We had it all. There were endless hours jumping off the dock, surfing behind the boat on a paddle board, post-dinner football games, ping-pong, croquet, and the classic “evening swim”, as the grandkids call it, when they are in the lake during the cool golden hour of sunset. The weather was summer perfect. On his last day, Cormac posed for my camera, by jumping off the dock and catching a ball mid-jump. He told me, “Grandma–you should frame this picture of me and put it on the wall in the dormitory room with all the other pictures of us kids.”
They are gone now and the house was quiet when I collapsed into bed. In the middle of the night, dry thunderstorms moved across the lake, sometime around 2 am. I saw flashes of lightning behind my eyelids and got up to look out the French doors. There was the moon–I’d totally lost track of it. Lightening bolts went cloud to cloud, and every once in a while, a low and long rumble of thunder was heard far in the distance. I thought of my children and grandchildren, now far away. “Those were the days, my friend…we thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance, forever and a day…”
It’s gently raining this morning. So quiet and still and a beautiful day to get the house back in order. When I went upstairs to change all the sheets, I looked for a long time at those many canvas prints, hanging over beds in the dormitory room. I remember the grip of my heart last year, after summer was over. I was hanging up new grandchildren-at-the-lake photos and arranging them in a pleasant order, when I suddenly came to realize that the photos won’t keep going, and that this will not last forever. These photographs have captured a magical time in childhood that is gone as quickly as fairy dust, blowing in a summer breeze, and that I would add maybe only one or two photos to the collection, in the years to come. Eamon is still only five. But with an eight year old, two ten years olds, a twelve-year-old, and Fletcher, already fifteen, I could feel that this enchanted time will soon disappear into once upon a time.
by Olivia Stiffler
They disappear with friends
near age 11. We lose them
to baseball and tennis, garage
bands, slumber parties, stages
where they rehearse for the future,
ripen in a tangle of love knots.
With our artificial knees and hips
we move into the back seats
of their lives, obscure as dust
behind our wrinkles, and sigh
as we add the loss of them
to our growing list of the missing.
Sometimes they come back,
carting memories of sugar cookies
and sandy beaches, memories of how
we sided with them in their wars
with parents, sided with them
even as they slid out of our laps
into the arms of others.
Sometimes they come back
and hold onto our hands
as if they were the thin strings
of helium balloons
about to drift off.