Editor’s Letter – October 2010


Heart pounding, I shut off my car behind a familiar small white cottage on Wawasee Lake in Indiana. June sunshine smiled thinly through a cloud haze as I opened my door.

I had been on my way to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the summer, and stopped in Ft. Wayne, Indiana to see a girlfriend. Before I turned north to Grand Rapids, I aimed my station wagon west on State Road 6 to see my elderly aunt. I told Auntie I’d be there about 4:00.   It’s not even 2:00 and I’m only a few miles from The Lake.  I’ll just stop by and see who’s home.

I knew my first love, Bob, wouldn’t be there. Before I published “Broken Hearted,” my story about us in July 2010, I found Bob’s email address and sent him that bit of “our story.” I asked permission to tell the tale in Ninepatch and use his name. He agreed and helped me correct the dates and event chronology. In a later e-mail, I asked Bob if he’d be in Indiana while I was in summering in Michigan. He’d written, “I’m in Phoenix and won’t be back to Indiana.”

So why go to his family’s cottage?

To prove I could.

For too many years, I didn’t have the courage. After our star-crossed “separation” in 1961, I tried to drive the road to his family’s summer place. Railroad tracks marked the end of Syracuse Lake where my folks rented and the beginning of Wawasee Lake where his family owned a cottage.  After I crossed the rails, my steering wheel would not turn toward his lake.
Later, after many years had scabbed over our aborted elopement, I hoped the wound had healed.  More than one summer I had made the left turn and rumbled along the winding road that led out to his family cottage. But, before I reached the last few curves, panic hit. I’d breathe fast, feel light-headed, and at times shake.  What’s wrong with me? Crying at being so weak, I’d turn the car around and sniffle back home.

This year as miles carried me closer to The Lake, I felt strong. What can happen? Bob’s not there.   But my heart still pounded when I reached the small white bungalow.
Here I go! I stepped out of my car, took a deep breath and walked up to the back stoop. The screen was closed, but the door inside was open, so I peered in and hollered, “Yoo-hoo!”
No one replied. I’ve come this far… go look out front. Someone could be on the pier.  I walked along the side of the little house. Fine shade grass was soft underfoot and a green damp odor met me. I stopped when I saw the water — wide and blue beyond the empty pier. The Lake!  Far out, sailboats glided.  I heard the gentle luk-luk as waves bounced on the concrete sea wall.

Lake days of my teens flashed through my mind. No time for that now. I need courage, not memories.  I turned to the front deck and stepped up. I looked through the open glass slider’s screen. Again I hollered, “Yoo-hoo!”

No answer.

I did it! I drove here and faced the cottage. No one is home, I’ll just go.

But as I retraced my steps to the car, a bicyclist rode up on the grass — a blond man I did not recognize.  He raised his eyebrows at me and I returned the gesture.  He’s not a Macgruder. Bob has sisters. Who is he? Aloud I asked, “Are you married to a Macgruder?”

“Yes, I am.”

About then, a blond woman rode her one-speed bike up behind him. A query was in her look, too. “I’m Fritzie…” I paused, wondering how anyone might remember me. Fritzie Ridenoure? Bob’s old girlfriend?

“Oh. Hi, Fritzie!” said the woman. “I’m Cheryl.”

Bob’s youngest sister!   I remembered her fifty years earlier. Bob and I had been out on a date and he’d come home for something. He’d said, “Come on in! I’ll just be a minute.”

“I’ll wait here,” I said, embarrassed. We’d been kissing — a lot — and I knew the state of my makeup would tell the story.

“No. Come on in.”

“I don’t have any lipstick!”  I complained.

Getting out of the car, he repeated, “Come on!”

I had blinked in the light of the house and waited self-consciously by the back door.  That’s when I saw Cheryl. Blond curls framed her ten-year-old face as she peeked at me from the doorway of a small bedroom she shared with her older sister.

Though that was ages ago, as I faced the two people, I felt again like my makeup was smeared. I’m in it now! My nervous chatty self appeared. “I just stopped by to say ‘Hi.’  I’ve come up from Florida where I live. Up there on Road 6, I was so close to The Lake I thought I’d just drive around and see if anyone I knew was home.” Cheryl nodded and I continued. “I am going to New Paris to see Aunt Deanie and then on to Michigan later today.”

“Well, come in and visit a minute.”  Cheryl waved at the man who was parking the bikes closer to the back porch. “This is my husband, Greg. I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

I haven’t been here in a long time, either.

After an easy fifteen minute chat in the still familiar living room, I got back into my loaded station wagon and returned to Road 6. Finally! I drove the whole way to Bob’s and even talked to a Macgruder!

Courage helped me turn an old emotional corner.


Frances Fritzie, Editor

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