We sold the family cabin this summer, the last thing my father left us. He built it in 1968, with the same drive he showed in everything else. He pored over plans, contracted the work and kept meticulous records. I know because I have the receipts, detailing every purchase from the fireplace stones to a 45-cent pack of nails.
The plan he chose included huge beams and a wall of windows overlooking the lake; and although the decor is classic ’70s, it still stands as solid and beautiful as it did then.
Dad died on January 4, 1970, in a horrible accident. He had spent just one summer at the lake. And now that the cabin too is gone, it seems like someone should tell his story. Not the whole story, but some of it.
My father, Andrew Simon, grew up in northeast Minneapolis, one of six children of Lebanese immigrants. Dad was the rebellious kid. I’ve heard some of the stories, others I will never hear. I know he was kicked out of a Catholic high school and had to finish at the public school. I know he once got mad at a streetcar operator, stopped his car on the tracks and refused to budge, throwing the streetcar line off-schedule and the passengers into a tizzy.
When World War II came, Dad joined the army, serving most of his time on steamy little Pacific islands. At 19, he married my mother, a farm girl who was sweet, independent and good good good.
After the war, with a wife and two small daughters, Dad worked many jobs. He had always been smart — but who knew he was industrious and ambitious? Eventually, he started a business putting coin-operated equipment in apartment buildings throughout the Twin Cities, which made him, for his place and time, a rich man.
Dad wasn’t perfect. But he was fair and generous to a fault. He understood human frailties. He took care of us and left my mother well off. Mom kept the business running for another 25 years after Dad died.
And she kept the cabin. In the summers we watched our kids and grandkids swim, ski and fish off the dock. We cooked, played games, sang along to country songs and watched hundreds of sunsets.
At the cabin there is a little Jesus shrine near the lake with a plaque engraved with Dad’s name. I imagine the new owners will take it down now. Losing the cabin is a hard, hard thing, but let’s face it, families are about loss and families are about building up. Memories fade, memories are made. Really, that’s all it’s about.
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