The weather changes in a flash. One afternoon winter sunlight low in the sky is magnified too brightly and beams directly into the glass porch off the lake. The next the temperature drops thirty degrees, wind chimes dong coppery, and everything is gray—gray sky, gray water, gray trees, gray cottages, gray geese flying and honking—everything that is except the white caps on top of shuffling waves and foam rickracking across the surface.
It was November like this the first weekend we spent at the cottage with oaks on the hill black-striping the view down to the lake. I was seven and it was 1963. Grandpa had bought the house for Mom and us kids so we would have a place in case something happened to Dad. We owned no home as the parsonage belonged to the church.
There was no TV here that first weekend, but there was a radio, and from it we learned that President Kennedy had been shot. After that Dad decided to take us all home early so we could watch things unfold on the black and white TV.
Of course something eventually did also happen to Dad, and to Mom, Grandpa, our brother, uncles, aunts and our one cousin from Virginia who visited the lake with us in 1966. We euphemistically held their deaths at arm’s length of some future day: Something will happen. Now their frozen faces smile at us from photographs on the fridge, knotty pine walls and shelves.
This Thanksgiving weekend I read letters from the dead in the white scraps of waves. They keep coming and coming from the other side. I couldn’t keep them from coming if I tried. There is comfort in these letters that seem to say over and over, “It’s really all right that something has happened” as they slap and dissolve against our shore wall. Geese fly, honking, in the opposite direction, and the wind chimes are blown every which way imitating their flight, their sound, their life.