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GENERATIONS: Art Lee: When does summer end? Hmmmm...well, it depends

So when does fall start? That's easy to answer. If you look at the calendar, one learns the official end of summer is Sept. 22. That's it. That simple.

Art LeeBut summer's end is not always that easy to determine. Actually it depends on how folks regard certain events that come and "go" in their lives in the summer, especially the "go" part of it can make one believe that essentially summer is over long before September starts.

And nature contributes to this quiet message of summer's ending in constant and multiple ways, be it the color changes in the leaves or the sunrises coming later and later, and of course there's falling temperatures that omit the choice of not wearing shorts outside but rather the practical need for long pants and a warm jacket. Advertising does its share with its "back-to-school" sales and approaching "Fall Sales." Downtown events wind down after Art In The Park and after the Dragon Boat races end, the busy and cluttered area around the Paul and Babe statues becomes nearly deserted.

There's also the "final" this and the last "that" announced in the newspapers, be it the last summer band concert in the park, or the last theater production of the season, this year the energetic "Hairspray." Anyway, there's many ways, many obvious signs to suggest that summer is over and fall is here. Accept it. There's nuthin' you can do about it anyway.

Family decisions weigh in

For many senior seniors, however, there are different signs of summer's demise that come much earlier than the calendar stipulation. For seniors who have children and grandchildren (and great grandchildren), summertime is the time for almost all of them to come to visit. Some start to arrive in late June and many are "back Bemidji" in July, the month that is a kind of Family Reunion Month, but later, however, those same summer guests start packing their suitcases and filling their "Norwegian Suitcases"—big empty grocery bags—and begin stuffing the car trunk with discovered items from the attic and garage. Their parents know what it really means and thus there follows a twinge in parental guts now realizing that the "kids" are soon separating, to go on their own way to their own homes—not to be seen again for a whole year. Alas, a near palpable message is delivered quietly—change is here that can't be stopped. Separation time. It's not a happy feeling for Mom and Dad; indeed, it's quietly painful. Not a good feeling when our Lake Movil Road becomes Bleak Street.

Each family is, of course, different in makeup and size and ages so this writer at this time can only describe his own not-young "kids" (the youngest is 54). By early June we know when she (the "baby"—youngest family members hate that term) and one of her two sons are arriving here in late June from Norway and leaving Bemidji at the end of July. That's official. We know. It's written down. Family travel info is all jotted down in the empty squares on the kitchen calendar. Still, that doesn't make her forthcoming departure and absence any easier to accept. After all, we know she's going to her own "home" (27 years there for her in Norway)—and we as parents and grandparents are reminded that summer family exits and goodbyes—and life—are going by too fast.

Next to leave, in mid-August, is our bachelor son returning to Tucson, where in May of this year, he officially retired from the public school system there after almost 30 years as a counselor at a junior high school. So another Poof! Another is gone. (But in his case, after a lengthy windup required down there he plans eventually to come back to Bemidji to retire.)

Last to leave (her two daughters had already left) was in late August, driving for Bozeman, Mont., ("only" a 14-hour drive from Bemidji.) Her husband and young son had left earlier for Big Sky country, driving almost 900 miles straight. (At my age, I'm pooped after a drive to Cass Lake.)

Sure got quiet around our house, the degrees of quietness and loneliness growing little by little as one-by-one the "kids" and grandkids exited intermittently. And too soon they're all gone. But didn't they just get here? Nope. It's over. Poof. Poof. Poof! Yup, must mean that summer was over long before September even got started.