In honor of Alice Dawn (7/27/37-6/3/18)

The following was something that I wrote a number of years ago, but with the passing of my Stepmother today, I wanted to repost in honor of her.


Lake Benson, one of hundreds of fresh water lakes on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, has been a part of my life since I was fifteen when my Father and Stepmother (Dad and Dawn) bought a small, two-bedroom cabin on the lake.  It was their weekend getaway, and eventually became their full-time residence.  But the house itself was never the main draw.

Early in the morning, even before her first cup of coffee, Dawn would stand at the picture window in the kitchen looking down at the lake. “The lake is like glass this morning,” she would say with pleasure, then hurry to put on her modest one-piece suit.  She would walk down to the water, onto the floating dock, and sit on the edge kicking her feet in the water.  Splashes of water on her arms,  face, and hair came first, then she would stand up and execute a clean dive into the water.  I would observe her ritual from my dry position on the dock, usually unwilling to brave the water that early.  After a few strokes to warm up in the bracing cold water, she would roll over onto her back and float, weightless and free, feeling the silken lap of the water, listening to the morning bird song.  After a time she would swim with smooth, confident strokes halfway across the lake, sometimes farther, then slowly roll onto her sides and do a side crawl on the way back.   After about 15 minutes, she would  haul herself up the short ladder onto the float, grab her waiting towel, and chat with me while she dried off.  Usually she couldn’t hear me, as her hearing aid was waiting for her up at the house, but she would talk to me.  She would tell me about how much she loved swimming, how refreshing the water was, how much she loved the lake – all of which was self-evident because joy shone through every pore of her body.   It was in these moments that she seemed the happiest.

It has been years since I have seen Dawn swim.  She is in her early 70’s now and chronic pain due to degenerated discs in her back and bad shoulders have robbed her of the simple pleasure of swimming.  She rarely even ventures down the hill to the lake anymore.  It is bittersweet for her, I imagine, to have in her front yard a constant reminder of something that once brought her so much joy, now forever out of her reach.

I stand on the dock for some time, remembering her morning swims, feeling blessed to have borne witness to them.  This summer is to be their last at Benson Lake.  The home has been sold and they are beginning the exhausting process of packing up 25 years worth of belongings.  Once again, I am here to bear witness; to help them say goodbye to a part of their life that brought them much joy, much peace, and much happiness.

The lake is like glass this morning.  And my heart aches.


Rest in Peace, Dawn.

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