“They left, have they have gone?” I asked myself. A ten-year-old in a campground at Indiana Dunes State Park, I was at our campsite for the week, but it was now vacant. As I spun in a circle, I recognized the neighboring campers we had befriended. Convinced I was at the right place, I sat on the picnic table and waited for my family to return.
My parents, three brothers, and I had arrived a few days before to camp, hike, and swim in Lake Michigan. We were expert travelers and my twin brother, and I were “explorers.” Upon arrival at any campsite, we’d jump from the 1963 Chevy station wagon and scout the surrounds. In a while, we would report our findings to our parents.
We expressed our assessment of the area along with our highlights of the features we enjoyed best. It was a time when children’s parents could allow them to roam more.
Upon arrival, while wandering a short distance from our campsite, we discovered a sign pointing toward the beach. We trekked the trail to a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Magnificent sand and water lay twenty stories below us. Our jaws dropped at the size of the lake as the waves ebbed in and out.
Excited, we ran down the hill and even rolled part of the way. We found returning uphill was much more difficult. Trudging upwards on the sand while barefoot was exhausting. But we made the trip to the beach many times during our stay.
We had a blast of a week and didn’t want to leave. On our last day, Mother yielded to our begging and agreed to one more late morning swim. She said they would pick us up as they were leaving.
For a reason which I can’t recall, my twin and I returned to the camp early. We left our older brothers on the beach and began the arduous climb. About three-quarters of the way to the top, my brother turned and ran back. He yelled something, which I didn’t understand. Though I peered through squinting eyes, I couldn’t make out anything without my glasses. I later learned he’d seen our family station wagon from where we’d just come.
Not wanting to waste my climbing effort, I continued the short distance to the top and strolled the trail toward the campground. Upon arriving, I discovered it vacant. So, I sat on the picnic table, waiting for my parents to return.
Soon, the campsite neighbors realized my predicament and began to question me. After explaining my decision to wait, they came up with a better plan (so they thought). The wife encouraged her husband to take me to the ranger station and report me as lost. I knew where I was, I just didn’t know where my family was. But, being a child, I yielded to the adult.
The well-intentioned camper drove me to the camp office. It was when he left, I felt lost for the first time. So, there I stood in my swimming suit at a large window. I stared at the road between the campground and the beach waiting for our blue car to appear. After a while, being just ten years old, I began to question whether my parents would find me.
“What would become of me?” I visualized our Chevy station wagon and travel trailer zooming further away toward home. My father would say, “Well, I’m glad we have three other boys.” I imagined my mother responding, “Maybe we should have looked a while longer.”
But then, I saw the familiar car approaching, and I bolted to catch them before they passed. I yelled, and Dad braked hard. He heard me through the open window of the not-air-conditioned vehicle. I opened the door and jumped inside the family car. Once safe, relief replaced my fears. For the first time since lost, I began to cry. My brothers teased me, but Mom shushed them as she comforted me.
Now, my mother has Alzheimer’s, and I comfort her. The last whispers of her memories are slipping from her, and she’s lost. She doesn’t recognize her bedroom in my home though family photos adorn her dresser and walls. The faces smiling from those glass-covered portraits are all strangers to her.
She stares at the framed glass with the same anxious expression I had at the window of the Ranger Station. I wish I could pull up in the old Chevy wagon and motion for her. The fog would lift from her eyes, and a smile burst forth as she ran to me. But, she’s lost, and I can’t find her.
For we know… if the earthly tent our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. II Corinthians 5:1 NASB
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. II Corinthians 5:1 NASB