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By Bill Diem

Our short summer on the lake was dominated by post-Covid conversations. We didn’t always talk about Covid, but we talked. We had not seen our Michigan friends and family face-to-face for two years, as our 2020 summer was cancelled.

So we talked. First it was family, together to remember brother John, who was 18 months younger than me and who died in Ohio after a long cancer fight last September. I didn’t do anything this summer that did not remind me of John, except sleeping with my wife.

A highlight of that event was Tyler Dettloff, the Bay Mills musician, who gave us a concert in the pole barn on a rainy night. Of course John would have been talking with him, too, about his family and his work and his music.

Another highlight was a resumption of face-to-face meetings with other men and women who like me prefer not to drink. For 16 months I had been going to meetings in France via a computer screen, and I deepened a lot of friendships, and made new friends remotely. However, it was not the same as it is in McMillan, where we can chat about other stuff before and after the meeting, and have a snack and a coffee, and share rides together watching out for deer. Come to think of it, meetings don’t remind me of John, who did not share my problem.

It is worth mentioning that at our meetings, we are encouraged to talk freely about those things that bother us, and we learn things like “A problem shared is a problem halved,” and “A joy shared is a joy doubled.” Good advice hiding in simple phrases.

Our friends from Manistique dropped in, and so did the Cheboygan friend who showed me 32 years ago an announcement that The Newberry News was for sale.

We went to the Erickson Center for the Arts fundraising wine and cheese party, where we saw a few old friends, but most enjoyably, we met and made new friends. A couple from Munising was enjoying a lake view while the auction was going on, and our conversations (minus a few trips to check on bids) resulted in plans to lunch together later on at the Jolly Inn in Germfask. And they brought other friends from Au Train, widening the circle. In all, catching up from a lost 2020, we had 11 events at our house in five weeks, besides being invited out five or six times.

Sometimes people will say things like, “Talk is cheap.” And that means that you can make big plans and never do anything. I remember that from earlier days, talking with my Curtis friends back when we were all young.

But conversation is also how we learn about each other, and we can learn to like each other even when we have big differences in some areas. From my youngest days I knew that people up here can be friends even if they are very different. The hard life of the rural U.P. may have a positive side effect of keeping people together. I’m glad we made it for summer 2021.