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Lynna Clark: The Measuring Stick

As we started out onto his new pier, he turned and said, “Let me get my stick.”

“Are you expecting trouble?” I asked.

My daddy lives on Lake Norman. After mama died he moved there full time. What once was a summer cabin has now become his home. He’s turned it into such a nice place, and his view is amazing. Most evenings end with him on the porch swing watching the sunset over the water. I remember when he and mama went out on a limb to get the property way back before the area was developed. The land was overgrown and thick with briars. Many a weekend was spent clearing the property. Our reward as kids was to swim in the muddy water, but not until we’d been warned a thousand times to stay close to shore. We’d end the long day a copper-toned mud color, wore out and happy.

Gradually the place was decent enough to add a picnic table. Then one year they were able to build a pier. Finally we could jump off into the deep, clear water, swim around to the ladder, climb up and do it all over again. Oh what sweet exhaustion!

One summer daddy found a giant tractor tire inner-tube. We’d take turns tucking inside and rolling down the hill. Even better, that giant tube made a great float. We’d work and work to get four or five of us on it before it flipped over, flinging bodies across the water. After that got old, we figured out how to stand up on our giant float. Keeping balance by holding onto each other, waves would rock us until we could stand no longer.

Mama and daddy dreamed for a long while about building. He and a buddy drew up a plan on the back of a calendar, then began gathering supplies. When the house was finished we all praised God for a place to potty and change clothes. As grandchildren came along, we continued to gather there for cookouts, swimming, volleyball, horseshoes and softball. Daddy would kick the summer off by frying chicken in his giant cast-iron skillet over a campfire. His skill at getting the wood to burn at the perfect temperature was always amazing. Mama’s favorite holiday was July the Fourth with fireworks across the water as we listened to the radio blast patriotic tunes. Waving tiny flags in time with the music, we thought our summers would always hold such fun. Memories stacked on top of memories, joys on top of joys, the lake house was always home base.

However, families, like seasons, change. The kids have scattered like leaves on a stiff, cold wind. Our gatherings are fewer and farther between. We drove up to see daddy one sunny winter day. The lake sparkled beautifully beyond the new pier. He had replaced the top one board at a time, using screws instead of nails so that it would be even sturdier. Five screws per board, it was amazing. Who does work like that anymore? As we walked out, he carried his stick so he could measure the depth of the water by the floating section. “It’s dropped six inches since Thursday,” he observed.

Memories flooded back as I looked at this man I love with all my heart. Thank you Daddy for giving our family a home base all these many years. Thank you so much for the wonderful memories. The measuring stick of time reminds me often how rare and beautiful days with loved ones really are.

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