Alzheimer’s. It’s not pretty. Once he was diagnosed, it was obvious that the “big house” was too big, too isolated (on Grand Traverse Bay, about 5 miles north of Elk Rapids). They moved back to Grand Rapids, into an apartment in a continuum of care retirement community.

This has been a long process. My sister, Amy, organized the first — and then second — “downsizing sale” in early fall 2014, just after my parents put the house on the market. My parents had so much stuff! Amy and I worked the round house with the guys handling “the barn.” We had such fun working together those weekends. We’d previously worked together on a couple of  large “family celebrations” so we knew we worked together well–she was strong in areas I was less strong, and visa versa. Two months after the second downsizing sale, Amy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which explained why she felt so lousy at the second sale. I will forever cherish those hours working together in the round house.

My parents had the property on the market, off and on, for two years. It’s a very unique property so it took a special buyer. Early last summer, as my sister’s condition declined, she asked me with tears in her eyes where her ashes would be buried if the house sold. Our uncle, at her memorial service on October 1, commented that the house wouldn’t sell until Amy was there. And so, on a picture-perfect early November weekend, my brothers, parents and I buried Amy’s ashes, along with her beloved dog, Jake, overlooking beautiful Traverse Bay, a place she loved more than any other, where the sky drips with stars, where the northern lights dance across the sky. It is sacred ground. Our stargazer warrior is home for eternity.

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