There has not yet been a time as adventurous, dreamy and sweet as the summers I spent with my Meme and Papa (grandma & grandpa) during my childhood - THOSE WERE THE DAYS. Of wonder, of dreams larger than life, and of tousled hair, sunkissed cheeks, bare feet and swimsuits all day. Life at it's finest. Before all of those Little Debbie's caught up to us and quite frankly before we gave a shit about anything like that. Life was simple and moments were enjoyed for what they were without a thought of responsibility or to-do lists...man was it good.
Last Sunday we received the news of my Papa's passing and it all seemed so unreal because he has always been so strong and resilient. And we grew up watching him conquer heart troubles and come back still so able to build anything, fix anything and always be working on something. There was literally nothing he couldn't do...(I see all of that in my dad too).
He had always built something new and exciting by the time my cousins and I would visit for summer: rope swings that you could almost touch the moon on (I have no idea how he got the rope so high up in the tree), water skis and a kneeboard that he would pull us on behind his jon boat, and a gigantic raft with a slide on it for the lake... there was always something fun to look forward to.
He taught us how to drive the riding lawn mower and then his truck when we were finally tall enough to see over the dash. We would drive down this old country road near their house and he would joke about us finding every pothole on the road. He taught us how to fish (and would always take them off of the hook for us if we wanted), shoot guns (we would shoot coke cans behind their farmhouse), and he always had a really great story to share.
We will all miss him so much, and my heart especially hurts for my Meme who was married to him for 55 years. I love the family that they made together and I'm so happy to be the granddaughter of such a strong, capable, kind hearted, funny and intelligent man. Love you Papa.
The most glorious summer a child could have. Thanks Papa (& Meme)!
A glimpse of how wonderful childhood was at The Lakehouse with Meme and Papa from a little excerpt I wrote a few years ago in response to a blogging prompt (sorry for any bad grammar and punctuation!):
"It’s 6am and Papa has already carefully, quietly, made his way down the creaky latter from he and Meme’s bedroom loft, past the living room where we are asleep and into the kitchen to make coffee and greet the morning on the deck overlooking the lake before checking fishing lines. The view of the sunrise against the still and glassy lake is peaceful. Meme is down shortly after and wakes us slowly, one by one, to the deliciously sizzling smell of bacon. As the smell drifts over the counter and straight to our noses we cant help but crawl out from underneath the covers of the pull out couch and climb onto a bar stool to keep Meme company. We share the morning coziness as she whips up some pancake batter and then fills our tummies with food that to this day reminds me of that time; we eat until our tiny bellies are satisfied or until we are so captivated by the adventures that the day will hold that we lose interest in food, whichever comes first.
We make our way out to the porch and Papa is coming in for more coffee. He sits with us on the porch awhile. He tells us that he saw a 12 foot alligator last week down on the beach and we marvel at this news, hoping to catch a glimpse of one while we are there. He says that he's built us a raft with a slide and soon we forget all about alligators and throw on a swimsuit (without preference) eager to get in the lake! As long as we have the raft we are invincible, even in fleeting moments of wondering what is swimming in the murky water around us (though I should say it always seemed very safe and we never actually saw an alligator). We spend hours and hours in the water pretending to be mermaids, princesses, and pirates. Sometimes Meme braves the murky waters with us. Other times she sits watching us from the porch while playing cards or working a crossword and calls us up every so often to reapply sunscreen. Awhile later Papa pulls us on some water skis behind his Jon boat - the adventures are endless.
Eventually our rumbling tummies bring us inside for a sweet treat, but Meme makes us eat a sandwich before we reach into the candy jar for a Sugar Daddy or Little Debbie. We run wild and free during those summers at the lake: walking down the beach as far as we can go, building teepees from washed up branches and wood or swinging through the trees; Papa's rope swings are so big that we can almost touch the stars if we get enough of a running start. For our afternoon adventure Meme gives us each 50 cents (that was all we needed back then) and sends us down the long and dry caliche road to the Lagarto store on the corner. We pick out anything we want, whatever 50 cents can get us - soda, ice cream and fun dip are our favorites. We walk the mile back relishing our treats, talking, singing and giggling the whole way.
When we get close we hear country music coming from the windows of the little A-framed lake house. Meme is inside singing 'My Maria' and cleaning out her closet. She gives us a few sundresses to put on and we play dress up and put on a musical performance outside on the deck overlooking the lake. Our hair is tousled, messy and bleached by the sun and our skin is a deep golden brown and kissed with freckles. We’re barefoot and tiny in those dresses and we feel beautiful. We are un-comparing, innocent, perfectly girly and wonderful. Meme claps, encourages our performance and tells us about the days when she used to dance. We take a break from performing to play a round of cards on the picnic table then Meme heads inside to start dinner.
We head out to the pier to fish with Papa. He shows us how to bait our hooks and tells us about the gar he caught the other day. It’s getting dark and the mayflies are swarming around the lights on the pier…we wonder at how many there are and laugh when they land on us because it tickles. Anything we catch Papa helps take off the hook. He throws the little fish back and keeps a couple of big catfish to cook tomorrow and we head inside.
After dinner we all gather around the TV. There’s a show on in the background that Papa is watching. The rest of us are caught up in games of speed, concentration, go fish and crazy eights. We’re up long after Papa has gone to bed, but his loud and comforting snore drifts down to the living room where we are delighting in every victorious card match and keeping Meme up as long as we can. When she can hardly keep her eyes open any longer she pulls the couch into a bed and puts on The Goonies. We don't want the day to end but we eventually drift off to sleep, giving in to dreams of tomorrow... we can't wait for tomorrow.