Summertime, family time

It is a rare moment I find myself in. It’s 8:23 on a Wednesday morning, and I’m home, not at the radio station, entertaining thousands of listeners and also playing the near-countless number of commercials that, collectively, will help send me a paycheck in two days’ time. The house is quiet. Our daughter, Kim, and her family arrived yesterday from Massachusetts, by way of Milwaukee, and right now Sue and Kim are introducing grandson Pax to the joys of strawberry picking. Mommsen’s Produce Patch, located just south of Rice Lake, is hosting the last day of picking for its fine berries. Sue had been hoping their season would last long enough for her to take Pax, and here it is.

Son-in-law Mike is sleeping downstairs in what used to be Kim’s bedroom, having stayed up late to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs. Mike’s a big hockey fan, and I think he was rooting for the Montreal Canadiens to beat the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning and stay alive in the series. And I see now that they did just that, winning 3-2 in overtime. Cole Caufield, who left the University of Wisconsin after the Badgers were eliminated from the NCAA playoffs in March, assisted on two goals, including Josh Anderson’s game-winner. The Canadiens will have a tough row to hoe to win the series, though; they must take the next three games, two of which will be on the Lightning’s home ice in Florida.

Hockey in July. That’s tough to get used to, but there’s basketball, too. Tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks open the NBA Finals in Phoenix against the Suns. I started following the Bucks during their inaugural season, 1968-69, listening to the great Eddie Doucette call the games on the radio. I would sit at my desk in my bedroom in Potosi, listening to WSWW, the station in nearby Platteville, and sometimes keeping score of the games in a genuine scorebook that I believe I’d bought at a sporting goods store across the river in Dubuque, Iowa. The Bucks won the title in their third season, 1970-71, and have not won it since. The Suns, who entered the NBA the same year as the Bucks, have never taken home the trophy. Although I don’t watch much NBA ball in the regular season–too many three-point shots, not much defense, even less offensive rebounding–I’ve watched the playoffs, gripped by their intensity and the valiant efforts of the Bucks to overcome a knee injury to their great star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is listed as doubtful to play in Game 1 tonight.

ABC-TV probably wanted two other teams in the Finals, like LeBron James and his Lakers against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets, but fans in Wisconsin and Arizona are pleased it turned out this way.

By it’s unofficial starting point on Memorial Day weekend, the summer lasts 14 weeks, through Labor Day. We are now in Week 6, so we’re not quite halfway. But it almost seems like that. A lot has happened.

Our new Yorkie, Maisie, was born at the breeder’s farm over near Gresham on June 27th. We should have the first pictures of our little girl soon. The plan now is for us to go over there on August 21 to bring her home. She’ll be eight weeks old that weekend. We brought her aunt, Sophie, home in 2010 when she was nine weeks, although we could’ve gotten her a week earlier; an out-of-town commitment that weekend delayed the big event. This year, nothing’s stopping me from bringing Maisie home as soon as the breeder says she’s ready. That may result in me skipping my annual (interrupted last year) Brewers-Twins game at Target Field, which would be on August 28. But we shall see.

Sue and I were both all smiles that night in early April 2010 when we brought Sophie home and introduced her to her new home and her instant best friend, Tuxedo the cat.

I actually was within a few miles of the farm last week, when I drove over to Appleton to cover Rice Lake High School in the state baseball tournament. It was my first visit to Fox Cities Stadium since 1998, and the first time a RLHS team had made it to the state semifinals since 1982. The lads picked a bad time to play one of their shakiest games of the year and fell to eventual champion Denmark, 10-3, in the Division 2 semis. But I had a good time anyway, in spite of driving almost literally the entire breadth of Wisconsin, twice, inside of 24 hours. Here’s a video I shot of the ballpark as the teams were starting to arrive for the 11:05am game.

Today it’s raining, which we badly need, and so it’s a perfect day for our indoors activities. We’re heading to Rice Lake soon to visit Sue’s office and my radio station, and then to the municipal pool. Kim tells me that Pax loves the water and has been taking swimming lessons for months, so we’ll be having some fun. After that, an early dinner at a restaurant in town.

They’ll be heading home on Friday, and it will suddenly be very quiet in our house. Our cat, Jazmine, will come out of hiding. Once again, I’ll start counting the weeks before we can bring Maisie home. On Monday morning, it’ll be back to work at the radio station, and one of my tasks will be starting preparations for the upcoming football season. Our first Packer broadcast is Green Bay’s exhibition opener against Houston on August 14, and the first high school games are six days later. It will be a busy time, and there will be more than a few moments when I will ask myself why I didn’t stay retired. But when that paycheck arrives every other Friday, I put off that question for another week or so.

I’ve made some public appearances to promote The Bronze Leopard and my other books, and have three more planned: July 17 at Bluegill Fest in Birchwood, just up the road from our house, August 6 at Jack Pine Savage Days in Spooner, and September 28 at Fall Fest in Hayward. And I am determined to get more involved in the writing overall. My next project, The Man in the Arena, is underway, and I’m going to be making this a little more involved than a standard thriller. It’s going to be about how a middle-aged man deals with loss and unexpected change, and dealing with the pleasures, and unexpected challenges, of moving back to his hometown. It will take me back to my roots, growing up along the mighty Mississippi in southwest Wisconsin.

I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I hope to see you at one of my book signings this summer and fall, and let’s stay in touch.

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