My mom and my brother and I picked up my grandfather from the assisted living facility and took him to dinner on Sunday.

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Before we picked him up, we stopped at his house to pick up the mail. It was clear, but cold and so MoC and I stayed in the car while David took care of a few things. His house sits on a little lake, so small that motor boats are not allowed. It’s a tiny house, with an above-ground pool just barely big enough to swim in – for a kid. He’s lived there for more than 50 years.

This is the lake – from the road, through the stand of trees.
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When I was a kid, there was a rope with wooden “steps” – kind of like a slat-ladder – that reached all the way to the top of the tree. I would climb up about three steps and stop. I’d sit there and twirl around and had no desire to go any higher. Even then, I wasn’t comfortable with heights. My grandmother came outside and asked me if I was going to just sit there or climb all the way up. I told her I was just fine where I was. I remember she smiled at me and said, “You’re not a true tomboy if you don’t climb to the top.” It wasn’t an accusation, but more of an observation. And I said, “That’s okay.” I couldn’t have been more than seven years old, but I remember that conversation like it was yesterday. The really neat thing about it was that it really was okay that I didn’t climb to the top of the tree. I remember that moment because she didn’t argue with me. She didn’t try to convince me. She simply accepted me for who I was – period. The tree is gone now.

I didn’t learn to swim in that pool, but I certainly perfected my skillz in it. My sisters and brother and I swam and floated for hours out there. We fished off the dock and the summer I was six, I caught “the granddaddy of them all” as my grandfather so generously called it. He mounted the head of that fish on a board for me. I don’t know what happened to it. We fished every summer and I learned how to bait my own hook with minnows or worms. I preferred minnows. Worms were kind of slimy and they wiggled so much that it was always hard to get them on the hook. I wasn’t really into the fishing – but I loved the water. I could sit on the dock all day and never realize that more than a minute had passed. It was so relaxing and calm and peaceful. I miss the dock.

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MoC and I were sitting in the car up on the road (because the driveway was still snowy and treacherous) and I realized that my last swim in the pool was twenty years ago and the last time I sat on the dock watching the water was even farther in my past. So I took a couple pictures. The rope ladder is gone. The dock is gone. The little pool is still there. But mostly I will remember it as a place where I spent countless happy hours with my grandparents and the lake and the secrets that I trusted only to the fish.

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