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Retirement’s Comic Relief: Colossal lake chaos is family adventure

As children my sister and I, along with seven cousins and their parents, converged on our Grandparents’ 722-square-foot home from time to time. The house was so small there was room enough for only one person to occupy the kitchen if the refrigerator had to be opened. And, doing so if the oven door was likewise open was impossible.

Whenever mealtime approached, one of us kids was always sent to find Grandpa Sommers and let him know it was time to eat. The first place to look was in the cold, dank, dark basement of the house, where he sat in solitude to escape the mayhem upstairs. He didn’t know what he was missing. Or, maybe he did.

Two of our daughters joined Rita and me at our small cabin last summer. Along with them they brought a fiance, husband and another young couple in addition to four youngsters ages two or less — each in persistent need of clean diapers. Toys, tote bags, half-empty water bottles, spit up, clothes, abandoned dirty dishes and more were scattered across Kingdom Come. It appeared as if a tornado had just passed through. The refrigerator was so over-packed with chow, it was nearly impossible to close its door as a multi-generational conga-line continuously danced through the kitchen rummaging for a snack. What’s more, there was a lot of crying. Mine.

Our son-in-law brought an inflatable, multi-section wading pool to entertain the kids. An air compressor was called to task for inflation of its seven different air chambers before he positioned it in the yard, closely followed by his two-year-old son. Before a water hose to fill the pool could arrive, our grandson jumped on its rim and popped the tube. The carcass of what was intended to provide a few minutes of toddler splashes and adult respite remained in the yard while the sun baked the lawn underneath to a crisp.

By morning, two-month-old Carter needed a bath. With just showers and no tubs at the lake, the dirty-dish side of a two-basin kitchen sink served as the tub — preserving the clean side where washed breakfast plates dried. It wasn’t long before Carter’s saved up urine rained down on the clean dishes like one of Kansas City’s famed Country Club Plaza fountains.

Then our pool-popping prodigy focused on his future try-out as a Minnesota Twins pitcher. Despite a lecture of “No Throwing,” any item capable of being hoisted above his head was heaved in every direction, where it remained to trip me while passing through. Whenever one of the kids skinned a knee, stubbed a toe or pinched a finger in the door, “You’re fine” was the extent of sympathy offered by parents.

After a gluttonous dinner of burgers, smoked ribs and brisket with green or fruit salads and four dessert options, all retired to the fire pit. No time at the lake is complete without s’mores roasted over an open flame. This includes, of course, the obligatory nuclear marshmallow meltdown challenge, where each ball of sugar is torched into what eventually mimics a lump of Santa’s coal moments before it drips as sticky goo onto river-rock stones below. Overnight, raccoons fought to see which could lick the rocks clean as evidenced by sticky charcoaled critter footprints covering the deck. One by one, the miniature wrecking crew was packed off for bed.

Early the last day, Rita and I thought we would enjoy a quiet morning soak in the hot-tub, only to find the temperature was cranked somewhere near boiling. In addition, the previous day’s occupants, thoroughly basted with sunscreen, mosquito repellant and lotions, had converted water into a milk-bath. Instead of a soak, I scooped dog poop scattered over the yard by three grand-dogs. My blood pressure medicine needed some adjustment.

I understand Grandpa’s hideout strategy better now. Although our cabin’s crawl space might seem tempting at times, I much prefer doing my part for family chaos at the lake.

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