For Dad's Fan Club...

So...I've had a request for Dad's picture...

I put three pictures up from the days before we really "got" that he was sick. These were taken on his birthday...also referred to as The Year Of The Naked Guy (See 3/18/05- More Than They'll Ever Know) He was channeling Willie Nelson and nothing could hurt him.

Every year we celebrate Dad's birthday with much gusto and fanfare. This year was no different but I suppose it was actually very, very different. We all knew it would be his last birthday.

Dad's a sailor. He's always had a boat, and as a family we spent the month of July sailing North from the Chesapeake Bay to Rhode Island.

We hated it.

We were bored, seasick and restless. We wanted a "normal" vacation. Where was the Grand Canyon? Where was Disney World? Why on earth would anyone in their right mind cram five people into a 25' sailboat for a month and call it fun?!

And let's not mention the family secret...only revealed a few months ago by my sister...During the month of July, Dad quit smoking. We didn't even know he still smoked! We thought we'd taken care of that one windless, sticky July when we'd cornered him in the galley and cried until he promised he'd quit.

And no, that's not why he's dying now. They haven't found a link between smoking and pulmonary fibrosis...but who believes that? Even if it's been over forty years since his last cigarette...

So there we were, every summer...the freaks, the poor abnormal children forced to row in to the beach instead of sitting in traffic, following the crowd of weekend commuters to the Jersey Shore. There we were, sailing past the Statue of Liberty and up the East River, passing the United Nations building. There we were, forced to sail into historic Mystic seaport. There we were, slipping into Marblehead, Mass., to go to one of the trendy new "coffee houses" so we could listen to folksingers. There we were...

It was terrible...Huge waves hurled us across the cabin during fierce thunderstorms. The wind died down without fail throughout most of July along the Eastern seaboard and it was so hot. We were so seasick...

But then...there we were, sitting astride the bow, clinging tightly to the stantions as we bounded through the wake of passing motorboats, screaming as the waves washed up over our legs. There we were, snug in the harbor, the wafting evening breeze cooling our berths, the gentle lap, lap, lap of the tiny wavelets kissing the side of the boat, whispering in our ears as we rocked to sleep. There we were...

Isn't it funny that every time we are together, without fail, we kids taunt Dad with tales of our tortured summers aboard the Doxy? Isn't it funny how we remember the outrageous tales of things that just never happened to "normal" kids on their staid, summer vacations?

We sailed into Port Judith harbor in fog so thick Mom was stationed on the bow with a boat hook in case another boat suddenly loomed up through the mist too close to miss. We ran out of gas in the smack middle of New York harbor and when the Coast Guard came along and asked if we needed help, Dad said, "Oh, no! Thanks! We're fine! We've got it!"

They followed us at a distance, not quite believing we were sailing up the East River.

Dad suddenly called to Mom, "Quick, take the tiller. I need to use the head."

Mom was horrified. Here we were, amidst tugboats, ferries, freighters and Dad picks that moment to use the bathroom?!

"It's all in your head!" she yelled.

"Yeah, and it'll be all down my leg in a minute if you don't take the helm!"

We made it. Somehow.

And you know, we never for a second doubted that we would. We never knew danger when in its presence. We rode out every storm with our hero. The three of us kids would sacrifice everything for one blessed month with our dad...away from his busy parrish, away from the constantly ringing phone, the crisis-ridden burdens that come with a small town church...As bad as it was, our time with him was worth our "sacrifice."

We just didn't get it. Not then.

Family vacations are supposed to be endured...how else would we have such a rich vein of memories to mine? How else would we regale our own offspring with harrowing tales of our childhood adventures and the "agonies" we suffered at the hands of our crazy parents?

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