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Boston Public Library, Algonquin Hotel, Bolton Landing, on Lake George, NY
Four days after Sandy, Shucard's parents are in good humour, very brave and very glad to see him—and unsure if he's taking them to Bolivia, Azerbaijan or Canada.
Well, I drive down to New Jersey on Saturday November 3rd, four days after Hurricane Sandy, to rescue my aged parents from the cold and darkness. They are very frail now, just skin and bones, their minds here and there, the freezer leaking melted ice cream all over. Needless to say, they are glad to see me. My sister has been looking in on them, but she is in the cold and darkness herself with a huge tree down on her house. Luckily, my father’s love of antiques includes oil lamps and we light half a dozen of these, place them around the dining room and have a pleasant dinner of roasted chicken, some salads and a pumpkin pie I’d bought from a supermarket in New York state and brought along.
They are in good humour and very brave, having survived four days without Judge Judy and all their friends on Crime Scene. After dinner, I re-enact a somewhat surreal performance of the Fred Allen radio show (complete with a guest song from Fanny Brice) for their entertainment, and then get them packed up the best I can. I’m not sure in the dark if the pajama tops and bottoms match or if they really have what they need, or want, but at least the valises are full. All their various medications we pack separately. And, they have their passports. My mother, who suffers from dementia, asks me about three hundred times where we are going. I answer three hundred times that she has to guess from three choices: Bolivia, Azerbaijan or Canada. She scores 100 percent. Then I go over to the neighbours’ to ask them to pick up the mail while my parents are away, and I give them a house key to look in on things once the power is restored. Of course, the neighbours are in the dark too. We chat for a while about the devastation and then I’m suddenly tired.
Now it’s morning and we’re ready to go. It’s a beautiful sunny day and the roads are free of traffic. We stop for breakfast, we stop for lunch. We listen to Mozart string quartets as we pass through Albany and Saratoga. My mother is in the back seat half asleep, probably still wondering where she is going, but her eyesight is sharp and her hearing is fine. My father sits with me in the front seat, twenty years old, flying his Piper Cub, and then we come to Lake George, where my parents stopped on their way to Quebec City on their honeymoon in June of 1949. My father remembers that they stayed at a charming place at Bolton Landing, where they went boating and were, I’m sure, very much in love.
My father starts describing the place and how much they enjoyed it, and I suggest we turn off and go on a search, and see if by some chance it’s still there after sixty-three years. So off we go.
It’s about a five-mile drive from the highway to the village, which consists of a main street of charming cafés and boutiques, and guest houses along the lakeshore. We drive along slowly, but he doesn’t seem to recognize anything. He describes a large hotel/restaurant right on the water, with boat docks out front. I can see that my father is very keen on finding this place, it’s obviously very special to him, so I pull into the local market and he and I go in to see if anyone can help. The market employees are only kids and they have no idea what this ninety-year-old guy with a week’s worth of beard is talking about.
At that moment the manager appears, a gentle soul, maybe forty-five, and she listens attentively and asks some questions. The problem is my father can’t remember the name of the place. He describes the location and the boat rentals, and then says there were some little tree-covered islands they rowed out to. Ah ha, now we’re getting somewhere. The store manager tells us where to look. We drive about a mile down the road outside the village to a place now called Chick’s Marina. Things have changed quite a lot over the years, I’m sure, but there’s a big grey building with an overhanging second floor, and the boat docks are still there and so are the little islands, just offshore.
My father’s eyes light up. He turns to my mother and says, I think this is it. She, who can’t remember anything further away than one second in the past, replies: It was white then.