Four bottles of inexpensive wine we purchased at St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw. Michigan
She took the day off.
The weatherman says sunny and 55, I hope he’s right.
I busy myself getting ready for tomorrow.
Clean the house, I tell myself. Can’t leave if the house isn’t clean.
House is clean.
I put my camera equipment on the table, tripods behind the door, ready for loading in the morning.
I check the camera batteries and make sure the flash cards are installed.
No need for the GPS, we have iPhones now, so Google maps will direct us to our destination. Just to safe, I put some paper, a pen, a flashlight, and maps of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio in my briefcase and put it with the camera equipment.
Clothes, shoes, wallet, jacket, and hat, all ready for the morning.
She will be home soon.
She sees that I cleaned the house. She smiles and shakes her head. She knows…36 years of knowing…
I want to be out of the house by 10, I tell her. And I mean 10, I add, knowing that I am fighting a battle I have lost more times than I can count.
A restless night, I get 4 hours sleep before she wakes me up.
The car is loaded, ready to go. Ten minutes late…
She drives. I want to drive but I know I can’t. I am no longer physically able to drive. I know this, but I still want to drive. She ignores me, knowing I will no longer put up a fight.
Off to Fort Wayne first to drop off papers at the hospital. I owe them $5,000.00. I hope they will reduce the amount I owe.
She wants to go Rome City to see an old, no longer functioning self-sustaining nunnery.
It’s not long before I start feeling every bump and thump as we ride over roads savaged by harsh Midwestern winter.
Our destination is South Haven, Michigan. Sunset is at 7:45. I want to get there by 6:00. How we get to South Haven is undetermined.
This is a Gerencser road trip, one our six children experienced many times. A general destination with no certain route.
The assault on my body continues. I complain some, but I know it is not her fault. If I had known this is how painful the trip was going to be, I would have stayed home. I am glad I didn’t.
North and West we travel, meandering down never before traveled roads.
I set Google maps to no highways or toll roads. We want to see what most people never take the time to see.
Amish, horses, buggies, laundry gently blowing in the wind. What a pleasant surprise.
Where’s their school, she asks. Soon, we stumble upon it. Look at all the bicycles and yellow vests.
Countless stops so I can get out of the car and take photographs. It’s not long before my shoes are muddy, muddying up the floor and mat cleaned the night before.
Sometimes, I stay in the car, using the window to steady my telephoto camera lens. We fuss a bit as she tries to maneuver the car so I can take a shot. We’ve been fussing for 36 years. It means nothing, our love transcends anything we could say to one another.
We finally come to a road we’ve traveled before. Soon we come to Paw Paw, Michigan. Let’s stop at the winery, she says, and I say, sure.
So much wine, so little money. I sure could use a drink. We buy four bottles of inexpensive wine. As we checkout, I tell the young woman waiting on us that we were once part of a religion that forbade the drinking of alcohol. She replies, really? Her face tells me she’s never heard of such craziness. I go on to tell her that we were 50 years old before we drank wine for the first time. I chuckle and say, we are living the 60’s and 70’s a little late in life.
She needs to use the bathroom, so does our daughter with Down Syndrome. I’ll tell her I’ll take the wine out to the car, She says, OK, and hands me the keys.
I open the trunk of the car, put the wine in, and carefully wrap the bottles with a towel.
I slam the trunk of the car and reach into my pocket for the keys so I can unlock the car.
Panic. You didn’t. You fucking idiot. Surely, you didn’t lock the keys in the trunk? You damn idiot, yes you did.
Soon she comes out to the car and I tell her what I’ve done. I thought I had ruined our day. She calmly reaches into her purse and pulls out the second set of keys. Disaster averted.
I am mad at myself, still upset over the keys. 57 years, and I’ve never locked the keys in a car until today. My self-esteem takes another dive.
Back on the road, time to head to South Haven.
The roads continue to pummel me. She notices that I am writhing in the seat and says,I’m sorry. I say, it’s OK. It’s not, but only death will keep me from reaching our destination.
5:00 Pain meds. She notices I have taken the maximum dosage for the day, but she says nothing. She knows I will have to take extra pain meds to get through the day.
It’s 5:30 as we pull into the parking lot near the beach. She and I have been here many times. It’s our favorite place to be. There’s nothing better than watching a Lake Michigan sunset, especially when the one you love are by your side.
The sun is shining, it’s 54 degrees.
The Lake is frozen, the beach is covered with a mishmash of ice, melting snow, and sand.
People are out and about. One young woman is in flip-flops and a white sun dress. Silly humans, we are, worshiping the warmth of our star.
We make our way out to the lighthouse. I walking slowly, prodding the ground with my cane, making sure the slushy snow beneath my feet is firm.
We finally reach the point, the first time we’ve been here when the Lake is frozen.
People come and go as we stand there enjoying the warmth and the view. What a wonderful view…
A talkative woman stands nearby. Her back is to the sun and Lake. She seems only interested in talking to those who are near her. She’s lecturing a young couple about an upcoming sales tax initiative. She’s against it. She turns to me and asks, do you read? Yes. What do you read? Books. Philosophy? Yes. I’m thinking, really, here I am 3 hours from home, away from my blog, and I am getting quizzed about philosophy? The talkative woman asks, Who? I snap back, Kierkegaard. This satisfies her and she turns to the woman in the white sun dress and tells her she’s crazy for being out there in flip-flops and no coat. I thought, I’ll tell you who’s crazy.
We walk back to the car and drive to the bluff overlooking the Lake. I’ve never taken photographs from this spot before.
I set up my tripod and prepare both my cameras to take photographs of the sunset. The show will be short and sweet, I know I must be ready.
She gets out the portable camera I bought her for Christmas. She is quite proud of her work. I hear her camera beep, knowing she is photographing me going about my craft. I used to object, but I know my children and grandchildren will one day appreciate her photographs. I’m reminded of what my friend Tom told me, photographs are about the memory, the moment. That’s what matters.
Soon the show is over and we quickly load everything back into the car. The temperature is quickly dropping. By the time we get home it drops 20 degrees.
As we make our way down from the bluff, I ask her to stop at the beach. Just a few more shots, I say. She’s cold, so she stays in the car as I setup my tripod and take a few photographs of the lighthouse, now lighted by incandescent lights along the walkway.
It’s 8:15 as we walk into Clementines. All the adrenaline has dissipated and my body now screams for attention. I can barely eat. I use the bathroom before we leave, leaning against the stall, a few tears come to my eyes. Why does it have to be this way? Why does one day with my friend and lover cost me so much?
More pain meds.
I have a counseling appointment scheduled for tomorrow. She knows, and will cancel it in the morning. Bed is what awaits me come tomorrow and several days after that. It’s the price I pay for living, for experiencing the beauty of my wife and a Lake Michigan sunset.
It’s midnight as we pull into the driveway. We’ve been gone 14 hours and driven over 300 miles. Exhausted, she falls asleep in minutes. I take more pain medication and my normal nighttime meds. I’m so exhausted that sleep comes quickly.
12 hours later, I wake up, knowing that I must now pay for yesterday.
Is it worth it?
She’s at work now and she sends me a text. The sun is shining, want to go to on a road trip?
I reply, sure…