Sissy and I grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We were like most kids in the world, a happy family. We were blessed with loving parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I don't really have any bad memories as a child, except for one.
When my sister was four and I was five, our mom died. It was unexpected. We were just a couple of kids playing in the bathtub, me with my plastic police boat, and Sissy with her floating frog. Her frog was always the sea monster that sunk my police boat. Mom was always the mom who made sure we played well together, lathering up our heads and washing our hair as we attacked one another in the tub. When our skin wrinkled and we looked like raisins, she helped us dry ourselves as the tub emptied. Mom was great. Little did we know that our joy was soon to come to an end.
A week or so into April mom started having abdominal pains. Going to the doctor, he ordered the usual battery of tests and x-rays and diagnosed her with a nervous stomach. Three weeks later she died of colon cancer. It came on and ended just that fast.
Dad became even more important to your young lives after that. Both Sissy and I missed mom, but family stepped in to help augment her absence. Time does heal all wounds and Sissy and I continued to grow up with the love of our father and grandparents.
By the time Sissy started 1st grade, we were pretty independent as kids go. Dad managed the house in pretty good fashion while still keeping his job at the company that produced generic pharmaceuticals. Sissy and I, now full day students, could fix ourselves cereal and toast for breakfast, dress ourselves for school, and get to the bus stop on time.
We did pretty well in school too. Dad made sure we did our homework, rewarding us when it was earned, and scolding us when we didn't put forth the effort. We both enjoyed school, but when it was over, we enjoyed summer even more.
Summer was special. During the summer we got to go stay at grandma's and grandpa's farm. It wasn't really a farm any longer, but it was about 100+ acres of wild undeveloped land that Sissy and I explored. The best part was in the center of the woods was a small pond, almost as big as a small lake. It took a while to walk there, but it had the best fishing of any place we had ever been.
Sissy and I, under dad's and grandpa's tutelage, became avid fishermen or fisherpersons for you sexist types. We loved to fish. So did dad. Every summer, the last week in June, we would go to grandpa's and spend a week camping out beside the lake and fishing. We called it "roughing" it, but with grandpa's house just a half hour away, it was not really too rough.
When we turned 11 and 12, grandma died, and strangely enough, grandpa died just a month later. I guess he just gave up the will to live. Dad inherited the farm, and gave grandma's and grandpa's old trailer to the church. But he kept the farm, and our fishing trips continued every summer with the three of us spending a full week camping at the lake ... sometimes even two weeks.
During the year when I was 16, Dad, Sissy and I got ready for our annual trip to the farm. We always left on Friday afternoon. It took about two hours to get to the lake. We had the tent all stuffed in its sack, food boxed, fishing gear lying alongside the 4-wheeler in the back of the pickup, everything was all ready except for dad. The 4-wheeler was really cool. It meant that we could park in the old driveway and ride it up to the lake, saving us quite a long walk. It also meant that we didn't have to carry everything, but we could strap it all on the 4-wheeler. True it could only carry two of us at a time, but Dad didn't care to ride it much anyways. He always enjoyed walking up to the campsite rather than "taking the sissy's" way up there as he called it. In this case, it was a double play on Sissy's name ... so we didn't mind. Besides, it was fun and we liked riding it.
Dad got home at the normal time and we could tell there was something wrong. We asked him what it was.
"I can't go fishing with you two for a while," he said, "I've got to fly to San Antonio and work with the advertising people on this new pharmaceutical line."
"How long are you going to be," I asked?
"Don't know for sure, should be about five days or so," he said. But then he continued, "But I know you and Sissy want to go, and you are old enough now to drive yourselves, so I trust you two to be careful and go set up camp. I'll join you up there next week sometime."
Sissy and I were excited. A road trip to grandpa's, just the two of us.
"Well, Dad," I started, "It's a two hour drive to grandpa's, and then we have to get the camp set up by the lake. We'd better get going pretty soon so I don't have to do any night driving."
"Yep," Dad said, "You and Sissy get going and I'll be up there when I can." "Make sure you keep your cell phones on and nearby so I can call you," he added.
