I haven’t been finding time to write but it’s not just “life getting in the way” or being too busy—at least not completely. I like telling our stories as they happen and sometimes there are stories that are hard to tell. Maybe there’s a lot of detail or pieces to it, or maybe there’s a lot of emotion involved. And the story that covers both these bases, and that’s been holding me up lately, is our trip to Paulina Lake, Oregon that we took in mid-July.
It was a family reunion of sorts, with my mom’s side, but not everyone was there—most notably my Uncle Vic, who committed suicide last December. When family came down from Oregon for the funeral, plans were set in motion to follow through on a “reunion” trip he and our cousin Heidi had talked about earlier. Since 1948 (Grandma will correct me if I’m wrong) the Hubbards/Petersons had been going to Paulina Lake for summer fishing. My brother and I went a few times as kids—it’s where I met and got to know family from Oregon and where I learned to fish. And basically some configuration of that side of our family had been fishing there for what today, I think, classifies as “forever.” My uncle grew up fishing at Paulina, playing on the boat and shores with his sisters and cousins, and always seemed at peace and happy there, as is evidenced by many photos of him. I especially love the classic 80s shots of him up at the lake where he’s got a hat and tank top on, and a mustached smile across his joyful and mischievous face.
So we had an opportunity to not only reunite with family but also to have one final celebration of a life cut far too short. I admit it wasn’t easy for me to say yes. I hadn’t seen a lot of the family in over 20 years, and hadn’t even met some of the newer members. I knew it was going to be awkward and hard, and on top of all that, my brother wasn’t going. We had always gone together as kids and even now as an adult, with kids of my own, I still wanted him along to help me navigate the family waters.
The drive up was tough: 10 hours in the car, split into two days. We stopped in Redding knowing that if we tried to drive it all in one day, the kids would not be even remotely close to being able to handle camping, fishing, and meeting new family. When we arrived on Monday, July 15, the mosquitos were horrendous. Cousin Tom had said they were bad, but they were camping too (instead of staying in cabins), so I figured it couldn’t be too bad. BIG mistake. Luckily Grandma Linda had room in her cabin because after one night at the campgrounds, we were done. Literally millions of tiny blood-suckers.
The first full day there we took a boat ride around the lake to scout memorial sites with Great Grandma and Grandpa, and the kids loved being out on the lake in the aluminum 8 ft. boats with outboard motors. It was their first real boat ride and they loved it. No sickness and little fear. Later that day we went out fishing and each of them caught their first fish. I was in the boat with Maia, Aunt Janet, and my mom, and we had barely gotten our lines in the water when Maia said, “I think I have something.” She was so calm and followed my mom’s instructions perfectly. I couldn’t believe that in under 5 minutes of her very first time fishing, she had snagged one. Sure enough, she reeled in a nice little rainbow trout. Maia was excited—maybe even as much as the rest of us—and Grandma Linda cried.
I was excited and proud to see that Keana, who had been out trolling with her Great Grandparents and Grandpa Sam, had caught two of her own. We headed back to the cabins and Great Grandma showed them each how to clean their fish, just as she had done with me 23 or 24 years before. They weren’t really grossed out, mostly fascinated, and Keana loves to eat fish so much, I think she was happy just to know that she had at least two to eat later.
The next night Team Hokama wasn’t so lucky. I was out with Aliya, Sarah, my mom, and Aunt Janet, with no luck for a couple hours. On a final effort before heading in, I snagged a little rainbow and tried to get Aliya to help me reel it in. Upon getting it in the boat we saw that it was barely big enough to keep—maybe 8 inches—but when Aliya saw it she exclaimed, “It’s just my size, Papa!” so my doubts about keeping it pretty much melted away. She was pretty excited about the whole thing so I called it hers and we called it a night.
Throughout our four days there we basically fished, played in the cabins, and visited with family. It was hard to make connections with the family from Oregon, but it was still great to see them again and meet the newer, younger members. There’s really no way to catch up on lifetimes in one fishing trip, so I really saw this as one step in the right direction.
On Thursday, our last day, we all headed out in our boats, 23 of us, across the lake to a quiet shore for one final farewell to Uncle Vic. We all lined up as my mom said a few words and read a prayer, and I played Summertime on my trumpet with an improvised intro based on Flamenco Sketches (by Miles Davis and Bill Evans). As I played, everyone scattered little bottles of Vic’s ashes that my grandma had put together for the occasion. It’s amazing how much grief is left even after 7 months. I found some closure though in sharing stories of him with those that didn’t know him very well or hadn’t had a chance to meet him. It was pretty special to be in that beautiful setting, with the lake and fishing and almost all our family, to bring back happy (and often hilarious) memories of the man we loved.
After the service we all rode back to the docks, leaving a trail of rose petals on a smooth-as-glass lake, and prepared for the last day of fishing and the traditional closing fish-fry. After an early dinner we headed out, but the waters were choppy so we had to reel it in after just a little bit. Even though we had to head in early, I felt very privileged to have spent the last night fishing with my grandparents and two of my daughters (Aliya was in another boat with Sarah, Grandma Linda, Grandpa Sam, and Great Aunt Janet). They weren’t having any luck either until they sprinkled a little bit of Uncle Vic’s ashes over the side of the boat for good luck, and almost immediately, hooked some fish.
We packed early the next morning, said our goodbyes to the family from Oregon/Washington, had breakfast just down the hill in La Pine with the Peterson side, and hit the road. The ride to Redding was rough. The kids were sad to go and tired beyond tired. Somehow we prevailed though through tears and much frustration, and were more than relieved to be at the hotel. The final leg back to Fresno the next day was much smoother, and it felt really good to be back home.
What an epic trip. It was the kids first super-long car ride and first trip to Oregon. We reconnected with a lot of family and paid our final respects to Uncle Vic. There was so much joy and excitement with first fish caught and new, unfamiliar territory, and there was a lot sadness and tears shed too. Letting go is hard—but letting go while opening so many doors at the same time was also healing.
View all pics from the trip…