Sailing Through Life
The unshakeable bond between human spirits. A memoir. Con warned me on our third date that he planned to sail in his retirement; I fell hard for him anyway. In the blink of an eye we're tossing off the lines in Finland, and sailing into wild seas, testing my courage. Life and death revisit my world and fate plays the final card. More
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.”—Mark Twain
March 2007, our journey began. Con and I weren’t leaving Canada for another month, but the emotional journey was already in play. I carried thirty-six over-stuffed boxes down two flights of stairs to the basement. They held photo albums, dishes, my grandmother’s table cloth, treasured pieces of art and a binder of memories like hair clippings from my daughters’ first hair cuts and silly things they’d said over the years that I’d written down. I carried the other boxes down too, the ones Con had packed. They were filled with memories unfamiliar to me—from his past. Nevertheless, I’d itemized everything on a spread sheet. Using his sixty-one-year-old fit muscles, Con stacked them deep into the alcove under the stairs and drew a map so we’d know exactly where our absolutely-can’t-part-with stuff was strategically stored. What was once our wine cellar now held our larger items. Con hoisted the final piece, a Norwegian leather chair, easily over his head and upside down on top of the whole collection.
“Don’t sneeze, Con!” I was sure it would topple like a house of cards. Pushing the door closed, I heard the click. We did it. I wasn’t at all sure that we—or I could do it. I turned the key and fell back against the door with a deep exhale. Our 5,000-square-foot home, the place where Con and his ex-wife raised their two daughters and the place I’d called home for the last four years, was now empty, except for the two suitcases upstairs.
Last week, we had a major clean-out; a super garage sale and if it didn’t sell, we gave it away—couches, dining room sets, bedroom suites, computers, all my clothes; things we’d collected over our combined 113 years—the stuff that defined the “material” us. We even gave away Con’s 2005 Volvo and my 2007 XTrail. Anything else we owned was on its way to Big Sky, the place we’d call home for the next—I don’t know how many, years.
“If we’ve forgotten anything; we forfeit it,” I announced bravely, dropping the key into my back pocket.
“Okay by me.” Con pulled me into his chest, planting a sweaty kiss on my lips.
I was hooked on him and knew I’d follow him anywhere.
Taking my final tour of the house, I saw the expensive baby-blue towels hanging in the main-floor bathroom. I’d just purchased them a few months ago, putting my last attempt at making Con’s house feel homey. I fingered their softness. “How relevant are you anyway,” I said out loud and checked my watch. Just a few more hours.
Life had been moving fast in the last few months—years. “Do you even know what you’re getting into, Barb?” I continued mumbling to myself when the door bell rang.
Courtney, my twenty-three-year-old daughter stood on the porch, her bare hands pushing down deep in the pockets of her over-sized hoodie. My eyes scanned her gym-toned body down to her snow-covered fluffy pink slippers and back into her delicate fresh face. Her long blond-streaked hair looked tousled, as if she’d just woken up. I looked around her to her jeep in the driveway. Scooping her into my arms, I pulled her in and closed the door. I hated that my first reaction when I saw her was always panic—so did she. She’d taken a number of tumbles in the last few years… life for her had been tough. I had been trying so hard to catch her before she fell that I was emotionally exhausted and wondered what a normal “hello” would feel like.
She slumped into my arms, not about to break away from the hug any time soon. After a while, I pulled her back and looked into her sad smoky-green eyes.
“Living on a boat, Mom?” She searched my face for response. “Is it what you want?”