He rarely missed the festival. In fact, the one time I remember him missing was the first time I had to come to grips with Gumpy's mortality.
The Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival is always on the last full weekend of April. I was finishing my last paper for my last class of my last year at Oakland University. Graduation was a few weeks away and I was really itching to get my stuff out of the dorm room and be done with college. I enjoyed the experience but I naively could not wait to get my life started. The day before my final paper was due, I got the call that Gumpy was in the hospital.
That year, Gumpy decided he wanted to golf with a few friends from Nashville, MI on his way home from Floriday. Ema left him in North Carolina for a few days of cow pasture pool on her way back to Vermontville. During his first day on the lynx, he felt a little tightness in his chest but thought little of it. The second day, the pain was impossible to ignore. He refused to go to a hospital near the town they were in, he wanted to come home. So Dave Mace packed up the car and drove the eight or so hours back to Vermontville.
This pain did not go away, despite every one's best efforts. Ema decided he needed to get to the hospital quickly, so she called the ambulance. One quirk with a volunteer fire and EMS department is that it can take seemingly forever for them to arrive. Everyone has to drop whatever they are doing, drive into town, suit up and get the rig going. Since it was taking so long, Ema decided to grab a few lawn chairs and my grandparents sat waiting for the amublance at the end of their driveway.
Gumpy coded at least three times that Thursday night in Sparrow Hospital. He was immediately put on the schedule for a quadruple bypass for the following Monday. In the meantime, he was pretty heavily medicated and watched to make sure his heart could make it until he made it to surgery.
Since it was Syrup Festival weekend, we were all planning on making it to the fire barn Saturday morning for breakfast per family tradition. In addition to breakfast, Ema usually volunteered to help with the chicken dinners at the Methodist church. The house was generally full with visitors too, so there were always demands at the house. Mary and I went to visit the old boy that afternoon, giving Ema a break and giving us some peace of mind.
That weekend marked the first time I had been truly concerned about how I would live without Gumpy. He was so active and vibrant that it never occurred to me to be concerned, even after his procedure a few years earlier to clear out an arterial blockage. I remember that weekend in 1998 as the first time I cried at the thought of losing my best buddy.