I posted something on social media awhile back and someone had a comment that read in sincerity “This may be about your uncle, but your mother is an awesome person too”
Truer words couldn’t have been typed. Ever tried to jibb an overloaded boat? That’s what its like to mother a son. I’m not talking about Mama’s boys. I’m speaking of genuinely raising your son to be a man. How to instill values and morals into something that continually runs aground so that when they come to their senses, they can be their best… and treat others as being the best.
How can a lady keep a ship from running afoul while earning a living through being a teacher? How can she not wear down and admit defeat to one or the other after countless years of loving beings that seem taken and unpredictable?
If you look at me now, I’m smiling. Its through wry amusement. That’s how I get through the true tale I’m about to tell.
When I was sixteen years old, I inherited a bit of money. Being the smart son that my mother raised, I decided to invest in a boat. A boat is a grand idea for the late teenager. With it, one can have a means of transportation and a place to call home through the college years without the robbery that college barracks commence on the pocket book. Note at this stage of my life I had already completed boatbuilding school. Yes, I had built a canoe. With the completion of the canoe, I had qualified myself to purchase a sailboat in any condition, anywhere in the world, and sail it to home port in the Appalachian Mountains.
My parent’s house was in the country. The driveway was a mile in length and straight up a mountainside in direction. With that said, we had limited internet access. The internet was fed through my father’s music studio. My father was a damn good psychologist and an even better musician. The internet and computer were in his music studio. Fortunately he had long days seeing patients, and long nights playing music. This schedule allowed him to read the local paper and fall asleep on the couch for approximately two hours every evening. I used my time wisely. Towards the end of my search, I could scan the boat ads at 100 per minute before he would wake up and kick me out of his studio.
I found a boat. I showed it to my dad. It was wooden. He liked it. I liked it. Somehow I forgot to show it to my mom before I left. In not so many words the classified ad read “Cheoy Lee Ketch. Outfitted for charter diving. 47′. Hit and sunk by a water taxi. Repaired so well, you can’t tell where it had been hit. Ready to sail. On the hard.”
I don’t know what sold the idea more, the fact that it was built by an awesome naval architect or the fact that it had been “repaired so well”.
To protect my innocence, a fog must have set in between my ears for the next thing I know, I had agreed to help a friend move to Florida. I was so excited about the ability to help a friend out, that I must have forgotten to tell my mom that I had put money in an escrow account for the boat.
My father provided transportation to my friend’s house. I believe he could tell my intentions by glancing at my eyes. His hug was deeper than most hugs he had given me. I felt encouragement for the adventure I was about to set off on. I felt caution too, but I shrugged that feeling to the side.
My father dropped me off the day before we were to leave for Tallahassee. I helped finish packing. My friend’s mother asked if I’d drive her car while she drove the moving truck. I had no problem with that. Our first objective was a run to the local Goodwill Hut. She drove the truck. It was painful to watch. You could see the fear she had every lurch the truck made. She did make it to the destination. We buried the Goodwill hut with clothes. I drove the beast back home. It was a Penske I believe. The largest they had without the need for air brakes.
The next morning we were ready to depart. My friend’s mom took the keys from the station wagon I was going to drive and replaced them with the truck keys. Delight came across my face. No longer was I driving a station wagon with chinchillas, parakeets, and cats all the way to Florida. Instead, my best friend and I were driving a huge truck. I believe any driver for the rental truck was supposed to be in their twenties, but who was going to pull over a big ol’ truck?
We had no atlas, but that was alright since we were following my friend’s mom. The first downhill we hit, the governor took control and the station wagon we were following became a small dot in the distance. How hard could it be to find Tallahassee? Then the realization for money for fuel and food caught up with us.
We didn’t worry long for help found us! An officer! Don’t you always feel safe when you see an officer in the median? Tennessee. I remember clearly. I was finally catching up to the station wagon when I passed several signs for a weigh station. I then caught up to the station wagon, passing the weigh station. Blue lights passed no time in catching up to me. The station wagon’s driver couldn’t see out the back window. Too many animal cages. Two daughters playing in the back seat. The blue lights didn’t pass me. They fell in line behind. I pulled over. The station wagon disappeared.
To best describe me at the time, I think I had bleach blonde hair and wondered why GQ hadn’t done countless articles about me. My friend was (and still is) a damn handsome man. He was and still is an African American. So picture this: some young blonde pomade wearing dude driving down the road with some young black Karl Kani wearing dude. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to figure out the end result of the aforementioned recipe.
So there we were sitting on the guardrail next to our big truck. The back, which took hours and manpower to pack, was now behind the truck . The mattresses, the couch, the chairs. All on the shoulder of the road. The officer had called another officer to join and the two of them thought it best if they had a look in the back of our truck. Fortunately they left before they remembered to look at the age on my license. Unfortunately, they unloaded the back of our truck and left.
A sit on the guardrail for a half an hour was enough to muster the strength to get the two couches and four mattresses wedged among the dozen of boxes and dining room furniture for 10. We got back on the road and kept the pace of a tortoise. Why is it that after you get pulled over, your first instinct is to drive suspiciously slow? I know why I was driving slow. I knew I was going to Tallahassee, but I didn’t know where. I knew there were upcoming weigh stations, and I wasn’t about to fly by another one. And lastly I hoped that we would see a station wagon pulled off on the side of the road, waiting for us. Fortunately, lastly happened.
