Bringing Up Grandpa

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

Bringing Up Grandpa

We pushed the family-vacation envelope last summer when we took a multigenerational clan rafting on Idaho's North Fork of the Salmon. There were 21 of us in all, ranging from my six-year-old son to my 75-year-old father. My 33-year-old brother, who happens to be an expert whitewater guide, took on the role of fearless leader.

To keep things sane, we camped in one spot for the four days, putting in above different stretches of river each day. Rafting bonded both ends of the generational spectrum: The younger kids and older adults preferred the mellower whitewater and, after a morning float, were happy to spend afternoons in camp--hiking, fishing, exploring, skipping rocks, and playing with the dogs. That left time for us hard-core rafters to try some rough stuff. Although my father sometimes drove the kids to an overlook so they could watch us take on a particularly feisty wave, they missed seeing my cousin flip his raft, spilling everyone into the drink.

The river turned out to be a great family equalizer. My father, used to being in charge, willingly submitted to my PFD checks and my brother's river-rescue drills. And all the kids hauled gear twice their size up and down the steep riverbank.

As for me, I was exhausted. I felt fully responsible for the care and safety of both my father and my kids--a prime example of what sociologists refer to as the Sandwich Generation. In the end, though, my worries were unfounded: The tribe thrived.

Copyright 1996, Outside Magazine

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