This is the first of a three-part essay. We will publish the series each Thursday through its completion.
So my Dad bought a boat. Big deal, right? I mean, this is the Eastern Shore of Maryland. A lot of dads have bought a lot of boats. My Dad has, like four or five times. But this time it was different. This time it has done something else. It meant something else. He didn’t just buy a boat.
“So you wanna go to the boat show in Ocean City with me?” My dad called to ask.
This was four or five years ago. He was wanting a new boat. One he could take my mother out on. Something they could do together. Several years before, back in ’95, my mother was involved in a terrible car accident. She nearly died. Though, ironically, that accident may have saved her as well.
It’s funny how things like that work, the worst tragedies are the very things that can bring us the best or make us the best or better than we were. Anyway, she was left with several debilitating issues, walking is not easy, and my father wanted a boat that would be more accessible for her. He was pretty Hell bent on a pontoon boat.
So, I said “yes” and we went. We went to the Ocean City Boat Show. We walked around the Convention Center. We got on boats. We got off boats. We walked through boats. We sat in the little chairs and thought about what it would be like to be on that boat. On the water, as opposed to the Ocean City Convention Center show room. We looked at boats we would never own. He would never own. In fact, I mean that literally. He didn’t buy one. A boat. Not that day.
We talked about it over a burger and beer later. He wasn’t ready. He didn’t think my mother was ready. Mostly he didn’t think she was ready. Mostly I didn’t think he was. When we got back to the house, my mother was surprised that we did not have a boat.
He gave up on the Ocean City Boat Show. And the next few years were spent going to the Kent Island Boat Show. Bigger boats! Yachts even! He went once with my mother, once by himself, and twice with my husband, Mike. Yes, that makes four times. Four times he went. Three times he came back with no boat. Well, four times really. He had to go pick the boat up somewhere in Delaware a few weeks later once he decided to buy.
We had a boat when I was very young. A small boat. I vaguely remember it. I think I remember standing in it once, my dad was there, and I remember fish. I also remember the boat sinking. I can recall standing in the boat while it had lots of water in it. It was brown. Brown and white. The boat, not the water. I think the brown was wood. Like I said, it is a vague memory.
And now that I’ve talked to my Dad I can, with more authority, tell you about it. It was an inboard, 23 foot Luhr’s Offshore Fisher. He never named it, he never got the chance. It sunk. It had a white hull. (I got that part right.) It was made of wood. And he had stained all of the trim work a deeper darker color. (So there is the brown I was talking about.) I did learn that I wasn’t, however, actually in the boat when it sank. There was a storm. The boat was tied to the dock, and the waves beat at the boat mercilessly shoving it against said dock over and over and over again. The dock won and the boat sank. My Dad said it was possible I was there watching him bail it out with a five gallon bucket. I’m certain I was there, just as certain that my education in colorful language began there. Eventually some kind folks from the marina came, pumped out the boat, and towed it to the marina. That was the end of the no named Luhr’s Offshore Fisher.
So he called me, my Dad. He was quite excited, and extremely nervous. He had found the one. He had all of the brochures, he had all of the information, and he had made the deal. My mother and I were out having lunch . Mike and my Dad were at the boat show. “Is it coming home tonight?” My mother or I asked. “No, No.” He said. “They have to build it. It gets built in Delaware.” “How much was it?” My mother asked. “Enough.” Was a potential answer. I can assure you of this, he never really said. But he did it, he ordered his boat. My mother ordered another glass of wine.