Up in the UP

We’ve spent the last week in my late father-in-law Joe Rovai’s house on Lake Au Train, which lies about three miles from Lake Superior between Marquette and Munising. The rest of our family unit included Mary and Patty, Lou’s sisters, Patty’s husband John, my daughter Honor and her husband John. We gathered for a memorial service for Joe at the tiny mission church he’s attended in Au Train for forty-odd years, and to tackle the dismal chore of emptying out the contents of a ninety one year life.

The citizens of the UP proudly call themselves Youpers, and revel in their stereotypes. Here’s an example on a postcard, available in any gift shop:

They love their hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and waterskiing. They eat pasties and drink beer. They talk a little funny — most Americans would say they talk Canadian (they end sentences with eh? more ofter than any Canadian I know) but to me the accent resembles that of the citizens of the province of Newfoundland — Newfies. And like the Newfies, they are the most generous,openhearted,openhanded, salt-of-the-earth folks you’ll ever meet. While I was walking in Munising with Honor and John the vibe was southern (although the temperature was decidedly northern) because passing strangers would say “Hi, how are you?”

Honor and John were looking for WiFi ,unavailable in the Hiawatha National Forest. When you run the largest tennis blog on the internet it sucks to be away during Wimbledon, but they came for Grandpa’s service anyway. May I mention here how much I love them? And John found WiFi in a second-hand bookstore/cafe and pulled up the stats at gototennisblog.com. At 11:00 am on the 24th of June 67,000 people were signed on to their site. Um, I’m gonna have to try harder here.

It sure is beautiful up there:

This is a view of the lake from the Casa Rovai.

Lake Superior at sunset.

The business with the bank, the lawyer, the appraiser and the realtor was work for the siblings and brother-in-law-John. But cleaning up and cleaning out the house was a Herculean task, that involved all of us over the course of a week. Joe kept every family photo from those of his parents to those of his grandchildren from last year’s Christmas cards. Going through those picture took forever, because of the “Oh, that’s Nonna! What year do you think it was?” Or “What year was it we took that trip to Colorado? ’63?’64? ” “God, those bridesmaid’s dresses were ugly!”

We came away with photos, twelve Limoges Bridal Wreath dinner plates, unused extension cords and dropcloths, odds and ends and lots of pix. When we arrived there  the cleanup and cleanout was intimidating, but working together we got it done. Then we sat down and talked about how terrific the house looked. Lou built it forty years ago, and it’s no rustic cabin, it’s a sophisticated house. It comes furnished, all appliances, an acre on a gorgeous lake with a patch of sandy beach and good fishing.

Speaking of fishing, my son-in-law John patched together two rods and reels from Joe’s tackle box , bought worms, and hit a neighbor’s dock or got up early and took the neighbor’s rowboat out onto a dawn-misty lake. His Dad took him out fishing when he was a kid in Kentucky, and he comes from a long line of Vietnamese fishermen. I have to mention that it rarely got above sixty degrees while we were there but John didn’t care and went for a swim. His in-laws started to have doubts about his sanity.

In better circumstances John might have decided to stay a week longer. He loves to fish. And he loves to play blackjack. The first night we were together we ate dinner at the Chippewa casino in Christmas, a town a few miles down MI 28, mostly in memory of Joe,who whiled away many the hour there at the nickel slots. It’s wittily designed on a Christmassy theme, the food’s good and Lou finally got to play blackjack, Here are snaps from dinner:

My sister-in-law Patty and her husband John.

My son-in-law John and my sister-in-law Mary.

Here’s a random shot of Honor drinking a Molson in the evening .

Honor John and Lou all won at the blackjack table that night. Two nights later they lost most of it back.

As for restaurants, ummmmm. The casino’s food was the best. But I have to say the ambiance was terrific at all of them, although I don’t think that there’s a restaurant in the UP that doesn’t serve baked potatoes in foil. You know what I mean. He’s a pic of a place called Foggy’s — low key, a bar with babies out with their parents, Tigers/Twins on TV and lots of fish mounted on the wall.

It was an intense week, but getting through it with family and grabbing every opportunity to be cheerful makes it another great memory.

Three bedrooms, two baths, two kitchens, two magnificent fireplaces lakefront property with the best neighbors — if you’re interested, let me know.

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7 Comments

Filed under Into the Mystic, The Great Outdoors, Travel, Worth it anyway

7 responses to “Up in the UP

  1. Alessandra

    Loved reading it Auntie M! Made me a little sad Grandpa’s not there anymore…

  2. Kim Shook

    That’s a big task, Miss Maggie, but an important one and sometimes (like this time) a loving one, too. I would imagine that the week ran the gamut of emotions (not those Kate Hepburn A to B ones, but the FULL gamut). You and Lou be kind to yourselves this week.

  3. absurdoldbird

    I enjoyed your post, even the sad bits (hugs, if you need them).

    What is it with the ‘eh’ that some Canadians attach to the end of sentences? I have a Canadian cousin who does that too, when I speak to her on the phone or when she visits, I never quite know what I’m supposed to say in response to an ‘eh’!

    Val

  4. Val, the eh seems interrogative, but it isn’t. It’s a national tic.

  5. Patty

    Often the most daunting tasks turn out to be shared loving moments to tuck away in our memories forever.

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