The cry was almost as singly inexplicable as that first Christmas under a whole different wedding band.
I’d wanted to speak with my father, maybe tell him that I’d made good. Tell him about the kids he’d met, maybe tell him that they’d made good, too — and that he’d be a grandfather again in the new year.
The cry was ludicrous, because I was happy, but it wasn’t a happy cry, so I dialed. He’d said from over there on the left coast that he didn’t have a phone in the little one-room over the bar, but he was friends with everyone below, so if I called the bar (and if he wasn’t in it), they’d go upstairs and tell him he had a call.
The bar messenger left me hanging on the line for 5 minutes, then 6.. he finally came back and said, “He’s not answering my knock — I don’t think he’s there.” I said, “Did you tell him it’s his daughter?” He said he’d go back up, “Hang on.” I didn’t know if he had really gone up, but a few minutes later, he said, “Sorry, ma’am — no answer.”
I cried, similarly, throughout the tall ships on Thursday, there on the banks of a river that had claimed one grandfather before we could meet, where my mother and I had often put down a blanket even after I’d had kids, where we waded into the ice water, and found a dead squid once.
My father loved ships, and his father before him — another grandfather I hadn’t met, who painted a tall ship and racing sailboats and mountains, and India-inked this very harbor. They themselves had never been without a boat in life, until my father drank all his possessions (and an inheritance) away, not long after his father’s passing. After that, we’d had to rent rowboats.
He’d have loved these ship days — he’d have taught me, point by point, all that I shouldn’t miss. He, too, would’ve laughed at the faux but deafening cannon greetings, ‘though my mother would’ve only dreaded the next one, and I’d have been torn between the two and remained still.
Yes, out behind the now 3-generation pool, across from the Yard where I’d first worked as a high schooler, and after as a graduated *adult* — the old lunch whistle blasted forth as the biggest ship set beside her — I balanced my gone-ass bones on sharp rocks, trying to get closer, closer..
To what? To life, maybe. No one knows how much I miss this harbor, so I said it aloud. I thought a while about how life might’ve been had I stayed near. To always have a sea breeze, and neighbors; to coffee any time of the day or night with others and their dogs downtown, to get to this water any time that I or the kids or anyone wanted to, to wave at all the lobstermen and little speedboats, and ugh, yachts — and to swim my ass off instead of giving up flesh to age.
I never dream of going to sea anymore. I’d be useless, now. I never even feel the rowboat under me hours after the fact, rocking my bed so Atlanticly, remembering those mysterious creatures so lovingly laid back into the water after they were de-hooked, and– *gasp! finally! swimming away.
It was wonderful to cry freely into the wind for a few moments, a brief grief. It was better than not crying. Almost anything is better than not crying.
I might book a touristy sailing next year on that sassy ol’ girl, if she comes back.