When I was seven or eight years old, my grandfather “saved” me, at least to my seven or eight year old mind it felt that way. It must have been the late sixties because Randy was pretty little. We were on a road-trip, a camping road-trip and we were headed to the Yukon. Our destination was Dawson City to visit the site where my Grandmother’s father, my great grandfather had lived during the Alaska Gold Rush of 1898.
It was a fun group: Four adults, five children, a huge dog, a yellow cat and a raccoon. My grandparents drove their Olds and towed their trailer. My parents drove our green Dodge utility van, seats removed and a futon in the back. Now-a-days we now that is incredibly dangerous, but back then? So fun! The five of us lounged back there reading books, coloring, snacking, napping and squabbling.
We finally made it to Dawson and camped right there in town on the banks of the Yukon River. The first thing my brothers, sister and I would do when we stopped in a campground, after collecting firewood of course, would be to scout the place out for other kids. There was another group about our size and we quickly mixed and mingled, playing “pine cone wars” and “hide and seek.”
I am guessing we stayed there a few days, my Grandfather was doing historical work. The other kids must have stayed there also, because that is who I was hanging out with when the trouble happened.
We were playing and I remember some lady, probably their mother, saying I better get back to my campsite, she thought my family was getting ready to leave. When I got there, they were gone. It looked so empty. Nothing had ever looked so empty. We had been a big loud noisy group and now there was nothing. Not even a bit of garbage or a piece of paper, my parents were good about that.
I ran, thinking they could not be far, I guess we were camping pretty close to the ferry because I got there quickly. But not quickly enough. I reached the ferry dock just as the ferry was pulling away. Pulling away with the Van, the Olds, the Trailer and pulling away with my family. The Yukon was wide and I stood there on the shore and could just make out when they got off and drove up over the bank and out of sight.
I collapsed right there amidst the logs that littered the bank and sobbed, cried and howled. Overcome with grief. They had forgotten me. Lost me. Abandoned me. It was the worst feeling I had experienced in my eight years on this earth.
They Left me there in Dawson City and now were heading home. As I sat there and cried, the ferry loaded up on the other side and started its return on the slow, gray river. As it chugged closer, I could just make out a figure standing at the prow. When it was close enough I could see that figure was my grandfather, relaxed, foot on the rail scanning the shoreline. He was coming for me!
I had always loved my grandfather, but now he was on pedestal, he was my hero. There was no one I adored more. And over the years that feeling never changed. My hero. My Grandfather.