Sometimes friends take a step into your life and end up traveling on your road for the long haul. I met Mike Pasko a few years ago while writing cancer survivor stories for a small Michigan community. I was frankly in need of a break and attempted to reschedule Mike’s and my meeting. Let me tell you, a busy journalist is no match for a survivor who also lost his beloved son Kenny to cancer.
Mike called me recently wanting to meet. In the midst of our discussion he told me he was making plans for his 40th fishing trip up north with his posse to Iron Bridge, Ontario. I couldn’t believe it! Iron Bridge; as in one hour and 23 minutes from my parents in Massey, Ontario, Iron Bridge! Jokingly, I asked if I could hitch a ride and next thing you know me and my pooch, Maggie hit the road with 14 men!
My offspring had a full agenda while I was to be away which lessened the “Mom guilt.” However, the morning of my departure it came back with a vengeance. I also started wondering, as did my family and friends, just how well I knew this Mike Pasko character. Even though he is a pillar of his community, church and family, you never know. My dear friend, whom I lovingly refer to as my “New Yorker,” informed me, “Whadda ya thinking? You know you could end up duct taped inside a Hefty bag at the bottom of the lake? Forget about it!” The dog and I ignored her concerns and my last minute worries and arrived at Mike’s house at 5:30am.
An unexpected lot
We hit the road and traveled north 5 miles to meet the rest of the gang. Mike told the group, aged 10 to 80, that Maggie and I had been hitchhiking and he just had to stop. I think we had a few of them highly confused. I know I was. This group of “fishermen” was nothing like what I'd imagined. There were two young teens, adopted from Africa, a couple WWII vets including a gentleman from Poland, dads, college students, grandpas, sons, son-in-laws grandsons and someone who just had to be a coach. I could tell the way he clapped to motivate everyone to get back in our vehicles and to get a MOVE MOVE MOVE on!
Crossing the border
To my surprise, the 75 year old Mike, Mother Mayhem, a Corgi with an attitude and a 6’7” soon-to-be college freshman that drew the short straw and was crammed in the backseat, made it across the border. This proves my theory that Canada will let pretty much anyone in that has a pulse and paperwork.
We arrived in Iron Bridge where the pooch and I were soon picked up by my parents like a parcel and delivered to our cabin. I was to return Friday to Iron Bridge with my Mom and Dad take part in the group’s traditional fish fry and award ceremony. I discovered that I would have to spend the night since we would be leaving at o’dark hundred the following morning.
Traveling with a group of men is one thing, but staying in their camp on an overnight is another. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised. The fish dinner was just as amazing as the prayer before dinner, handing out of the 2011 t-shirts and the award ceremony.
Sensing the joy
The older men of the group help the boys light lanterns in the night sky, talk around the campfire and partake in the fine art of doing nothing. Meanwhile, Maggie and I were in the “grumpy old man cabin,” playing euchre and trying to finish a Molson (I’m such a lightweight). I was told that my euchre partner was Polish and witnessed the death of family and the horrors of WWII, but you could sense his joy of life. It got me thinking that around our little table in the cabin, whether it was due to the loss of loved ones, cancer or the ghosts of war, we were all survivors and enjoying every last minute before day’s end.
I thought as the token female, I would have to endure a slew of “F words” including foolery, filth and flatulence. I did witness “F” words and they mostly came from the older generation. They were family, friendship, fraternity