Notes from the North Country

by Lon and Lynn Emerick

Foster came into our home at a scary time. Just after a medical diagnosis we did not want to hear, with its attendant fear of the unknown, a package arrived. It was from our Oregon-based daughter, then working at Steens Mountain Conservation Management Area.
Ordering a gift online, Mary thought she was sending her Dad a small bear holding a small box of chocolate truffles. When the surprise package was opened, it turned out to be a large soft light-brown bear with a large box of truffles and a balloon.
The truffles were delicious, shared with others and consumed in short order. The helium balloon drifted up near the ceiling of our log home and lasted for several weeks before deflating. The bear has taken up a central place in our lives, and found a place in the lives of others for almost a decade.
Quickly named Foster, for the creek that runs through the wooded acres where we live in West Branch Township, the bear was a comfort, even to the two of us whose childhoods were long, long ago and far away.
When our medical crisis was past, we thought of that comfort and decided Foster might give the same soft huggable ease to other friends and acquaintances in some kind of distress.
So, for the last nine years, Foster has intermittently gone traveling to the arms and homes of others. Along with a token bit of chocolate, he carries a badge that explains who he is and what he does.
As of this writing, Foster has been on extended visits with eleven friends who did not mind a bit of whimsy as they recovered from illness and sorrow. He usually spends his days in the midst of family activities; in one home, we were amused to learn that the bear, though appreciated, had spent his entire visit in a closet as protection from three family cats. When Foster is ready to come back home, the “foster parent” adds his or her name to the list on Foster’s badge—which has now expanded into two badges to encompass all the names.
Reading the names and recalling the incidents that prompted Foster’s visits brings sadness as we think of those who lost their own battles or whose loss of a sister or child was permanent. There is pleasure in knowing about illnesses that are past, and surgeries that were successful and led to renewed working and traveling as well as hiking, sauntering, kayaking and bicycling in our wonderful peninsula.
When the stressful time at another house lessens, Foster comes back home and hangs out again with Mac and Piran (small Scots and Cornish bears); Mush, a U.P. 200 sled dog mascot who was part of a creative scavenger hunt for a summer Sauntering Club outing; and Libby, a white plush kitten that was a gift from another daughter now in Libby (Montana), who reminds us of Mahri, a loveable real cat who once lived with us.
Foster, in his own (very) quiet way, has helped make life bear-able, for us and for others, in difficult times.

— Lon and Lynn Emerick

Editor’s Note: Comments are welcome by writing MM or e-mailing
Lon and Lynn Emerick’s Upper Peninsula books: The Superior Peninsula, Going Back to Central, Lumberjack—Inside an Era, Sharing the Journey, You Wouldn’t Like it Here and You STILL Wouldn’t Like it Here are available at area book and gift stores or by visiting their Web site at

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