Grandpa's up on the roof again.

And I'm up there too, a kid on the roof of my parents' house, with one end of grandma's clothesline tied to the chimney and the other end tied to me.

Grandpa, however, needs no such protection. Dressed in blue and white checked pants with nary a natural fiber in them, a white T-shirt, old work boots and a golfer's cap that was blue back when no one had heard of Arnold Palmer, this skinny old man traipses around the roof like a wood sprite, slowing down only long enough to scoop soggy masses of dead leaves from the rain gutters.

I sweat. Not from the July heat but from the knowledge that any second now I will most assuredly fall to my death or at least break both legs. But, wow, this is kind of fun. I try to convince myself he really doesn't do this just to toy with my sanity. The thought, which pops into my head almost every summer, is mercifully interrupted by a ringing telephone.

My mother is calling from work.

She wants to know if Grandpa's up on the roof again.

Years later, and a few days ago, I called my grandparents. Grandpa, now 81, was in bed. He doesn't spend too much time on the roof anymore.

"I was up there a year ago," he says, indignant at the suggestion he might be a bit too old for that sort of thing. "But they don't want me up there any more. They tell me not to do it." They, of course, are all the other members of my family.

My 75-year-old grandmother gets on the phone. She asks if I might have an inside scoop on why the producers of "All My Children" killed off Jenny -- you know, the one who was so pretty. I say I haven't a clue and ask when Grandpa was last on the roof.

"He would love to be up there now!" she exclaims. "But they hid the ladder and he can't do it. Your mother says her friends pass by and think he's crazy. An 81-year-old man up on the roof."

She pauses, then remembers. "Last month he tried to get up there by standing up on the table. He looks longingly at the pollynoses and wishes he could get back up on that roof and sweep them off." She sighs. "But he can't find that ladder."

The conversation marks an end of an era. The end of summer. Summer as it used to be. You see, my grandfather used to make it up to that roof every July. Sometimes he'd get me to help. When I was too young, my older brother helped. Grandpa couldn't really persuade my older sister to get up there. She always was the brains of the family.

Now they went and hid the ladder. And he's lost. I know how he feels. I feel like someone hid the ladder on me, too.