When I was a boy my Mom’s folks lived in Lancaster, PA–nearly six hundred miles from our northern Indiana home. Grandpa and Nana lived in a townhouse on a corner. Tiny yard–Grandpa could cut it in 10 minutes with an ancient reel mower that had wheels and blades, but no motor. The streets were steep. The house was tall–three stories, plus a basement. My brothers and I liked sleeping in the very top level–mostly storage and slanting walls, the smell of plaster, and cozy twin beds.

Nana looked older than she was; very thin–with a frailty on the first impression which made her feisty side surprising when she let it show. She had a sparkle in her eye, and a cackling laugh. This slight woman owned a St. Bernard named Samson. She doted on him. The dog was terrified of thunder, and would climb up on her lap during a storm. Nothing made Nana laugh harder or longer than that enormous dog sitting on her tiny lap–he quaking in fear, she in hilarity.

One summer, my parents sent me to Lancaster on the train. I got to stay for a whole month. Grandpa worked during the days, so I spent a lot of time with Nana. She drove me around in her “fat cat car” a mid-eighties Grand Marquis–oversized, like Samson. Now, she was doting on me in her mint green slacks and Nana perfume.

We went to Toys R Us. She had seen boys skateboarding in her neighborhood and had made up her mind that her grandson was going to do the same–something I had never done in my life, and which seemed a bit frightening. Part of me thought she was kidding as we entered the magical store. Minutes later we were in the skateboard aisle, she insisting that I try out the boards. The prices were high (to me)–I still thought she must be joking. We picked out a beautiful bright blue board with yellow wheels–it looked so fast. Next, a black helmet that communicated invincibility to my hesitancy. The remaining fright was rapidly evaporating in the heat of my excitement and growing need to fly down the hill on my brand new board. Her eyes were dancing–now mine were too.

There were scrapes, but mostly successes. She watched with proud satisfaction, and we were bonded forever.