My daughter is 8-years-old on this Christmas vacation trip to visit my father in Colorado. We’ve been making this ski trip since she was 4. He’d moved there years before because “there are more, higher, snowier places to ski in the Rockies than in the Adirondacks”. He is now 61; I am 37. His home is in Kittredge and he teaches skiing at Loveland Basin in the Loveland Pass in his free time. This is a “real skiers” mountain; no “Californicators” in sight.
On this particular day, the skiing is magnificent with bright sun and the temperature manageable. Daughter and I are scoring a table in the base lodge for us and Dad’s pals just before our lunchtime rendezvous.
Suddenly she stops me with serious eyes and firmly set mouth. “Momma, why does Grampa always call you “Sis”? He introduces us as Leslie and Jessica—not as my daughter and granddaughter.”
Well. This certainly catches me off guard. I hadn’t thought of this particular obsession in years. Not knowing if she was old enough to grasp the odd truth, I go ahead regardless. “Grampa is very vain. He doesn’t want anyone to know that he is old enough to have a 37-year-old daughter, much less an 8-year-old GRANDdaughter so he has called me ”Sis”, as in ‘sister’, since I was 29 and you were born.”
She looks at me with a frowny grimace. She shakes her blond curls, turns on her skiboot heels, and runs to a picnic table right at the front door. With determined agility, she climbs up and stands on the top with hands on her hips watching the incoming skiers. She soon sees the group and motions to me with a big grin. Flailing her outstretched arms and at the max of her lungs she yells, “GRAMPA, GRAMPA, MOMMA and I are right here. GRAMPA, GRAMPA, MOMMA and I are right here.”
He is stunned. His regular smug smile vanishing. Stopped in place with his cohort now bunched up behind him, he cannot see them elbowing each other and giggling.
Daughter continues to greet “Grampa”. He reddens; the strut gone from his stride toward me. His cohort nodding hello and winking. He wears faint evidence of chagrin.
He doesn’t call me “Sis” too often after that—difficult to break such an ingrained habit. But we tell that story at every holiday opportunity. Years later, when Daughter moved to Denver for her Masters and PhD degrees, they’d get together to eat sushi where he’d make a scene and call it bait, which, of course, gave him the needed attention. Or they’d go skiing at Loveland where he could really shine. If he even started to bloviate, she’d just glare at him and wag a no-no finger and say “GRAMPA…”