Normally, when our 3-year-old great-granddaughter, Rebecca, sees Cal, a big smile breaks out on her face, then she runs to him, excitedly calling out, “Papa!” as she throws her arms around him. Even through the pandemic we see her most every week, but only on zoom. It’s fun to connect and watch her grow and develop across the digital divide, but we so miss seeing her in person and were racking our brains for a safe way to spend time together.
Yes, both Cal and I are well over 60, he’s had more than one run in with cancer, and Rebecca’s mom is pregnant. Definitely talking high risk here.
And then we had an idea. We all got up at the literal crack of dawn (let’s admit that the pregnant mom made the biggest sacrifice here!) and headed in our separate cars for a lake midway between our homes. Only a few people made it there before us, and we staked out the most inconvenient, undesirable stretch of lake front. We hauled our stuff down a steep, rocky trail to an equally rocky “beach” surrounded by unpleasant prickly weeds. We loaded everything we needed for the day into our two double kayaks and were quickly out on the water in the cool of the morning, Cal and I in one kayak, Rebecca and her parents in the other. The perfect way to be together and yet apart enough to protect each other.
Before we went, we thought about what to tell Rebecca and how to set ourselves up for success. Her parents explained to her that there is a new sickness, and we needed to keep apart to keep each other safe, even though, of course, we would want to hug each other.
She was amazing! She wore her little mask from the car to the kayak. She waved and smiled and called out to Papa, love shining in her eyes, while keeping her distance. I was so impressed that even at her young age she was able to grasp the idea that we could sacrifice our immediate delight to hug each other for the bigger gift of keeping each other safe.
We paddled across the lake, beached our kayaks on the empty far side of the lake, not accessible by car. We swam, sunned ourselves and swam again, ate our own separate lunches, watched an osprey fly overhead with a fish in its talons, got buzzed by a low flying small plane, reapplied sunscreen, paddled, swam and paddled again. It was delightful to be together, to laugh and tell stories, to leave the cares of daily life behind and just relax as we rode the waves from passing motorboats. Rebecca learned to paddle (although I wouldn’t count on her getting you across the lake any time soon, but she sure had fun). She learned to trust her lifejacket to hold her up, to jump out of the boat for a swim and let her dad scoop her back onboard. She honored the no hugs request and seemed to understand that we loved each other enough to keep each other safe.
As we parted for the day, Rebecca stuck her head out of the car window and shouted, “I love you, Papa!”
Ahh, the lessons we can learn from 3-year-olds.
Happy Failing Forward,
Anne and Calvert
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