From the Sept. 15, 1989 Just a Thought column by Arthur Railton:
Well, we did it. Survived the summer, that is. The hardest part of living at a summer resort is getting through the summer. It ain’t easy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the sunshine, the sailing, the beaches. It’s the special events that get me: the concerts, the benefits, the auctions, the exhibitions. Having all that fun is exhausting and my stamina’s not what it used to be.
It takes all the imagination I can muster to invent reasons why I can’t attend. How many times can you sprain your ankle in one summer? My quota of sprained ankles is always used up by July 4th.
It’s not only those benefit concerts and celebrity receptions that make summer hard to get through. There are those invitations to “stop by for a drink.” I enjoy a drink as much as the next guy, maybe more, but I like it sitting down. Drinking is something serious, a time to meditate, a time to free up your mind. To let those big thoughts surface.
With my drink, I don’t like a lot of chatter, chatter about how the Island is being ruined, or how much somebody paid for the house down the street, or how hard it is to find a plumber, or get rid of noisy neighbors.
After a few minutes of that I’m ready for a double and a seat. But a seat is as hard to find at a cocktail party as free parking at the fair.
Exhausting, too, are those surprise visitors who just drop in. They’re on the Island on vacation and think I’m bored. After all, what is there for a retired man to do on an Island?
“We’re the Wedderspoons. We’re neighbors of your cousin Mary in Peoria and she told us to be sure to look you up when we got here. She was sure you’d love to show us your Island.”
When you live in a summer resort, you’re not supposed to have a vacation. At least not in the summer. You are expected to take your time off in January or February when nobody thinks of dropping in to keep you from being bored. But summer is different.
There are responsibilities that come with summer. Responsibilities like being social director for your family, including your Peoria cousin’s neighbors.
The biggest challenge each summer is lining up activities for a tribe of lovable, energetic grandchildren. Here for two weeks or so, they’re eager to cram every minute of every day with hustle.
Even before they arrive, there are things to do, like making sure the boats are in the water. And the grass is mowed so they won’t pick up a tick. And the fence is up so little Johnny won’t wander off. And the kitchen is stocked with the right kind of cereals (which you end up eating after they’re gone) and the refrigerator has the right kind of beer (there’s never any of that left).
Then what to do when they get here? What they want is always strenuous. They don’t understand why I’m not as eager as they are to pile into the car and head for the beach, or the fireworks, or the movies. They don’t understand why staying home in a quiet house can be fun. How can you expect them to?
What? You’re not going swimming with us? Or, why don’t you come jogging? We’re only running a couple of miles. Or, if we hurry we can just make the late movie. Put the dishes in to soak. What? You’d rather do the dishes than see Batman? What’s wrong with you, Granddad?
When the fog rolls in or it starts to rain, that’s the real test. How to keep the energetic gang from breaking up the house. Jigsaw puzzles work for a while. Coloring books, games, cards. All good for a few minutes. In desperation, you whip up a batch of popcorn and it’s gone before you put the butter back in the icebox. What do we do now, Granddad?
They get stronger every year and you get weaker. How can you expect them to realize that? It’s exhausting being a grandparent, running a summer camp for grandchildren. You start counting the days. When did they say they were leaving?
So why is it that when they begin loading the car to leave, there’s a lump in your throat? And when they hug you so hard you know they don’t want to let go, how come there’s a tear in your eye? And after you stand in the driveway waving goodbye as the loaded car disappears down the road, why is it so hard to go back into the quiet house?
You pick up the crayons, the toys, the coloring books. Take down the crib and let the air out of the spare mattress. And you try to act relieved. It’s your house again, back to peace and quiet. It’s your turn now. It’s your vacation.
Then as you pour yourself a drink, the phone rings.
“Hello . . . Who? . . . Cliff Hicks? Of course, I remember. Long time no see — it must be 25 years . . . Chicago, wasn’t it? What are you doing these days? . . . Traveling, eh? Visiting old friends? . . . You thought you might stop by . . . Lots to talk about . . . Yeah, September is nice on the Island, we love it. The crowds are gone, most of them . . . Oh, you’re in Woods Hole . . . The next ferry? Of course, I can’t wait to see you. Yeah, I can leave right away. See ya. Bye.”
I wonder how we’d like living in Omaha.
Compiled by Alison L. Mead