I think that adults remember their grandparents in snapshots. When I think of my dad’s father, I see him after his stroke; thin, frail, confined to a wheelchair. I see my dad’s mom, graying, stressed, a bit short tempered. I forget that I knew them before that, when they were healthier and more full of life. And so I start to think of all grandparents as, well…old.
I was surprised this weekend on the South Fork American River when, on my trips notes, I saw, “grandparents bringing grandkids,” and the people who showed up were a couple looking younger than my parents with two of their grandsons, each 12 years old.
“We have seven all together,” announced Sally (we’ll call her for this blog entry) as we floated through Turtle Pond.
“These two are cousins,” followed up Jim (or so we’ll call him)
The boys (we’ll call them John and Sam) started out quiet. I think they were feeling a bit timid at being surrounded by adults. But by the end they were laughing loudly and jumping into the water at every opportunity. John kept yelling, “WATERFALLS!!”
I asked Jim and Sally how they landed on rafting as an excursion to take the grandkids on.
Sally answered, “Well we just like to get out to do things together. Last year we went to Wild Things [a wild animal center/sanctuary in Salinas].”
It was clear throughout the trip that Jim and Sally wanted to show the boys something, to teach them. They reiterated aspects of the river that I was explaining. They glanced over at the boys after each rapid, trying to catch their reactions. They also showed care and concern for their grandsons. John’s “WATERFALLS!!” chants made Sally laugh, but with a slight grimace. Jim checked to make sure the boys were secure going into each rapid. It was fun to see and to be a part of.
Each trip I go on I get to see family dynamics at work in a great setting. Parents and children, brothers and sisters, cousins, and occasionally (like on this trip) some grand-relationships. Each group is packed together on a raft for a whole day. Sounds deadly for some families (including mine at times). But they’re also in an unusual environment, taking on a challenge together. The combination of close quarters for a full day or two, a shared experience and exercising team work is something that makes rafting fun and unique.