My father passed away three years ago at the age of 94. He was a lifelong adventurer; Whether being a Merchant Marine in WWII or stationed in Korea, hitchhiking across the United States or traveling to the Great Wall of China in retirement. He led teenage boys from Camp DeWitt on canoe trips into the uncharted deep woods and rivers of Quebec and dragged a 26-foot camper behind an aging station wagon with his young family from coast to coast to coast. He loved to pull off the highway in the Sierra Nevada’s to appreciate a view, marvel at the Terracotta Army in Qin Shi Huang China and appreciate the classic romantic architecture of Saint Petersburg. My father was the definition of wanderlust.
I requested and received a small portion of my father’s remains after his passing. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them except to put some in a necklace. It was my keepsake for good luck as well as keep him with me wherever I went. I had a trip to New Hampshire to support my then boyfriend on his hike of the Appalachian Trail. I decided to take some of my dad’s ashes to leave pieces of him in some of the memorable places of his life (and some of my life as well).
These are some of the places where I left a piece of my Daddy:
The Cove at Camp DeWitt
Camp DeWitt is a boy’s camp that my father was the Waterfront Director every summer from the mid-1960’s through the 1970’s. My father stood on the beach overseeing the sunfish sailboats, canoes and kayaks and countless life preservers while teenage boys, including my brothers, cycled through different activities throughout the camp. My mother and I lounged, tanned and swam in the crystal-clear waters of the lake. Camp DeWitt was sold some years ago and now has elegant homes along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. When I think of my happiest, most serene, carefree moments of my childhood, they are on that beach. The most frightening moment would be an errant crayfish or not putting on enough sun screen. I left a piece of my father on the beach of the former cove of Camp DeWitt.
The Statues of Major General Sedgwick
General Sedgwick is a family ancestor who fell at Spotsylvania in the Civil War whose famous last words were “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” My father wrote his Master’s Thesis on John Sedgwick and we did countless trips to Gettysburg where there is a stunning statue of Sedgwick on horseback on Sedgwick Drive. Over the last few years since my dad passed, I’ve traveled to the monument where Sedgwick fell in Spotsylvania, the statue of Sedgwick at West Point where legend has it that a cadet who spins the spurs on boots of the statue at midnight, wearing full parade dress gray will have good luck on his or her final exam, and to his equestrian statue at Gettysburg. I left pieces of my father at each monument.
My father spent his teenage years attending boarding schools thanks to his beloved Aunt Sadie. Growing up in a broken home during the depression and moving countless times, Hoosac school was a safe haven for my dad. He played football, wrestled and sung in the choir in this remote prep school in upstate New York, just spitting distance from Vermont. As I was driving to New Hampshire and was trying to avoid the traffic in the greater metropolitan area of Boston, my circuitous route took me, serendipitously through Hoosac New York. There I was driving alone and looking at the GPS when it showed that I was on Hoosac Road as I headed towards Vermont. I felt like my father was willing me towards this prep school that I had only heard stories of and had never seen. Sure enough, the sign for the school was along the road and I drove on campus. There at the top of a hill and at the base of the bell that I’m sure my father heard daily as a teenager, I left a piece of my father.
Last fall, I traveled to the coast of Maine in the fall to see the changing foliage and to see where my parent’s relationship began. My parents met aboard The Adventure, a schooner that traveled the islands and coves of Penobscot Bay, my mother as a guest and my father as crew. As we drove into the quaint town of Camden, there was a lone parking space available on the crowded streets right in front of a sign for daily schooner tours out of Camden harbor. It felt like a sign that I needed to get on one of the boats. The next day I did, and even though it was cloudy and windless, I imaged my parents meeting in that boat some 65 years earlier; the prologue written that summer when my father turned 30 and met the woman of his dreams. I left a piece of my father in Penobscot Bay.
There have been other places along my travels to scatter pieces of my dad, Longwood Gardens where my father proposed to my mother, the top of Mount Washington, Goat Rock on the Sonoma Coast, Mount Rainer, and his headstone at St. Joe’s on the Brandywine. I’m never sure of the next location but I know he’ll let me know like an ethereal tug on my attention. I do know one location for sure and that is Peyto Lake in Banff. In my father’s last days, he said it was the most beautiful place on earth and I’d like to leave a piece of him there so that he can be a part of that spectacular view forever.