Many years ago, right before I was ordained as an elder, my parents bought a cottage at Lakeside. Mom had been coming to Annual Conference for years, and she figured if we were both going to be up there, it might be good to have a cottage. Mom and Dad bought the cottage in 1983, and we have indeed stayed in it every year for Annual Conference.
At first Mom and Dad used the cottage for rental income. They could only use it two weeks out of the season, so we would use it one week for conference and they would come up another week for vacation. After Dad retired, they started coming up for the entire season – usually Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Lakeside is a gated Chautauqua community. There are programs during the summer – lectures on different weekly subjects, concerts in the evenings, fireworks down on the dock. There are programs for the children, including a staffed playground, so the kids can find something they enjoy. A recent addition (I wish they had when John was little) is a splash park where the little kids run around through fountains and climb on frogs and fish that squirt them. Of course, there is also a beach on Lake Erie, but I have never actually been able to bring myself into swimming in the Lake.
The cottage at Lakeside has been home base during Annual Conference for a lot of years. When John was young, he and Tom would come up with me for the week. They would have adventures all week long while Mom and I went to conference sessions. After a while Mom stopped being a member to conference so she could join them on their adventures. Once Mom and Dad started staying in Lakeside for the entire season, the other grandchildren came up for times of adventure with Grandma and Grandpa.
Two weeks (not Annual Conference weeks) stand out in particular for me. Eight years ago we all spent a week at Lakeside with Mom and Dad to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Last year everyone in the family came for a weekend to celebrate Dad’s 80th birthday. Both weeks we played games, ate, took walks to the dock, played shuffleboard and miniature golf, ate, sang, went to programs, ate – and celebrated. They were wonderful times of being a family together as we celebrated. And the cottage served as home base for all of us as we came and went.
But this last week is probably my final week at the cottage. Mom and Dad are getting older and decided it was time to sell the cottage. The grandkids are too big and too busy to spend adventure weeks with Grandma and Grandpa at the lake. No matter how much we love a thing, the time to use it can come to an end.
Mom and Dad listed the cottage on a Thursday. Thursday night they had their first offer, which was too low. Saturday they had an offer they accepted. The papers were signed and faxed. Their last day in the cottage will be June 29. My last day there was yesterday. We are all a little sad – we loved the times we spent at the cottage together.
We cannot live in the past, and my parents are wonderful models of living in the present and looking forward to the future. The important thing about the cottage wasn’t the cottage – it was the time we spent together – and we can do that anyplace.
This makes it easier to say goodbye to the cottage. It is just a place. The important thing to remember is that we still have each other and our fun times together are not over – they have just changed location!