Staying Afloat

By Gayle Brandeis

A few days after my dad’s death last year, my sister and I drove down the mountain from my home in Incline Village to spend the day in Reno before her red eye flight back home to Toronto. Our eyes were red already–the tears kept coming and going–but it was a supremely beautiful day and we were happy to be outside, walking along the Truckee River. We found ourselves at Whitewater Park, where a father and his two kids were practicing rolling their kayaks.

Gayle with her father. Photo courtesy Gayle Brandeis.

The sight stopped us in our tracks; we couldn’t pull ourselves away as each kayaker took turns maneuvering their craft down a tiny drop, water frothing around them, then flipping themselves upside down into the greenish current. We held our breaths until each colorful boat broke back through the surface, upright once again. The father called out encouragement to his kids and we laughed with them and then cried a little more, swept into the rapids of grief, the rush and swirl of it, our arms around each other like life-vests, keeping each other afloat.