A story about a trip, and in a way, a letter to my grandma.
Have you ever wished you could do something again? Maybe something you hadn’t done in a long time? As we move through life, there are inevitably things we will look back on and wish we could do just one more time.
A few weeks ago, I attended my nephew’s birthday party. He was turning two and a good portion of the family was there and any time you get the family together, there is going to be a great deal of talking. At some point during the party, I thought I would show my grandma some of the photographs we took on our day trip to Duluth.
The beginning of my love for the North Shore
When I was younger – much younger – my grandparents would take me on summer vacations. In my immediate family, we didn’t take too many trips, but I always looked forward to a summer trip with my grandparents.
We had lots of fun on our little trips. Over the years, we would traveled to places like Wyoming, South Dakota and Canada, however, our most frequented destination was the North Shore of Minnesota.
As many Minnesotans can attest, it’s absolutely beautiful along the north shore of Minnesota. I’m positive that I’m not the only one who loved going up there as a kid. From the big boats, to the trains to just simply hiking along the lake and collecting stones, you can keep kids busy for hours up there. I look back and have to think that the main reason we went there so much was that they could keep me busy the whole time.
We camped when we went up there.
Yep, that’s me. I know, I know…nice socks. I was probably in 4th or 5th grade in the photo above.
Seriously though, camping along the north shore was fantastic. Our campsite always seemed to be near the entrance of the campground – close enough to hear the waves crashing along the lake shore at night. Close enough to cross the road and climb down the rocks to play in the lake. Close enough to Duluth to make a quick trip there in case a ship was coming in that I wanted to see.
In the photo above, that’s my grandpa carving up a piece of wood he found. He was probably making me a boat that I could play with in the lake.
I loved that camper. I loved going to Duluth with my grandparents. I’m still looking for a camper to use with my family so I can go on trips with them in much the same way.
There are many stories from our trips up there – ones that will be remembered for a long time. Like the time my grandpa drove down the wrong way of one-way streets, just so we could make it to the bridge in time to see a certain ship come in. Stories of where we stayed, campfires, Gooseberry Falls, and Split Rock Lighthouse. There’s even a story floating around that they took me to Canada, only to reach the border and say, “Ok, I’ve seen Canada, let’s go home.”
The stories are what makes up fond memories of our childhood.
Back at the party…
I had a thought pop in my head as I was sitting there talking with my grandma outside on my sister’s patio. I’d run home and grab my iPad that had all of the photos from our recent day trip to Duluth with Big Dude, Little Guy.
While I sat there and showed her the photos from our trip, she said something that stuck with me. ”Oh, I wish I could just rub my hands over those smooth rocks one more time.”
Now, when we used to go up to Duluth, that was something that my grandma would do. While I was worried about seeing ships come in and playing along the lake shore, she would look for the smoothest rocks she could find.
So I had a thought – we needed to find a way to get my grandma back to Duluth as soon as possible. My grandma is 97 years old and it had been a really long time since she had been there.
At work, we have a program called “Dreams Can Come True”. It’s basically a program that tries to make our residents “dreams” come true. Maybe it was a ride in an airplane or motorcycle or maybe it was in a limo. Maybe it was something big like wishing for world peace. Whatever the dream was, we tried to make it come true. Sometimes with great success, sometimes we had to modify. Either way, these people had things they still wanted to do in life, but they hadn’t really told anyone, not even their families.
If I was advocating for our Dreams program, I needed to advocate for my grandma’s desire to just “feel how smooth those rocks are again.”
When I brought it up with my sister and mom, they agreed, we had to get her there before it got too cold to go.
So this past Tuesday, we were up early and ready to go.
When my mom picked my Grandma up, she didn’t tell her where we were going that day – only that we were going on a day trip.
In fact, we didn’t tell her until we were almost half way there. She was surprised and kept worrying about us taking a day off for her.
We arrived in Duluth about 1 pm and figured it only made sense to eat lunch at Grandma’s in Canal Park.
My grandma and I eating lunch
After lunch we walked around a bit by the lighthouse on the pier.
Me, my grandma and my sister
Walking along the lift bridge; my sister, grandma and mom
Then we loaded back up in the car and headed for Split Rock Lighthouse.
We made a stop past the old campground – which is now a site for town homes.
As we drove up the north shore, she would comment on how much things have changed. The biggest change being the tunnels. If you’re from Minnesota, you may remember having to drive the road before the tunnels. I know there were a couple of times my grandma or grandpa would make comments about how tight they were hanging on as we went around the corners. It was a long drop down to the lake!
We continued along until we arrived at the Lighthouse. Last fall, Angie and I came across the road that leads to the campgrounds along the lake shore. It’s an easy access from the parking lots below to get down to the lake shore. I figured this would be the best way to get my grandma down there.
As we walked down the path and rounded the corner, you could hear the excitement in all of us.
There was the lake – huge rocks, small rocks, water crashing against the shore. It was all there. If there was one drawback, it was the lack of sun. In Duluth, it was there, but by the time we reached the lighthouse, it was basically gone.
So we set up a chair on the rocks where my grandma could sit and look out on the water. While she sat, we went around and picked up the smoothest rocks we could find.
As we would bring her the rocks, she would take care to examine each one. First how it looked, then how smooth it was.
It was a cool moment for each of us.
For some reason, it all lined up.
She made the comment in early September and just a few short weeks later, she was sitting along the lake shore doing exactly what she had dreamed of doing.
We stayed for about an hour or so before we decided it was too cold to stay.
As we walked back to the car, my grandma said “I never thought that after we brought you up here, that you would be the one taking ME to Duluth!”
I hadn’t really thought of it that way. My only thought when she mentioned it was making the trip happen.
But think about that from your standpoint. What are you doing with your kids or maybe your grand kids that they will be taking you to see or do when you get older? If we’d all think about it from that stand point, would our kids know what’s important in our lives? Would they know our favorite places in the world and try to help us get back there?
Before leaving Duluth, we stopped by one of the stores in Canal Park for a caramel apple to split between the four of us and to Caribou Coffee for a hot apple cider. It was a great way to end the day and warm up again!
We talked quite a bit on the way home. A lot of it was about the day and how much fun we had while there. One thing kept coming up – how much change she has seen since she last visited Duluth.
Sure there’s been a lot of change, there always is. But one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for the North Shore and everything about it. I’ll always remember the trips that my grandma and grandpa took me on up there.
In the end, it couldn’t have worked out any better. We all had a great time and we were able to make her dream come true.
Thanks for being awesome grandma!