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For Gloria, Made from Stars

Community Voices

by JAKE NYBERG

One could spend a lifetime looking at the water in Sister Bay. It’s a view that remains stunning with each new chance to appreciate what the clouds and sun might have in store that night.

On a clear day you can see Michigan.

One of the best vantage points for an iconic Door County sunset is Boathouse by the Bay. That building – where visitors now flock on summer evenings to watch our star slip from view – played host to a different sort of cosmic event in 1927, when my grandmother, Gloria Isaacson, was born upstairs, just across from the lake she would grow to love.

My cousins and I were in town over Christmas and there was a sense that we should try to see Grandma if we were able. Gloria was frail now, in hospice, blind, and all but deaf. I wasn’t sure if that was how I wanted to remember the once-spry woman who chased grandkids and great grandkids around well into her 90s. Still, I was her first grandchild and decided a visit would be appropriate (if difficult).

One by one, we stopped by – a calm, organized contrast to the beautiful chaos that unfolded in her home and at the end of her dock over the years.

It took her a minute, but she knew who I was eventually.

“Oh, Jake! That’s nice.”

We held hands and I told her I loved her, squeezing her warm palm, knowing it could be the last time.

After a hug, I left alone and drove downtown on the same road she’d walked as a child. The same road that, in her 20s, she sent tourists traveling along on her father’s bus line, the Lake Bay View Bus Line. The same road her grandkids stumbled down from countless last calls without an ounce of judgment from their decidedly Baptist grandmother.

Under a smattering of stars above the bay, I was hit by a wave of intense gratitude – for her, for this place, for the memories it holds and is yet to hold. And as I stood there on a warm December night, the open harbor still breathing, I allowed myself to simply be. To exhale, wipe my cheeks, and say thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

On a clear night you can see the Milky Way.

I believe my grandma’s light was living in the feeling that came over me that night.

I want to live in that feeling.

As often as possible, I hope to find myself next to the lake, held in her fluid arms as I stare so deeply it causes my eyes and heart to relax to a point where sky and water dance as one – where what is seen and what is felt blur into the same thing: love.

Gloria, this kind spirit who arrived on earth across the street – this gentle arrangement of star stuff – would soon flicker gracefully beyond the horizon, just a few miles and nearly a century from the place she was born.

On a clear day you can see Michigan.

On a clear night you can see the Milky Way.

With clear eyes you can see it was always about love.
Editor’s Note: Gloria (Isaacson) Berg died Jan. 8, 2024. She was 96. Her father, Ernest, founded and owned the Lake and Bay View Bus Line in Door County. He launched the business in 1927 (the Northern Bus Line), using a seven-passenger Hudson to transport riders from Sister Bay to Sturgeon Bay, his home serving as the Sister Bay bus depot. A year later he upgraded to a 12-passenger Menomonie bus and renamed his service the Lake and Bay View Bus Line after adding Sturgeon Bay-to-Manitowoc line.