Today, I have finally returned. I thought it had only been three years since I was last here but my neighbors, John and Ruth, just told me it’s been eight. They said they had pictures to prove it.
My askance expression must have been the reason that they pressed their point so vehemently. Ruffling their feathers was definitely not in my agenda nor, I must add, was perusing photos I knew too well.
Still, John’s Type A personality pressed the issue forward as he entered his cottage returning in short time with the photo album. He thrust it in my direction. I backed away. Or should I say, rolled away. Not wanting to be rude nor in need of their pity, I mustered a smile and, in the most pleasant way I knew how, suggested that I would gladly look at their photos upon my return from the beach. Though, in all honesty, I possessed no such intention.
More crow-like than human John and Ruth looked down their beaks at me. It was as if they could read my true intention. I would have sworn at that very moment if they had been party to a murder of crows they would have poked my eyes out. Grasping the wheels on either side of my wheelchair I slowly maneuvered onto the flat stone pathway. Still smiling of course, I glanced back and gave them a begrudging but cheery wave and hastily escaped toward the beach, my crutches rattling at my back.
At the path’s end I stopped and locked the wheels. Lifting my legs one at a time I dropped my sandaled feet onto the pristine, plump white sand. Before me, the fresh water of Lake Huron stretched out in either direction and touched the horizon like one vast ocean.
The refreshing coolness of the onshore breeze washed over me. I was mesmerized by the lazy to and fro pendulum of the lapping waves upon the shore, sweeping in and then out again.
But, I know there is a witch beneath the Lake’s rolling surface. She can turn waves from minutes to hours when the gales come slashing. Today, at this moment, she is kind.
Pushing myself up and onto my crutches I take time to catch my breath. The ha-ha-ha-ha of seagulls overhead floods my mind with memories. Thirty meters in front of me, the dock stretches lonely into the water. Punching my walking aids into the sand, I will myself forward. Aft of me, deep, wavy lines through the sand bear witness to my journey.
My boat is shrouded in mist. At the helm, the gossamer image of my friend Tom waves me on; tattooed on his face, as always, was his huge, welcoming smile. Busy at the stern, wearing his Greek fisherman’s hat—he was sensitive about his baldness—Jock glances over his shoulder and nods.
They are no more.
Sadness clouds my very being, my eyes bubble with tears. I think of all the memories I have and all the things we did back then.
Keow the seagulls call. Keow.
My eyes bubble with tears. My mind floods with memories.
The sweet gentle sound of water lapping against the boat’s hull is a gesture from God to my ears. I stop. My heartbeat knits into the tapestry of surrounding, soothing sounds. And, I let them wash through me.
El Niño is responsible for the unseasonably warm weather this time of year, the strongest in fifty years. It occurs when the Trade winds stop moving. Perhaps that is why the Lake is busy with all size of tankers this day.
Ensconced on the deck of my boat—our boat, I sighed in great relief. Much effort was expended by me, a feat worthwhile indeed.
Slurp. Slurp. The boat bobs in the water. And, like a small child in his mother’s arms, I found solace in her cradled rocking.
Why we didn’t turn back that day when the first wave broke over the railing, I do not know. When the rigging screamed out in distress it was too late. The storm was upon us; the witch beneath us was angry and she swallowed us whole.
I do not remember more. I don’t want to remember more.
Memories of my chums lie deep within me; as I breathe so do they.
Why me? Why should I have lived and they not? This is my guilt.
I can only hope the one verse from Amazing Grace, don’t ask me how I remember it, is true, namely:
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
As time goes by and until the evening tide comes in, I will visit with you, my dear friends, by this dock in the bay watching ships roll by and away again.
Merry Christmas dear friends, I can feel your warmth wrapping around me. Your home-fire, my succor, is a beacon to lead me safely home again.