Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Grandma was adamant. "Not one of those fish are coming through this door until they are gutted and cleansed!"
The mountain summer light folded over a haze of Rocky Mountain Lodgepole Pines. My four friends and I had spent the entire day with rubber boots up to our hips, standing in the middle of a river that sprouted from a spring. A river clear enough to drink from.
My friends and I had just graduated high school and my Grandparents had graciously allowed us to spend a weekend at their cabin in Island Park, Idaho. The only catch? They would be there the entire time, ensuring none of our teenage shenanigans would end up burning their beloved cabin to the ground.
"You boys need to wash those rainbows out in the trees. I don't want any scales clogging up my sink."
Some boys like pulling guts out of fish. Some don't. I didn't. Ben did.
Ben was a good, hearty chap with long, curly hair and a stoic chin that bore a slight resemblance to Bono. Beyond his handsome physical features, he was overly polite and respectful of his elders. My Grandma took to him immediately. In fact, it was only a couple years ago that she stopped asking, "How is that Ben boy you used to friend, Abe?"
"Fine Grandma. He is married now." I would reply.
And so it was that Ben volunteered to stand out in pitch dark with an ice-cold hose in hand and pull the innards out of the approximate 26 rainbow trout that we had caught that day.
My Grandmother, being concerned for Ben's welfare, watched his every move from the cabin's kitchen window while the four remaining boys conjugated around the table for a cold Coke and a quick game of cards.
Idaho Rocky Mountain nights have a blackness that overpowers you. It's a little like stepping into pure nothingness, except that there is also the off chance that a bear might kill you. To combat the pure darkness of the forest, my Grandparents had installed a spotlight on the porch that was triggered by a motion detector. The sensor on the light would detect motion and would turn on for exactly two minutes.
Ben had decided to clean our fish about five feet out of the sensor's range. My Grandmother nervously watched and paced from the window.
For the next 45 minutes, my friends and I watched in absolute amazement as every two minutes, when the light would turn out on Ben, Grandma would open the screen door, walk onto the porch and wave her arms frantically at the light until it turned back on.
Grandma would then come in and stand at the window, pretend to wash dishes and wait for the light to turn off again. She followed the same routine 22 times in 45 minutes.
But here's the thing: Grandma may have a slight crush on Ben, but she would have done the same for any of my friends that were staying at her cabin that weekend. That is just what kind of person she was. She was benevolent and altruistic. She knew how to help and take care of people and if it meant going out into the cold forest every two minutes and frantically wave her arms around like she was an MC Hammer backup dancer, that is what she did.
I love my Grandma. She has had a profound influence on who I am today.
I will miss going to her house and reteaching her how to delete the male enhancement spam from her account for the 1648th time... and laughing with her when she tells me to keep the Olive Garden reservation buzzer out of my pocket because "it might turn you on, Abe"... and playing Balderdash with her; laughing at her outrageous answers until tears pour down my face.
She is going to a better place now. I imagine her in heaven's version of my fondest memories: Driving through Yellowstone, offering her parents a nickel for every buffalo they spot. Sitting with Grandpa hand-in-hand, overlooking Old Faithful and eating ice cream like they were 16 again. She is laughing now; laughing with her sweetheart about how silly life is and what a wonderful one they led.
I will always love you Grandma. Please give Grandpa a hug for me.