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