One summer, when I was ten years old, my parents got the idea they’d send me to stay at my grandparents’ house in Florida for a week. They called it Grandparents Camp. My two cousins, Kelly and Brianna, would be there, too. We were close in age but that’s about all we had in common. My brothers and father flew me out, dropped me off in Naples, and continued on their own haphazard journey to Key West. I think my mother needed a week to herself.
Day One: We were all informed that Brianna joined Weight Watchers. This meant no sweets, no soda, no carbs, no fun. We watched Jeopardy and went to bed at eight.
Day Two: At 9:30 when Gramps and Grandma Nancy (his second wife) nodded off, we snuck down to the kitchen and scarfed blueberries. They were worth some number of points and Brianna had had too many that day.
Day Three: Being the thin one wasn’t helping my relationships. I had to make up lost ground after Larry singled me out and gave me a regular coke instead of a diet.
Day Four: I ate so many blueberries and low-fat Fudgsicles I barfed in the swimming pool.
Day Five: In the middle of reading embarrassing sex stories out of Cosmo, Kelly told me our uncle jumped off a building and killed himself and that’s why no one liked to talk about him.
Day Six: Kelly tangled my long hair trying to put it in a bun and all the yanking and pulling sent me into a short fit of tears. Then we put Brianna’s underwear on the ceiling fan and she went wailing to our grandparents. Cousin bonding had run its course.
Day Seven: When my father came to pick me up, red-faced and bleary-eyed, I got to sit shotgun in the rental minivan. Looking for alligators in the marsh off the highway, I thought to ask him about my uncle. But then I thought better of it.