Summertime is when I miss him most. I loved the way his face looked so peaceful and happy when he was driving the boat he loved enough to name Plum Crazy. It was purple with silver accents and it was awesome. I think I loved that boat just as much as he did.
I miss the pink glow on my baby sister’s face and the way her hair looked like sunshine with lighter strands of hair from hours in the sun. I miss the steady diet of nothing but Doritos and Pepsi and staying up too late. I miss splashes and giggles and sweat stains on our clothes.
These are the memories that warm me. Like when the sunlight would dance on the water when I was a kid. Those summers were my happiest, feeling the heat on my skin and the fast wind in my hair matted from lake water. I loved the ache in my legs that reminded me that I had nothing but wild fun that day.
I loved to water ski then and still try to have one summer day each year to prove to myself that I am still good at it because Daddy taught me how decades ago. I remember trying so hard and being so frustrated that it wasn’t easy. But I’m such a determined person that I knew if I just held on tight enough and did what he said, eventually I would be gliding across the water. Holding on until my skinny legs couldn’t take it anymore and my arms felt like jelly, I would let go and put my hands in the air as high as they could go and melt into the sweet summertime kicking off my skis.
I remember falling hard, choking on lake water and wondering where my skis went. I never worried about the distance between the boat and me because he was watching, someone was always watching, and the flag would go up to let the other boaters know I was in the water. And then he would circle the boat around to get me.
Fall after fall, it happened like clockwork and it didn’t matter how much it hurt, help was on the way. He would circle that boat around and pull me back in every time. And this feisty girl always wanted to try again.
Arms straight. Knees bent. Skis straight. Hold on tight.
One summer we stopped playing. Maybe it was when I left for college. Maybe it was after we decided we were too grown up to play. Things became more complicated; his daughters would marry and move away. Babies were lost. Babies were born. Life happened changing his hair shades of silver and he would cover it up until he grew into his grey.
Through rights and wrongs, fighting and making up, love made circles of grace around us never leaving us stranded in water that was too deep.
We never stopped making circles around each other, not ever. This was unchangeable, love doesn’t walk away it just swings back by to make sure you have a big rope pulling you back in. And sometimes the rope isn’t long enough, but you keep extending it anyway.
Grace and mercy made circles around all of us.
I think if he were still here, he would want me to learn how to play again and remind me to let go at the right moment like I did when I first learned how to ski. He would want me to remember how safe I felt knowing that someone was on the way to rescue me, even when the boat seemed so far.
He would tell me to remember the tiny, feisty girl who refused to quit. He would tell me to find her and be her again…because the grownup version of me is tempted to play it safe.
He would want my family to play together and find something that connects us like summertime on the lake connected us. Some place where we could make circles around each other and keep our hearts knitted together with love and grace and wild summer fun.
He would tell me to let my kids eat a steady diet of crap and Cheetos and relax a little. And this summer I will do my best to do just that and learn how to play again and have a little wild summer fun.
This summer I hope you learn how to play again and relax, maybe even decide to venture out of your comfort zone like I am.
So much love to you,