After reuniting at a burger joint for lunch, we got back on the road. This time the station wagon kept us in it’s sights. We stopped once more before Atlanta. This time it was at a truck stop. I backed that truck into its slip like I was one of the big dogs…even if my straight axle truck was only 1/3 the size of the surrounding neighbors. We did what men do in truck stops…eat, drink, and use the head. Upon our return to the truck, there was a lady on it’s sidesteps. She must have gotten something in her hair for she was using the driver side mirror to look at herself as she continually flung her fiery red hair back. To this day I can’t remember if or how much cologne we bought off the lady, but I can remember her hair. Red, but not too red. Long, but not too long.
We left the truck stop smiling from ear to ear after our encounter with the cologne saleslady. Out of all of the truck drivers, she picked us to sell her scents to. Smiles didn’t last long as we quickly found ourselves devoured by Atlanta rush hour traffic. Why did the station wagon pick this course?
Hours later we arrived at the bottom end of Atlanta. Hours after that we arrived in Tallahassee (I believe the time was around one in the morning). We unloaded a few things, but saved the rest for morning.
A bit of luck was had as my plane ticket was moved to an earlier time, so I didn’t have to unload the truck. At least I thought I was lucky. Flight after flight to the Caribbean was canceled.
I finally arrived in St. Thomas around 9pm on what seemed to be a Sunday night. I had one of those Samsonite hanging bags. I think if that bag were alive, it would want nothing more than to hang itself…it was that packed and abused. I was slow making it off the plane and to baggage claim. Yes, I had my bag, so no claim was needed, but I was in need of advice. I was in need of a place to stay.
I walked up to the Hertz counter and the lady behind the desk asked what name my rental was under. I explained to her I had no reservation, that I was simply looking for a place to stay. I can still hear her laughter and the laughter of the surrounding rental companies as she explained to them that I had no plans other than to exit plane rest head, and look for boat. Once she wiped the tears from her eyes, she said she had a friend and called her. I was beginning to run for the ocean, but she assured me it was legit. She got off the phone and told me she had gotten a place on the back side of the island for $80 a night. She then hailed for a taxi. Ever been the only passenger in a 15 passenger van that drove British style on the opposite side of the road with empty bottles of rum rolling from front to back depending on which way the van was leaning into the curve?
The Van pulled up under a beautiful thatched vestibule. A golf cart pulled up alongside. My bag was tossed in the golf cart. I got aboard as well. The golf cart took me to the top of a hill and the driver led me into a beautiful bungalow. The bed looked out over the living area and the living area was open to the veranda and I couldn’t see much more than that. It was pretty late in the night at this point. I wanted badly to explore my surroundings, but I had a big day in just a few hours..I had a boat to look at.
The following morning I awoke to a gorgeous view of the sea. I heard a knock on the door. It was complimentary room service bringing the daily ration of 1 bottle of rum, a six pack of cola, freshly baked baguettes, and perfectly ripened plantains. After getting drunk off copious amounts of baguette, I pulled myself together and awaited for the boat broker to pick me up.
I was probably in the wrong resort to get this guy to understand that I had little money. He was in awe with my accommodations. I was in awe with his four door car that only had three doors. He took me down to the Marina. We looked at the boat. He was telling me what a great buy it was because the scuba tanks still had air in them. I asked him about the engine. He said he thought it was under the keel, hard to get to. I asked where the boat had structural repair after it had been hit and sunk by the water taxi. He reiterated that the repair had been so good, that no one knows where it was done. The conversation went on like this for quite some time. He got a phone call. It was an emergency. He pointed out the bar on the dock and suggested I wait there until he gets back. I spent a good deal of time on the boat, but then made my decision and walked down to the bar. I believe the bartender knew of the boat broker so before I could even order a sprite, he handed me a glass, a coke, a bottle of crown royal and then told me he was sorry about my troubles.
The broker finally showed back up when I had even sucked the ice out of my glass. I told him I’d rather call a taxi at this point. He acknowledged and went on his way.
Now I won’t go into too much detail about the hostess of the restaurant at the resort I was staying at, or the fabulous meals and conversation she brought to my room. Nor will I go into detail about finding a gift that had some sort of magical power to apologize to my mother for not being frank with her about my trip.
But I will say that when I called home to say I was in St. Thomas and I was fine, well, I didn’t know if I’d have a place to call home after I heard my mother in the background. My father told me that she didn’t want to talk to me and that she didn’t want much to do with me and that maybe I shouldn’t come home. I was flat devastated. I wanted to fly home immediately, take my beating, and hug my mother. My flight wasn’t for another three days. Three days I had to ponder if my mother was going to forgive or if she wanted distance. That three days seemed like eternity. I looked and looked for something meaningful I could get her. I don’t know why, but I settled on a metal Tiki doll that held a candle above her head. Nothing says “Mom, I’m sorry and I love you” like a batched out piece of metal. I can’t even remember if it came with a candle.
I believe the candle holder is now being passed from one Goodwill to another. My mother and I have a love for one another that can’t be broken by anything. I often find myself comparing other people to my mother, but that’s not fair to the other people.. to always have such low results. My mother has put up with a great deal over the years. I’ve given her countless worrisome nights, grandchildren, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and every now and then, a bit of humor. She deserves much more than that.
I give her love each day and every day for shaping me into the man, husband, and father that I am. It is her birthday today. Yes, its a special day, but so is every day when you have a mother like mine. She is some kind of Awesome.
Love you Mom! Happy Birthday!!