Let me tell you a little story. An odyssey, if you will.

This story starts off in the final week of July when the air was dense and hot and it hung around our shoulders like a thick, warm, wet blanket. We were in Maine, sitting on sweat sticky chairs around the kitchen table, swaying with the rotation of the fan standing in the corner to get the longest amount of fan time possible as it made its agonizing swing around the rest of room.

I hate the heat. The heat and I do not get along. I get red and sweaty and irritated, and Jesus Christ almighty it was so freaking hot.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetThompson LakeOur cabin resides on a lake. Which was totally prime when it came to trying to survive this hellish heat spell. But the thing is, you can’t spend 24-7 out in the water. Pruny hands are not a good look for anyone. On this day, I had been in the water all morning and it was lunchtime. This meant I still had on my kelly green two-piece bathing suit which was in the process of drying. Now, normally, a wet bathing suit would be a relief on a hot day, kind of like a nice wet cloth against the back of your neck, right? WRONG. The heat had simply warmed up the suit, so instead of being a nice cooling layer, it became a muggy straight jacket designed to torture me throughout my lunchtime meal.

I had grilled cheese for that meal. Don’t ask me why I remember that, I just do.

Anyway, the grilled cheese was sitting in my stomach like a hot, sad, lump, which honestly was exactly what I was starting to resemble; you are what you eat. I was slumped in my chair, thighs sticking to the seat, annoyed at everything in the way in which a teenage girl excels when my grandpa gets up from reading calmly on the couch and marches outside into the sauna.

His exit was loud because our screen door was habitually broken and unable to produce any sound other than a high pitched scream of agony every time someone opened or closed it. The shriek of the screen door was pissing me off, so I got annoyed when he shut it behind him on his way out, but quickly forgot my irritation in order to sway towards the fan as it rotated back in my direction. It was a good ten minutes of me being locked up in my own personal mental version of hell, grumbling internally about things I couldn’t change (i.e. the weather), before I realized that the grating sound was coming from outside, and not in fact coming from my soul.

This made me curious. I bravely peeled a layer of skin off my legs as I pulled away from the chair, and stopping in front of the fan for a good ten seconds before one of my brothers threw a seat cushion at me and told me to scram.

My exit into the outside world was met with a blast of heat similar to the kind when you open a hot oven. It took me a few seconds to assure my poor pale skin that everything was going to be ok before I was able to make my way to peek over the edge of the deck. Here is a description of what I observed on the lawn below:

87-year-old male. White hair. Wearing a red shirt that he got from donating blood once that had the words “Are You My Type?” written across the chest. Actively dragging a monstrous boat from the bowels of the deck.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetare you my type“Uh, Grampy? What are you doing?”

He looked up at me and barked a loud laugh. “I’m going to fix it, and then you and I are going to go sailing.”

I looked out at the lake, noting that the water was lazy and still, almost glassy in appearance. AKA: no wind. This was the second most important concern on my mental list of all things wrong with this scenario. The first issue being that the sailboat that he was currently dragging across the mossy lawn had a hole in it, making it unlikely to float even on a waveless lake.

“Here, come help.”

I’m going to tell you upfront. I honestly cannot tell you how he did it. I’m fairly certain magic was involved. One second there was a hole in the hull and then an hour later, the boat was upright, had a sail attached, and looked brand-spankin’ new. The man was some sort of wizard genius.

Regardless of how he did it, I was thrilled. This was great! We had a sailboat! An actual, working, buoyant sailboat! The only problem was the wind, or rather, the lack thereof.

“Grampy, there’s no wind. We can’t sail without wind.”

Now, this is the moment where I knew my grandfather was a freaking magician because the moment I said “We can’t sail without wind” the trees started rustling, the waves started picking up, and that god awful, sedentary heat started to be swept away with the breeze.

“Let’s take what we’ve got an do the best we can,” he said, dragging the boat into the water and throwing me a bright yellow life jacket. “All aboard.”

And so we went. Slow at first. Me on the rudder. Him on the centerboard because it was finicky and didn’t want to slide into its slot without at least one Serena Williams-esque groan. At 87 years old he was arguably stronger than me, plus I liked steering the ship anyway. Using some sort of magical grunt, he got the centerboard in, the wind sent us a helpful gust, and we were on our way.

We were jibing and tacking. He was steering and teaching me how to read wind patterns by the intensity of the waves. I was laughing and jumping from side to side (on his command) to balance out the boat with our turns. I was trailing my hand in the water. At one point, I crawled up to the front to pretend to be like Rose in the Titanic, which lasted all of two seconds before I was told to get my butt back in my seat.

I was flying. We were flying.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetIt was incredible, right up until the point when a gust of wind hit the sails as we were coming about and kerplunk.

We flipped. We capsized right smack dab in the middle of the lake.

