I remember when I was young – my Grandparents would take us boating nearly every weekend. My mom, who rarely came with us, would wake us up and send us off with them for a day of fun.
My Grandparents owned a Suburban. I remember it was gray and blue and huge. Back then seatbelts weren’t the law, and since my Grandpa refused to drive anything over 60 it always felt perfectly safe when we laid all the backseats down to make a comfy bed to snuggle up in for the long drive to the lake.
Back then, I never gave a second thought to my mother staying behind. It seemed natural – she would work. She was a single mother of three children – so she would work. Who knows how tormenting a day working in a shopping center would have been while you knew your children were off sunbathing and water skiing.
My Grandparents on the other hand were odd creatures in and of themselves. They were never known as “grandparents” to any of us besides when we referenced them to strangers. We called them by their first names. I wonder how that came about – was it embarrassing for them to be known as a grandparent? Did it mean, to them, that age had won the battle?
They were loving people by nature but were never able to fully reflect their feeling unto others. For them, love meant gifts. Gifts of time, presents, memories, and of course, money. All of the things my mother could never afford to offer us. She could simply offer us a genuine real love – the kind we knew we could turn to day after day regardless of our mistakes and faults.
Memories of the lake are vivid and vague at the same time. I distinctly remember my first time water skiing. My Grandparents had purchased a special pair of water skis that were made just for beginners. Don’t get my wrong – my Grandpa was a smart man, he was handy, intelligent, and witty but, oh boy, did he seriously screw this one up. The skis were made to very easily bring the skier up to their feet – they had all sorts of ropes and latches that connected them – and of course the rope that skier held was also left connected to the skis, which was connected to the boat. If it sounds confusing it because it was. As young as I was (maybe six) I remember telling my Grandpa that something didn’t look right. But he insisted, everything would be okay.
Naturally the skis lifted my wobbly knees out of the water and for the ten seconds I was above water I felt like I had achieved some special form of greatness. I was, in fact, a skier. The ten seconds were over too quickly though. My mind kept telling me the words my grandparents had said over and over again “When you are done, just let go.” So I did just that. But, of course, the string that was connected to the boat, which the skier held on to, which was also connected to the skis, which in turn was connected to my feet decided that I wasn’t allowed to let go. So my poor little body was dragged, but just for a bit.
The only thing I remember of that moment was the feeling of speeding water rushing past my face, unable to open eyes, and unable to breath. In the moment I couldn’t feel fear – it was more of a calm mystery as I wondered who on earth was going to tell my Grandpa to stop the damn boat. Naturally, my Brother, Sister, and Grandma were all on board and the second they noticed I wasn’t bobbing in the water the boat came to a stop. In other words, I was only dragged for mere seconds.
Nowadays, it is a laughing matter. At the time, my Grandpa felt horrible but low and behold he fixed up the skis and I was out trying again within 15 minutes.
Today, I realize that I haven’t been on a boat in nearly 10 years. I think of the feeling I would get, sitting in the back of the Suburban as we slowly approached the lake pay station. How I would patiently wait for my Grandpa to park the boat, climb up to the cabin, throw down the life jackets, all so me and my brother could buckle up and run to the dock to jump in