Last night, after mooring by Marina Cay, I called my Mom and discovered that she and my sister had tried to call to tell me to come home quickly, as my Dad is dying.
This news is not unexpected, but facing it is not something you can do unemotionally. Bob and I went early to sleep, as we hadn't had any the previous night, due to our collision with the car ferry. In the morning we set out quickly for St. Thomas, arriving at 2:30 with good wind.
We passed our friends Tom and Andy, on Captain Tom's charter boat, the H.B. Welch enroute to Cruz Bay, St. John. We shot moons at each other across the waves; this is the day of the full moon, and it rose beautifully over the harbor tonight. It's high up there now, keeping me up, but I am glad for the ability to do my own reflecting.
I am leaving to go to Maine tomorrow and won't be back at least until January 30, when the return is set. I will miss Bob, Calypso and the Virgin Isles and our new friends of course, but I am looking forward to seeing my family and pets again.
Mom is picking me up in Wells and it will be so good to be with her. Of course, she has her mind full of things going on there, as my Dad has not been given a prognosis for many more days. I have been through a similar loss; this is a time for family to come together. We need each other. It will be strange, though, to spend so many days back on land since we became live aboards on Oct. 21st. The sea legs thing is only part of it; you grow accustomed to your boat beneath you.
Since this is a blog about the sailing life, I'll mention that we watched the movie 'Virgin Islands' tonight, about the couple who came to live on the (formerly) deserted island, where we moored at Marina Cay, and made a stone house there and called it home for several years in the 30's.
We appreciated the distraction, as our trip back to St. Thomas today was consumed by trying to get through to AT&T and Jet Blue, which took a ridiculous amount of my and my sister Karen's time; she helped on internet and phone to the airlines, while we were out of range.
It would be nice to be technology free as the islanders in the movie were, but that really is 'Fantasy Island'. Nowadays, I am just trying to deal with technology efficiently and not get too crazed.
Then, as now, there is the expression 'island time', which means that things happen in a more relaxed way down here. We waited for the launch to come to get us from Trellis Bay to go to Marina Cay, which was almost an hour late. It did come, eventually, with no word of explanation.
Weather sounds bad back home and there is a weather advisory for the flight.
I know I sound very matter of fact, but when I think about what I might write about my Dad, it gets hard to move through the emotions. I plan to speak at his service, that much I know. The rest is fog.
What is true about my Dad is that he tried, he really tried, for as long as he could, to deal with his illness and stay in loving connection with all of us, until he had no reserves left. He has operated on fumes for a long while now and my Mom and he learned to navigate by the winds of the moment.
Dad learned 'island time' right there in Maine-- on the porch in his chair, taking time to eat, walking through the flea market, driving with Mom in the car to get coffee or watch the trains go over the road or driving by his old homes. He was an unhurried man. He showed me how that is done, too, with grace and usually some means of good humor.
People will talk about him as a lover of his family - his girls and our Mom, that much is indisputable.
What I hope to share is how influential he was in the lives of each of us; how, for me, he was, (despite our major differences), the guiding model for my sense of purpose and mission in life. It goes without saying that he and my Mom were of one accord in their raising us, at least in front of, if not behind, the scenes.
He was able to lead by example in the way he accepted his life's duties. He enabled me to have not just faith, but confidence in my own ability to lead my life. That is not something you teach, so much as observe and follow, especially if you are encouraged to believe you can do it, whatever it is. My Dad did that for me. He did actively support me, I always knew he cared about the person I grew up to be.
Sitting on the deck of Calypso as we set out down the Sir Francis Drake Channel, I had a sunny, breezy few minutes to think about how he influenced me to be able to take on the challenge of starting to sail this summer at the age of 58. He built and flew his own airplanes and that never was my thing, just as boats were never his thing. My grandfathers, the two Georges, both were the boaters of the family, as was my late husband Michael.
I just never thought I could become a captain myself, but I will be. I am already knee deep into courses, and Bob is taking his captain's class in the two weeks I will be away. We are in our life, just as my Mother and Father were committed to their flying and farming. My Mom and Dad started raising cows and started a 40 acre 'freedom farm' in their mid-life. They grew into new ways of living their lives fully.
I don't expect to fish, but having done the farming and land design and activism and writing, I am ready to sail into uncharted waters. That, for sure, I got from my parents, and from my Dad, I got the courage to lead the way for my family, and others, to see that this can be done, at any age-- living your dream, I mean. Bob is with me, and my Mom was with my Dad. They had each other, all the way through their long goodbye. I remember the good things, because they are all good things--the things I learned I am able to take into myself, that's because I love him and know he loved me.
I am lucky to have his loving inspiration and guidance in my life and that will never, ever end.
My Dad used to say many things but the message behind the man was simple: he loved us. Very, very much.