When I think of Katy, now, I’ll think of skipping stones. We spent about six hours together last week doing nothing but. It’s amazing how many good skipping stones there are at the bottom of a spring-fed lake in northern Indiana…but what is even more amazing is the energy that an eight-year-old will expend diving for them – one at a time – over the course of a couple of lazy August afternoons.
Katy is my only granddaughter, my son’s oldest, and one-year-old Henry’s big sister. This last is a role that she takes very seriously, as you might expect an eight-year-old big sister would. Katy’s had a year of Major Life Events, especially considering her tender age. Her parents divorced, reconciled, then split again. Henry arrived, and everything seemed to go south. She knows it’s not his fault, that he, like she, was caught in the crossfire of a much larger skirmish. Her Mom moved to a new house. She’s entering second grade in a few weeks. Her dog, Lucy, was yet another casualty of the divorce – placed with another family, seemingly more stable than hers.
Big Stuff for an eight-year-old.
Despite all of the turmoil, she is a model student, showing an aptitude for both math and reading. At times over the past twelve months, I’ve opined to my Bride that Katy has exhibited the most maturity of anyone in the household. Having said that, from the long distance perspective of a grandfather, she alternately shows conciliatory and rebellious behavior with her parents. She’s learning that all-too-certain skill of divorced children – playing both sides against the middle, to her advantage.
Losing innocence at such a delicate age is a sad thing; but, unfortunately, it’s reality in early 21st century America. Innocence is a commodity that only Baby Boomers can afford to pine for; a state for which we channel-surf “TV Land” and “Me TV,” zeroing in on reruns of “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffith Show,” searching for a reminder of what we think we remember growing up to be.
Maybe that’s why the time Katy and I spent in the lake – diving for stones, assessing their relative “skip-ability index,” counting each glancing, watery divot as certain victory for our collective wisdom – was so frenetic: it was a time-out from this past year, a time when she only had to be my eight-year-old granddaughter and not have to be the smartest one in the room. With both Mom and Dad an hour distant, working full-time during the week, it was a relief for her to be Away, I think. Normally, she fights to stay up late, to break the rules, to have it her way. But every night of Lake Week, she announced she was going to bed – early – and fell asleep instantly on the pallet we’d prepared for her at the foot of our bed.
It was blissful to awaken in the wee hours and hear both Katy and my Bride breathing steadily and peacefully, sleeping off the labors of the previous sun-drenched, splashy day.
I think we’ve built something, Katy and I. Between the stone-skipping and the good night talks and the recounting of the Good Things of each day and her first solo kayak excursions, we’ve agreed that we each give something to the other. I give her a soft place to land, and she gives me the notion that every grandparent can make a difference in a child’s life.
We’re both kind of feeling our way amongst the skipping stones on the sandy bottom, but I do believe that, from now on, every stone we pull up together will be a winner.