"We will," Sissy stated, "We love you dad."
Dad hugged us both and then kissed Sissy as we got into the pickup. I carefully backed out of the driveway, and headed to grandpa's.
It actually took a little longer than two hours to get there. While I thought I was a good driver, I was being extra cautious driving dad's pickup. I was glad when we pulled into the old driveway.
The weather had gone from sunny and bright to overcast and threatened to storm. By the time we got the truck unloaded and the 4-wheeler packed, it had gotten downright cold and windy. Not wasting any time, I drove to the lake in record time. I'm sure I frightened Sissy along the way, but she never said a thing ... just sat behind me and held on tightly with her arms around my waist.
The rain started spitting just as we reached the camp site. Nothing hard, but enough that we knew what was coming.
"Look," I said as Sissy got off the ATV, "I'm going to get the tent set up first, right away. As soon as I get it done, you climb inside and I'll pass you the supplies."
"Roger that," she said using her favorite military acknowledgement.
The tent was a simple 3-man dome tent. Dad always preferred a smaller tent. He said it was easier to keep warm than one of those big monsters that are the size of a small house. It was also easier to set up.
Sissy and I had the tent poles out and slid them together; the elastic cord within them making the aluminum tubes a single piece. Then sliding the poles into sleeves sewn on the tent the dome took shape.
The rain which had been sporadic was now starting to come down pretty good. Not really heavy yet, but enough to get your attention.
Sissy climbed into the tent and I passed her the three sleeping bags. Once inside she started managing the tent space, rolling out the inflatable sleeping mattresses that went under the bags. I passed her the food and the lantern next. And I handed her my cell so that it wouldn't get wet.
The cooler with the drinks I left on the 4-wheeler ... it was waterproof anyways. By this time the rain was coming down really hard, and I hadn't even staked down the tent yet. I grabbed the tent stakes and walked around the tent and shoved and stomped each into place, securing the tent to the ground. The last thing I had to do was get the rain cap attached.
The rain cap is a large tent shaped covering made for the tent that is waterproof. The tent without it will keep the rain out for the most part, but eventually it will start leaking in and then everything gets wet. With the rain cap in place we were guaranteed to stay dry.
I stretched the cap over the top of the dome and secured it to the base of the tent with the built in bungee cords. Then I extended the cap with two poles over the door of the tent that allowed you to open the door without getting wet. All was done.
By this time I was more than wet. I was sopping to the bone. Everything was drenched. And I was starting to feel it. I hadn't realized that the wind was blowing so hard. Even with Sissy in the tent, you could see it struggle to remain attached to the ground with the wind whipping about.
"Are you coming in," Sissy yelled over the sound of rain, wind, and thunder?
"R ... R ... Right now, " I stammered. I was shaking so hard I could barely talk. My fingers had gone numb. I was freezing and just couldn't make anything work.
Sissy, sitting just inside the dome looked out between the flashes of lightning and said, "Get your shoes off ... they are drenched."
"Okay," I stammered as I attempted to untie them.
"Just pull them off," Sissy yelled.
I pulled my shoes off and then with difficulty got my socks off as well, tossing them all into the stuff sack that I had tied to some bushes near the tent. I started inside.
"Not yet," Sissy said, "Get those wet clothes off too ... all of them, then come in here and I'll help you dry off.
Not in the mood to argue, I pulled off my t-shirt, jeans, and my boxers and stuffed them in the tent bag alongside my shoes. Being naked wasn't a big deal, Sissy and I had grown up seeing each other in our underwear, and on occasion unclothed entirely. We didn't stare or ogle each other when that occurred, rather we just accepted it as it was. And neither of us, I am sure, had any lecherous thoughts.
I then entered the tent though the door that Sissy had unzipped and then I collapsed on the sleeping bag that was still rolled up.
"Jesus," she said, "You're pale as an albino."
"I'm s ... s ... s ... sooooo cold," I replied trying to make my mouth work.
.... There is more of this story ...