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2008-08-10 - 7:28 a.m.

...our last day at the river...

It's our last day at the River, and we have just completed packing up our heavily burdened suitcases. We have cleaned out the little camp, stripped the bedding, washed out the bathroom, and removed the rubbish, and swept and mopped.

Now, Susi is asleep, and we are enjoying our last views of the River. In my walk from the little camp over to the big camp this morning, I paused to say goodbye to 'snakey' - the 3-ft water snake that has taken up residence in the tree stump just along the path. I helped grandpa chase the geese off the point while carrying Susi over this morning. While doing so, I watched one of the baby minks scurry down the granite rocks, chasing a little chipmunk (who escaped up a tree).

Two Great Blue Herons have just flown overhead and landed on Chase's Island, just across the way. Grandpa says that the herons that are left on the point this late in the season are the old ones who have remained for the winter in order to die. I watched this grandpa of a bird fly over to Chase's dock and posture, chasing the other heron off his territory. He strutted back and forth across the end of the dock for a few minutes. Such a proud old bird. It is sad to think that this is his last season of strutting on that dock. But it's quite a beautiful place to spend the last peaceful moments of life.

The past week of our trip has been bustling with activity as my brother's family drove up from St. Louis to join us. My niece is eight years old and growing up fast. She wants nothing more than to be helpful. She particularly liked to feed Susi breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She was always happy to watch her when needed. And, to grandpa's delight, she demonstrated just how much she loves the River through her extensive kayaking, swimming, sailing, rowing, canoeing, and rafting. Grandpa needed to have at least one grandchild who loves the River, and my niece has obliged.

I think that my niece and my daughter are very good for grandpa. My niece really wants nothing better than to please him, in word and deed. Susi is rather limited in words and deeds, but she has consistently flashed a winning smile at him, and it has been wonderful to watch his face light up. I try hard to keep from thinking about that old heron when I think of grandpa, who is 74. He's still smart as a whip and the only person I trust to take me for a sail. But I had to turn away and block the tears when he said to Susi,

"I wish that I could see you in twenty years when you are full into your life with college and boyfriends."

That moment, more than any, made me wish that this phase of my life had happened fifteen years ago.

But this makes me more determined more than ever to arrange visits.

And speaking of visits, when my aunt and uncle heard that we were on the 'right' coast...they took a surprise 1000-mile detour out of their trip from Baltimore to Nashville in order to visit us for half a day. Friday was quite the adventure. They had never met Susi, and so I'm thrilled that they came. They remain my favorite aunt and uncle. Had Susi been a boy, I would have rallied hard to have my uncle's name somewhere in there.

And so here we sit watching the River flow by. K is finishing up his last sudoku. Mom is downstairs fixing us vegetables so that we get something proper to eat before our trip. Grandpa is helping with the veggies. Susi is still sleeping. And I am still listening to the waves, and watching that majestic Great Blue Heron, fishing off Chase's dock, glad to know that there will be a next year for us.

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