With the scattering of my dad’s ashes at his old hunting camp in the summer of 2009, my siblings and I were given a wonderful chance to honor him; we also had a priceless opportunity to spend some extended time together. How could I know what troubles would result? I’m choosing to remember the good parts.

At his memorial service in October, 2008, Mom revealed Dad’s final wish. According to her, he’d told her long ago that “when it’s my time, just scatter my ashes up at the shack.” The shack was near Rhinelander and since I lived close by, I said I’d do what I could to locate it.

We found the property quite easily in November, 2008 and got permission from the present owner. When we were home for Christmas, I reported our progress to Mom and she gave me a cardboard box of ashes. I was on a mission to do this last thing for my Dad.

At first, Bud and I thought we’d just take a drive out there one day, scatter the ashes and that would be that. But then, Bud said he felt uncomfortable doing this without Corky’s family present. After thinking more about it, I e-mailed my sister.

1/29/09 – From Karin to Karla…Now Bud thinks the family should have an ash scattering event…he says he doesn’t feel right doing it without Corky’s family there……..so what do you think …Karin

1/29/09 – From Karla to Karin….I think you will be hard pressed to get everyone to come up there for a scattering.  Just my feel….Karla

1/29/09 – From Karin to Karla…..Hey…..Karla……Re: ashes……I wasn’t really thinking anyone/everyone might be interested……..I’m just willing to do it…..if anyone has other or better ideas, I’m open to that also….Karin

My research to locate the shack had resulted in an article published in the local newspaper in May, 2009. I’d sent a copy to family and had received many nice compliments. Next, I sent out an e-mail to all, describing generally what I had in mind for an ash scattering.

My siblings expressed an interest, depending, of course, on their availability. Everyone had stipulations. I’ll have to check my schedule…it depends on the date…maybe it would be better to wait until fall……etc…etc…..If we did this during the summer, we were still nine months past when Dad had died. I didn’t want this to be put off too much longer. No one said they absolutely wanted to be there.

I’d done an internet search that provided many suggestions for ash scatterings and felt this would be a neat thing to do. A summertime Saturday with maybe a cookout was what we I thought. Mid-day, so driving up and back on the same day was possible since it’s a five to six hour drive from southern Wisconsin.

Next, we looked at our calendar. We considered Father’s Day weekend and decided there’d be lots of competition from multiple plans and/or obligations. We had two vacations already scheduled that summer, one in the first half of July.

Then, Bud was approaching publication of his book and had a late summer deadline in mind, so we wanted to keep August free. We had to drive to Wausau to the publisher each time there was a change or a glitch. Then, post-publication book events had been planned.

Mother really wanted it done and had asked a few times about it. Lots of pressure between getting it done this year and setting the date soon so people could start planning. Right or wrong, I’d especially wanted to accommodate my sister, Karla, who’d been Dad’s durable power of attorney.

In fact, she’d done more for both of our parents than all the rest of us combined. She said she definitely wanted to be there. The dates were quickly being winnowed away, down to the two last weekends in July. The only one that worked for both Karla and us was July 18. So that was it. From there we devised an agenda and I sent everyone an e-mail.

May 31, 2009 – From Karin to all
Let’s send Corky off in grand style
I planned this so people who want can make the round trip in one day
Saturday, July 18, 2009
2:00 pm Cook out
3:00 pm caravan to the Shack, scatter ashes
Say goodbye to those heading home
For those staying: return to our place, go shopping or other tourist things
Fire in the fire pit in the evening, s’mores and more, Lodging information is forthcoming

Then the trouble began.

Date: Sun, 31 May 2009 20:57:58 -0500

From Kris to Karin….Any way we can do it the following weekend?  That is one of the 2 weekends that won’t work for us – we have the Waukesha county fair that weekend and we run the admissions so there is no way.  sure would appreciate it…Kris

June 1, 2009 – From Karin to Kris…so sorry……I looked at all schedules and this is what worked best for us…..the more people I talked to, the fewer dates worked…..then there were our own time limitations….I knew summer would be busy for many…..but think on it…maybe you can work something out……Karin
6/2/09- From Kris to Karin…of Form

So who else cannot make it on the 18th – I suspect it is just me.  thanks a lot – there were 2 dates in the whole summer I could not make and you picked one of them.  I cannot work out the fair – it is the same me every year and since Keith & I have run the admissions for 20+ years it is not an option.  I read that this was a family consensus to spread the ashes at the shack – so I never heard about it until I read the article.  Seems like I am being shut out. Then why don’t you just take me off the family email list and I will quietly go away!!