Now, I had on a life vest, so I was laughing my butt off, floating around our flipped boat like this was the best impromptu swim I’d ever had. My grandpa did not have a life vest on, so he was having moderately less fun clinging to the hull of our flipped ship. He was also worried that I’d been hurt when it flipped. I wasn’t, as was clearly shown by my hysterical laughter, but I had to assure him of this multiple times before he began laughing with me.

After we both got ourselves under control, I realized our situation was maybe not so funny and that perhaps we had just landed ourselves in a Mission Impossible: Try and Flip The Ship type situation. But fear not, my wizard genius grandpa knew what to do.

He had me climb halfway out of the water, pulling on the centerboard that was sticking out the bottom of the boat, and using upper body strength I didn’t know I had, pull myself up onto it. This meant that once I succeed in this maneuver, my weight should be enough to push the boat back upright.

It didn’t work.

Our boat was half in half out of the water. The sail was running parallel to the lake, with me sitting on the centerboard basically hovering over the waves.

I wasn’t heavy enough to flip a ship.

Honestly, that moment gave me a lot a self-confidence–like, hell yeah I’m not heavy enough to flip a sailboat! It also made me feel a little bit like I was a Lake Queen, levitating on my thrown on top of the water. The feeling of being perfectly balanced, suspended in air, was a really cool feeling, but it also meant that we hadn’t really succeeded in flipping the ship back upright. Luckily, my super strong grandfather quickly pulled himself up on the side of the ship and together we forced the boat back into its upright and locked position.

We ended up making it back home to where my entire family was waiting for us on the deck having watched the entire event through binoculars.

“We thought we were going to have to send out a rescue crew in the canoe,” my dad said when we were within earshot.

I laughed.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetMy grandfather was a wizard, a genius, a soldier, an engineer, a social worker, a sailor, an activist, a Democrat, and an “Are You My Type?” blood donor. It was laughable that anyone would look at him and think we would be in need of a rescue mission. Hell, he’d rescue the rescue mission and teach us about physics while doing it.

We made it to shore safely that day, our maritime adventure quickly becoming a family favorite memory.

We made a lot of memories with my grandpa. Night time campfires, history lessons hidden in his childhood stories, scavenger hunts, anniversary parties, countless adventures.

My favorite adventure will forever be our sailboat shenanigans.

I’m telling you this, because, at age 93, my grandpa passed away after a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer. Before passing he told us that he was ready, that his life had been an odyssey and he was thankful to have shared it with us.

He was the smartest, kindest, most generous man that I’ve ever known and I’ll miss him more than words can say. I’m comforted by the fact that he’s off on the next adventure, teaching angels about politics or physics, and hopefully sailing on a lake like ours.

I wrote this song, with inspiration from a really good Ashley McBryde song, that I hope helps you understand how amazing my grandpa really was. Please ignore the mildly terrible guitar playing and the second rate singing. It’s the lyrics that count anyway, right?

Grandpa'sSong

He was the smartest man that I knew around
His bark of laughter was my favorite sound
He’d be the last one off if his ship went down
The kinda man it feels good to be around
The kinda man it feels good to be around

His hair was white as the clouds above
He could tell you a story full of truth and love
Had a life of learning and will of steel
Oh, I miss that man and I always will
Yeah I miss that man and I always will

He’d fix anything with his own two hands
Taught me that adventure was better than a plan
He’s in my heart now you understand
That my grandpa was the best kind of man
That my grandpa was the best kind of man

He said take what you got and just be kind
Best thing you’ll ever own is your piece of mind
And y’all he had a mind that was one of a kind
I sure am lucky to call him mine
yeah, I sure am lucky to call him mine

He‘d fix anything with his own two hands
Taught me adventure was better than a plan
He’s in my heart now you understand
that my grandpa was the best kind of man

I heard him teach me everything he could
He left me wisdom like he said he would
And If you ask me why I’m the woman I am
Is cause had a man like him holding my hand
I had a man like him holding my hand

He’d fix anything with his own two hands
Taught me adventure was better than a plan
He’s in my heart now you understand
That my grandpa was the best kind of man
Yeah, my grandpa was the best kind of man

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Thank you all for your love and support during this time.

My grandpa, Donald Weaver, was an extraordinary man. He grew up in Hawaii, was there during Pearl Harbor, joined the army, and kicked some enemy butt (by fixing radios). He went to school to be an engineer, went back to school to be a social worker, and was a lifelong learner. The man knew everything. Everything. He taught me so much and had such an abundance of generosity, compassion, and patience (except for when we kept the fridge door open). He married my grandma, had three kids (one being my dad), and loved each an every one of his grandkids endlessly. The man was a legend.

I’m going to miss him so so much.

Smooth sailin’ and clear skies, Grampy. Love you forever and always.

xx
ally-renee-signature-2017

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