The Lake That Taught Me To Swim

The smell of evergreens.

The smell of their house, one of those smells you can’t describe.

The faint blue paint on the wooden panels that form their home.

Their movements, their ways of life.

There are so many things about my grandparents that make them my grandparents, and quite frankly, will be the things that will spark the memories in my mind and my heart and my soul and my spirit when they both move on.

Just as there are so many things about their home, about Red Paddle Camp, that make it Red Paddle Camp, and will spark the memories in my mind and my heart when it is time for us all to move on from it’s beauty.

I was driving when we arrived at the lake. The windows were open. The evergreens and their woods’ of a partner greeted me. Soon so did Grandma and Grandpa. We spent that night making dinner, chatting, and watching the Olympics.

The next day we spent on the beach, the same way I spent a vast majority of my childhood summers. We went out to dinner. The waitress cut her finger while slicing bread. My aunt and uncle arrived. Saturday we went to a neighboring town that was celebrating it’s 100th anniversary. We hunted down free food and were only greeted by the samples in the grocery store. We were planning on attending a lumberjack show but when we found out the entrance fee was $7, us cheapies decided to move on. We went back to my grandparent’s town and ate lunch. We went to the antique store. I felt the pull of the past when I found a typewriter and had to talk myself out of buying it. I went to the book store, filling my sense with their favorite place.

I feel like this post is just rambles so far and I apologize but I’m struggling right now to put all of my thoughts into words. This weekend was an emotional roller coaster. I love my grandparents’ house more than anything else in the world. It is my secret hideaway in the middle of nowhere. It fills me with inspiration like nothing else. All the words, they always fall into place. I have shared my love for this place with two of my best friends and very happy memories have been formed there, tying us together for a lifetime. I love the way the fire seems to crackle in the night in a dance it refuses to dance anywhere else. I love the way that the sand feels in between my toes, deep, dark and rich. I love the memories trapped inside my grandma’s scrapbooks and inside my grandparents themselves. I love the cups I’ve used since I was a child. I love that everything is the same there, while everything else changes. I love the old pantoon boat. I love the clear, glass like water. The green weeds, the greener trees. Everything seems more bright, more colorful, more everything.

I see things different though, as I get older, as time pulls on me. I have more responsibilities, and things don’t come as simply. My grandpa died last year but the doctors were able to bring him back to life. This was almost a year ago and the affects of the accident, of the rebirth as he calls it, are still pulling and tugging on my family. On my mom and her sisters, on my grandparents.

My grandpa was given a second go at it all, by who is up for debate: God? The universe? Karma? That part doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’s here, today. Everyone keeps telling him that, he says, That he’s lucky. That someone, something, gave him a second go. “And they all say that it must be because God has something planned for me.” He told me. My grandpa’s response to that? “If that’s true, then I don’t know what it is. Then, I’m afraid.”

And I guess those are my words right now too: I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of time, of what it will bring.

I’m afraid of moving on, of leaving behind and being left behind.

I’m afraid of losing the ones I love.

I’m afraid of being ready and then suddenly not being ready for it all. What if I’m not ready when it really counts?

I’m afraid of being afraid, as silly as it sounds.

I’ve slept in the same bed every time I’ve visited my grandparents for as long as I can remember. It’s by the window in one of their guest rooms, and the first night we were there I couldn’t sleep because I had convenced myself that there was somebody outside. I laid there for minutes, struggling not to make a sound as I breathed. I knew I was being ridiculous but I couldn’t wash away the fear.

And then I remembered something I’d read in my book earlier that day: “It’s better to face your fear, then to not know.”

So I lifted up the curtain.

There was nobody there.

The problem this time is that there is no way to face my fears except to wait.

So that’s what I’ll do.

I stood at the end of the dock and I looked across the water. The water I’ve swam in countless times, the lake I grew up on, I watched it all for a moment, for a heartbeat, for a breath in, for a hum on a guitar string. I was, in a way, saying goodbye. I don’t know when I’ll be at my grandparents again. I’m moving forward, and a visit to see them may not be possible for a long time. It hurts to move on, to say until later. I know that quite well.

I read recently, advice about what to say to a friend when they’re dying. The suggestion was to say that when they die, they’ll take part of you with them, that you’ll be there the whole time, that they’ll never be alone.

The same thing is true about when you say until later.

Red Paddle Camp is inside me. It will always be there. It will help me wait.

I have stood at the end of the dock and I have looked across the water.

I don’t know what’s coming but I have total faith in my ability to swim.


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