6/2/09 – From Karin to Kris…

…this seems like a huge misunderstanding……my sincerest regrets that you feel this way….….but please understand, I have no devious intentions toward anyone….…I am just trying to do what dad wanted and what mom said I should do……as the summer season approached, Bud and I started planning, sat with our calendar and figured out a date that worked best for us to open our home and thought hosting a cook out seemed a nice addition to the day…..then I simply put out the information in case people wanted to participate………due to the distance I figured not many would be able to come but wanted to make the offer anyway……..simple as that……..Tell yah what…if you want….. I’ll save some of the ashes and you can come up another time and we’ll do it again…..…we live so close, it would be easy……and I’m sure Dad won’t mind being scattered to the wind more than once….Karin

6/2/09…Forward from Karin to Karla….did you read the reply from Kris…..and my answer to her……how can I please everyone…..no one else has mentioned a problem yet…..Bud and I talked and went over our schedule and there are just not any other dates…..we also expected that some will have a conflict and not be able to come………tell me not to feel bad!

6/4/09…From Karla to Karin…..I like your response.  In talking to Helen, the woman I ride to and from work with – her opinion is that everyone makes a choice. Kris has chosen to go to the fair.  If it meant so much to her to be there she would have chosen to be there instead….Karla

From there this modest little event took on a life of its own. Planning was daunting. So many details! Karla and her son and daughter signed on and said they’d camp. Karleen couldn’t find an affordable hotel so her “yes” turned to “no” until I arranged cheap lodging in Eagle River. I was tickled that some would actually be there. A small group but I was pleased.

The Monday before, we had only Karla, Karleen, Paul, Kristin and Craig. Then, only days before the event, Kurt said he could come and was bringing two of his daughters. Finally, Kent called to say he’s made last minute arrangements for a ride from his fishing camp to our house. I had one last detail to tie up. Back to e-mail.

7/7/09 – From Karin to Kris ……Hi Kris……just a reminder…I can save some ashes for you if you want to come up some other time…..let me know…..Karin

7/7/09 – From Kris to Karin…..NO

I’d spent an unbelievable amount of time, thinking and worrying about my sister’s response. In fact, I’d almost obsessed about it. The general reply from anyone I’d told was that people make choices. The fair was a volunteer experience. Was she that indispensable?

Another common comment was that “every family has one.” That just didn’t help. But I was feeling wonderful that my other siblings would be there. There was much excitement with the planning and the silly e-mails back and forth as things firmed up. The prelude was almost as much fun as the event.

Finally, the day arrived and it was so wonderful to see my family setting up their tents, unpacking their gear. I didn’t even know there were any campers in my family! Turns out, we had the most wonderful time, lots of laughing and talking. Brothers and sisters who’d been somewhat distant experienced a new closeness and this was one of the neatest times with my family I can recall.

All in all, it couldn’t have been better. Yes, it could have been. My absent sister could have been there. In the days after everyone went home, e-mail was buzzing as pictures and funny comments were shared with the whole family. It was a hoot to see all the pictures and between everyone, we’d hardly missed a precious moment. Until.

7/20/09 – From Kris to all…..Do not include me on any more of the July 18th event e-mail comments

7/20/09 – From Karla to Karin……I saw that…it was what I was afraid would happen.  Skip called me and Kristin emailed me as soon as they saw it.  I’m not surprised…Karla

7/20/09 – From Karla to Karin….I just feel sorry for her…Karla

As time has passed, I’ve finally accepted that there’s no way this could have had a different ending, except changing the date to what Kris wanted. Bud continues to think all this is his fault. I simply remind myself that we, Dad’s family, were small players in this; it was about him and what he wanted.

Karla says she wants to have another campout next year. I told her that’s fine with me but she should do the planning. Let’s see if she can navigate those choppy family relationship waters better than I’ve been able to.


*all e-mails are verbatim, as sent and received


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