Reviving a Dying Friend

We didn’t know what to expect when the motor idled down and the pontoon boat bellied up to the dock. Laurie jumped out and secured the front line. Her husband, Ken, steadied the boat and my father stepped ashore, mindfully planting one foot on the waterlogged dock before committing to lift his other foot off the boat.
It reminded me of the time a few years back, when I took my father to see his old friend, Jonas, an Amish farmer who he hadn’t seen in probably a quarter-century. Both were in their mid 80s.
On this day, my brother Jeff and I had taken my father to be reunited with another old friend, Whip-Poor-Will Lodge. We stopped going there five years ago, when it became apparent that the new owner was running it into the ground. Dad had been going there for many years. For him, it was a special, if not sacred, place — as it had become for my brother and me when we started going there with him seven or eight years ago.
“It’s like watching an old friend die,” he said at the time.
We didn’t have the stomach to watch Whip-Poor-Will Lodge die a slow death. We went elsewhere for our yearly father-son fishing trips, other lodges in central Ontario.
In November, Whip-Poor-Will changed hands and, because it had gone into the Canadian equivalent of foreclosure, the name had to be changed. It’s now Dollars Lake Island Resort. The one-acre island has a long way to go until it’s worthy of being called a resort. And plenty of dollars.
The wooden dock, which had been so well-maintained, remains solid but the boards show telltale signs of rot. The maintenance dock has been stripped of its deck. The cabins look to be structurally sound, but sadly in need of a facelift.
What hit us the hardest was the desolation. It was mid August and the lodge we had known and loved should have shown signs of life — a reassuring undercurrent of activity, lights on in the kitchen window, happy voices, a fishing boat idling at the dock. But there was nothing. Nothing save for a few rods and fishing tackle strewn along the edge of the dock.
After we surveyed the dock near the bait shed — the place where my father, brother and I nursed our morning coffee all those years — Ken and Laurie led us up the rock walkway to the dining hall.
We stepped inside to find a reassuring sign: The kitchen floor had been ripped out, exposing the sub flooring. A work in progress, a ray of hope.
Inside the dining room, where we had lingered over meals and small talk, the new owners had set up a Whip-Poor-Will Lodge shrine on a long table.
Among the items on display was a stack of small plaques that read “Your mission statement — Relax.”
The previous owners, the good ones, had posted them in each cabin. To me, that message became a mantra for the week we spent there. Anytime I found myself distracted by thoughts of work or other stray concerns, those words would snap me out of it.
The previous owners made it clear that this was their mission, to create a place where your only obligation was to relax.
Apparently, the owner who had run the place into the ground misinterpreted that message, thinking it applied to him. He’d sit at his computer playing games or buzz the island on his jet ski, leaving the guests and the infrastructure to fend for themselves.
Ken and Laurie have the monumental task of atoning for his sins. Removing the bad karma will be the easy part. Reviving the infrastructure will require a tremendous investment of time, labor and money. Perhaps harder still will be reviving or creating the atmosphere that made the island a magical place for all of us guests.
Only time will tell if they succeed.
But, as my favorite Canadian, Red Green, would say, “Remember, I’m pulling for you — because we’re all in this together.”

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Dad and the new lodge owners, Ken and Laurie Terreberry, talk about the lodge — past and present — over coffee in the dining hall.

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My father and brother check out memorabilia at a shrine of sorts set up in the dining room.

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One thought on “Reviving a Dying Friend

  1. Pingback: Canadian Odyssey – Part Four | IRV OSLIN

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