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Monday, August 16, 2010

Boatin' with Dad

On the long weekend, the Farmer and I decided to escape the farm with the boat overnight. We were heading for the wide open water of the Big Rideau. Mom offered us Dad’s old charts – the very charts that I bought him for his birthday back in the ‘80s. I carefully unfolded the weathered maps and watched as Mom pointed out various locations that I would remember.

“Here is where we rented that cottage when you were sixteen,” she said. “And here is a nice spot to stay overnight in your boat.”

Mom had written personal notes all over the map in her perfect script. And in the bottom right hand corner, Dad had written “Larry A. Leeson” in his familiar scrawl.

“Thanks, Mom,” I said, giving her a hug. I thought of how many times she must have pored over those maps with Dad in summers past.

The Farmer and I hit the road, our little nineteen-foot cutty trailering behind us. In a short time we were in the village of Portland, at the public ramp.

We launched the boat successfully and were booting along toward Rideau Ferry so I decided to make us each a sandwich. I put the maps down for a moment and started slicing kielbasa.

“Hey! What the…” the Farmer yelled, yanking on the throttle. Suddenly we were coasting over a shoal, and the water was just three feet deep. I guess that’s what happens if you put the maps down for a minute and you aren’t familiar with the area.

“Oops, sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. So that’s what those white markers are. They sure aren’t very big, are they? You hardly see them until you’re on top of them.” I rambled on, nervously. I could tell the Farmer’s teeth were clenched under his moustache.

“Let me see that thing,” he said, as he took the map from me.

As we passed each island, I held my finger on the corresponding map blob. I was just thinking how nice it would be if someone had bothered to put water-facing signs on these islands, when we suddenly passed a sign declaring “Davidson’s Point”. I looked at the map. Mom had marked “Dad’s favourite spot” on an island nearby. I studied it carefully as we floated past. I could almost see Dad on the shore, his dog at his feet.

The afternoon sun spilled diamonds all over the water as houseboats, jet skis, cigarette boats and cruisers passed us. We took our sweet time heading back to the dock.

We ate dinner on the Galley patio in Portland that night, and watched as the big boats pulled into the marina, one by one. Some guy I will call Guido the pimp narrowly missed taking out one of the boathouse posts as he backed his cruiser into the parking spot, with the “help” of his equally inebriated idiot friend. Just as they settled themselves and quieted down, the boat carrying their female counterparts showed up. They were no less impaired, and the restaurant guests on the elevated patio held their collective breath as the boat glided into place directly beneath us. Luckily, the revellers were sufficiently tired out from their day of partying and didn’t keep us up all night.

I slept like a rock on our boat.

The next day, we cruised up the opposite shore of the lake toward the Narrows locks. We thought we would sit and watch the boats for a while, so we would know what to do when it was our turn.

As we stepped up onto the dock, I noticed a leather-tanned, shirtless older man wearing well-worn shorts, boat shoes and a gold chain. “That’s what Dad would look like if he had lived another ten years,” I mused. That was his perennial summer outfit. The man was just sitting and watching the boats, and talking to the lock staff as if he knew them well.

Just as the locks opened and the boaters readied themselves to leave, the tanned man appeared beside me. He was chatting with the girl who was turning the big wheel to open the locks.

Something about his voice, his comfortable manner, and the whole boating environment brought memories flooding back. Dad.

The tears came rushing out before I even knew what was happening. My husband gathered me up in his arms and walked me away from the people.

It’s been three years since Dad got sick. Part of me keeps expecting him to show up, especially in this setting, on the water, where he was so comfortable.

It just isn’t fair. He should have been there with us in his own boat, showing us the way.


1 comment:

dotmhan said...

My dad has been gone for 10 years now, but there are still times when new things happen in my life that I think:"It's not fair, Dad should be here to see this"