A. Douglas Alkenbrack - Memories of a Granddaughter
Oct 12, 2013
By Jennifer Alkenbrack Robertson
My grandfather loved Skootamatta. "The Camp," as he affectionately called it, was his favorite place to be when he wasn't in Ottawa or on the campaign trail! When we were kids, Grandpa would always precede us to the cottage to "get things set up." He was self-appointed caretaker.
We would arrive to a cheery shout from him as we pulled into the driveway, a warm fire already heating the cottage, and a massive hockey rink shoveled off on the lake. He was the one who planted the geraniums despite the hideous May blackflies, got the docks in, cleaned the windows, and readied the cottages in our family compound for the rest of us to arrive for Canada Day and the kickoff to summer. Courtesy of Grandpa,
there were usually lots of treats around too, such as squeaky curd, fresh butter tarts, "Road Pies" (my grandmother IS the best pie maker around but Grandpa still arrived with at least two purchased pies) and all kinds of treasures he picked up on his way up to "the camp." The drive from Napanee to Cloyne must have taken him hours, as he stopped to talk to everyone he knew along the way! After years of representing L&A
County in Ottawa, he was such a people person.
While at the cottage, Grandpa never sat down. He wandered from cottage to cottage in his tartan tam, checking everything out day and night, always lending a hand with whatever task needed to be done. Even when my cousin Katherine's boyfriend Bernie was setting up his dockside proposal (think flowers and candles), Grandpa was right there to assist! He liked to keep tabs on what everyone was up to, where we were going and how we were getting there. He would wander around late at night with a flashlight checking on the kids sleeping in the tent, the adults enjoying the bonfire, and was known to chase the odd raccoon away from its' late night snack’ in the garbage cans. He taught us the importance of always having a bailer in the boat and a pail by a fire pit, the advantages of waiting out a bad lightning storm in a car (he was often the first one out there, having been struck by lightning as a kid) and the reasoning in putting extra logs on the woodstove at night, even if the temperature upstairs in the loft was already 90 degrees!
Years ago, when my father embarked on the construction of a log cabin, it was Grandpa who bought the logs and helped him hammer in just about every spike in the place. Though he is gone, and has been for some time, Grandpa is always with us at the Skoot. I notice him in the first red leaves of fall, hear him in the pair of loons calling and swimming off the dock, and see him in the rising full moon just peeking over the top of
the island in Sheldrake Bay. We will continue to celebrate his life and his love whenever we are together at the Skoot.
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