A new twist: a Grandma and Kacy story
For those of you who read and enjoy the “Patrick and Nana” series, in which I share my experiences as the grandmother of a precocious 10-year-old boy, I have a new story to tell this week about another grandmother and her precocious 10-year-old granddaughter: the making of “the best day of the whole summer” over Labor Day weekend.
Beverly is my close friend of 23 years. We’ve shared children’s births, deaths, baptisms – their setbacks and their accomplishments, and our own emotional roller coasters as a result of those happenings. What we’ve also shared is “Grandmother’s Day” – which occurs annually during the week that Beverly flies in from California, where she has lived and worked for many years as an adoption specialist, to her hometown of Milwaukee to visit her family. Kacy is her only grandchild and, due to distance and circumstances, they are able to spend only a day or two a year together.
For many of these priceless visits, I’ve had the honor of accompanying Bev and Kacy. We’ve played in parks and gone to museums and Lake Michigan shores. This year, we decided to venture farther from Kacy’s home, and so we planned an adventure day around Kacy (a very smart and beautiful girl who wants to be part of a behavioral analysis unit when she grows up). She likes nature and horses, so that was our beginning point.
Bev and I have always been supportive of each other. We’ve not had petty jealousies or competitions, like some “friends” share, but there is one thing I have that she covets, which is time with my grandchildren. The distance between her and Kacy is a barrier to a closeness and comfort that (for example) Patrick and I have developed over the years, and when she reads my blog about our adventures, she’s felt a pang of regret because she’s not had the luxury of that familiarity with Kacy.
As happens with so many, many families, Bev’s child is not the custodial parent, and since Kacy does have two involved sets of grandparents, due to her mom’s subsequent marriage to another great guy, Kacy has two sets of involved, full-time grandparents to vacation and grow up with. It’s virtually impossible to compete with that (and Beverly is very grateful for them, not competitive with them), but she’s struggled with the hope of establishing her own special and meaningful spot in her grandchild’s life. They’ve had great times, but the beginnings and endings are beginnings and endings, not an authentic continuation of an ongoing story.
Until this year.
Kacy is older. Her realization of Bev’s ongoing presence in her life, through holiday and birthday remembrances, calls, and annual visits, is jelling. And this Labor Day was not a repeat of other days. It was not a play-in-the-park and watch-the-time kind of day. It was a day planned to share new experiences together. It was an “adventure” day, which is the best kind of day ever invented.
First stop, Culver’s
Who doesn’t love Culver’s? It’s Patrick’s favorite eating place when he’s in Wisconsin, and it was no surprise that it’s Kacy’s favorite, too. So that was a safe bet and she was happy. And did you know that a Culver’s pot roast sandwich has LESS Weight Watcher’s points than a six-inch Subway Tuna Salad on whole wheat? I was GLAD to share that tip with Bev before we ordered! It made us feel better about adding a mashed potato side. (Craig Culver himself told me that the combo has less than 500 calories and it is, indeed, Weight Watcher friendly for a meal.)
Next stop, the Wisconsin Deer Park at the Dells
There, in one of my favorite places on earth, we pet and fed over 100 deer. Kacy was first shocked and then delighted when I put a cracker between my teeth, and a deer came up to me and took it from me, which gave the appearance of a deer giving me a kiss. She and Bev then “kissed” several deer.
I faded then from tour guide to background photographer, taking pictures of grandmother and granddaughter playing with deer, sitting together on benches, and feeding them as the beautiful bucks, does, and fawns timidly approached. We stayed for two hours because the child was enchanted, surrounded by live deer in a nature preserve, no wire mesh or confining rules between them, and a natural curiosity (and special crackers) providing a strong enough magnet to attract one to the other.
Then, on to the Wisconsin Dells Ducks Tour
Now Kacy can boast that she’s looked out of the rear end of a duck (one of the corny jokes the driver shared that made her laugh aloud). We took the tour riding an original WWII amphibious army vehicle, enjoying close up views of the lower glades and Wisconsin River and Lake Delton. I volunteered to be “co-captain” to sit up front with the driver, away from Bev and Kacy, so I could more easily take their pictures. And I did manage to capture their expressions and closeness, looking at the splendor surrounding them as the perfect afternoon unfolded.
Then we saddled up
With at least an hour left of “Dells time,” we hired a guide and went on a trail ride. Here, I was especially proud of Beverly as a “Nana protege” because she actually feared the horses and the ride on a sometimes narrow canyon trail. But Kacy loves horses, and so Beverly tackled her own fears and got on a big horse. (We did position her right behind the guide, however!) I rode last so that I could photograph the two as they wound through the canyon, sharing moments that Bev later said were actually the high point of the trip for her. “Being on that horse next to Kacy was exactly where I was supposed to be, and I felt that strongly,” she later said. Kacy’s appreciation and admiration for Bev overcoming that very real fear to do it for her was exactly what was supposed to happen on that ride, too.
And, as Bev rode ahead of me and I saw her hang on tight to the reins, I had this realization that 23 years ago, when we first hooked up as two directors of the Interfaith Program (we both ran programs in different cities), we never could have predicted that 23 years later – though separated by time and distance for years and years – we’d spend an afternoon riding horses with Beverly’s granddaughter.
But we did. And at the end of the day, in the car returning to Milwaukee, Kacy proclaimed that this day had been “the best day of my whole summer vacation!” This exclamation, after Kacy was picked up and spirited away for another year, cost Beverly many tears of joy and sorrow. Sorrow for the days she could not escape with her granddaughter for new adventures, but joy and gratitude for the day she did.
I was really honored to have witnessed their closeness this year, and my role in the adventure is to publish a book for Beverly (with a copy for Kacy) memorializing the day. It really rose to a “Patrick and Nana” quality adventure and, I believe, it was the authentic visit wherein these two really and truly forged the kind of relationship that will endure a lifetime, regardless of time and distance and family expectations. Kacy’s eyes reflected her love for her grandmother, and when Bev looked at her, I saw the tenderness and pride that only another grandparent can really recognize on a face.
And I fell in love with both of them all over again, too.
You can expect another “Patrick and Nana” installment next Tuesday. It’s “Grandparents’ Day” at Patrick’s school Monday, and I’ll be there. Last year, Patrick and his friend Ryan (I’m Ryan’s honorary grandma for these events, since his grandparents live in Ohio) composed an original song that they chirped in my ear while the rest of the children sang the more traditional “Thank God for Grandparents.” My lads’ song was titled “So You Wanna Get Beat Up,” with lyrics only 9-year-olds could truly write well. I admit it was hilarious, and I cracked up while the other grandparents teared up. My only concern that morning was that one of the boys might actually pee their pants (they were giggling so hard, singing it) or that the priest would be drawn to our little table in the school cafeteria to find out what was going on. Neither happened, to my great relief.
God only knows what those boys will have planned for me next week.
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