No "hard water" involved


My late husband George and my oldest brother Kevin were very close throughout the years that they knew each other. It wasn't a bromance that I would have predicted. They shared a few key characteristics that should have made them constant irritants to each other; they were - or I should amend that to say that Kevin still is - assertive, stubborn, and opinionated. Yet the ways in which they communed relied on a few overriding traits. Passion for analysis and problem solving, generosity (privately conveyed), and a love for water-related pursuits defined their close relationship.

A new boat and a new truck...

No sooner had George and I said, "we do", then the first gauntlet had been tossed down. We had a brand new truck coinciding with one of Kevin's shiny new boats. They both were overly-excited to get over to Lake Nippenicket and spend a blissful day of escapist activity. Let's pause here for what should be obvious clarification. Deep within the brain stem of the average fisherman is an instinctual impulse; they must, I mean, absolutely MUST, be launching their vessel before daybreak. And, also typical of fishermen (or so I imagine), is a reason-deprived state of mind that accompanies such an early hour. Being men, they would not have paused to reflect on the nutritional returns of a balanced breakfast. They would have instead sprung directly from bed to driveway, each expecting himself to be occupying the driver's seat in mere minutes. Pre-daybreak tranquility was punctured by each of them forcefully claiming his right to drive the truck. "It's my truck!" alternated with "It's my boat!" And thus began a nearly forty-year partnership, one could say defined by a ball hitch.

Time can't diminish a true bond...

Summer 1978 sits apart in my memories for so many reasons, most of them really good. It wasn't the only period marked by pre-dawn exchanges between George and Kevin, but, as years passed and "family generation" became the top concern for both families, their escapades became more episodic. Sometime after 2006, when face-to-face time became more exquisitely consequential, the two friends renewed the taut bond that had always tethered them together.

"Hard Ice" on a Plymouth Lake...

Kevin's latest amusement was ice boating. (It was no accident that the house that he built in Plymouth was on a small lake.) Being the engineer, it made perfect sense that he would design and build his own ice boat. George was an eager accomplice; it mattered not that there were no brakes. He came home at the end of that weekend with a clearly defined rectangularish bruise on his left buttock, having landed hard on his wallet as his only way to stop the dern thing. (I've always felt that where it concerns Kevin, my dear husband trusted him unwaveringly. Not a bad thing, really.) Naturally, George came home energized, and quickly jumped on board the design craze, excited to plan and construct his own boat. Somewhere around this same time, my other brother Chris and his wife Priscilla gave him a retired sail that had already been idling away the years in their Berkshire lake cabana.

George imagined a much different outcome than Life had in store for him. Racing unfettered across a lake in Plymouth was as liberating an experience as one could hope for. A small rectangular bruise was a welcome price to pay. (Kevin, you can be a pain in the ass at times, but my heart pinches just a bit when I contemplate the special friendship that you and George had, and the one-of-a-kind experiences that only you, and I mean, ONLY you, could concoct for him.) Sadly, the red and white furled sail languished for twelve years in our garden shed. I just couldn't part with it, but I had no idea what to do with it. An iceboat was not one of my plans.

A brittle and stained sail...

I have followed the success of the Sea Bags line for years now. They make sturdy totes out of upcycled sails. One day when they were but a dewy-eyed start-up, I peered through their windows in Portland Maine and considered their future. Because I saw their trajectory as not so different from my own, or at least what I imagined as my own, I privately prayed for them to "make it". They HAVE made it. I haven't...yet.

When my daughter Megan and I lowered the little red and white Berkshire sail from the rafters of our shed this week I was so hopeful that there was sufficient life in it so that it could be molded into something new. I gambled and put it through the wash (with bleach), and set it out to dry. In the end, there was precious little to be redeemed. Most of it was too brittle and stained to be of any use.

Ultimately, I have an adorable picnic bucket that can be of little value to anyone but me. It may sedately perch on a gentle dune at Duxbury Beach or a gentle incline on the banks of the Merrimac River. It won't be asked to finesse the winds on a Plymouth lake, but I'll not stay my imaginings if they press me to envision a pair of ecstatic, unrepentant old geezers sailing across the "hard water" of an off-the-beaten-path lake in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

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