27 / 365 – Young and Old

PAM TILLARY

Tom is off to Lake of the Woods to ice fish. Same weekend every year, all the guys from the plant go. It’s only guys, I’m pretty sure, even though Lizabeth Haraldsen is the head of purchasing. I don’t think she goes. I don’t think she’d want to go, I don’t think. She doesn’t speak to us anymore anyway. I’ve never asked about it. I’ve always imagined it like a bunch of guys pretending they’re in college again. I don’t want to know the details.

Where I grew up, there was a lake like Lake Vermillion. More woods around it, though, since it was in Wisconsin. My Dad took me out to his hut a few times. Mostly it was just guys that went out and fished, but my dad wasn’t like a lot of other dads, mostly spending his time with his sons. He liked to say, “Get too many guys together, just guys, and all you have is a big group of stupid.” I think he had been kind of a loner growing up. But that was great for me because it meant I got to do a lot of things growing up — hunting, fishing, camping — that girls I knew didn’t do. If my dad were around now, he’d be one of those guys with a little hut out on Lake Vermillion. Sometimes in the winter when I drive out that way I see those huts out there and I think of him.

Tom asked Finn if he wanted to go. Finn said he had to work, which probably wasn’t the thing to say. Just another reminder of what does he think he’s doing with his life? He got that great education and now he’s flipping eggs and burgers in a little town in North Dakota? After Tom left, I asked him why he hadn’t gone and he said, ‘That’s the last place I’d want to be right now.’ And then he said, ‘Besides, I did my duty. I did both hunting trips.’ At this rate they won’t be speaking to each other at all in a few months.

It’s strange in a way because Finn reminds me so much of his father, back when I met him. Smart, funny, a guy with a lot of heart. They’re so alike in those ways, and yet Finn seems like he can’t stand to be in the room with his father. When they argue I feel like I’m looking at the younger Tom arguing with the older Tom and saying he doesn’t like him. I wonder, if Tom had been able to say into the future, all those years ago when we met, if he’d looked at himself and said that, ‘I don’t like you.’ Maybe that’s part of getting into middle age, we have to grow into ourselves and understand ourselves. From a distance, from youth, maybe we don’t look very good.

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