...the boat caretaker
We all have a story.
He was seventy-four years old and was of island decent, weathered from years in the sun and hard work. Deep creases around his eyes from squinting in the sun and from the sorrow he had endured throughout his life. Most of his teeth were missing, but he didn't seem to mind at all - it added character.
Deeply tanned from years of sailing and sun. He smiled genuinely and sprung up from his seat on the deck of a yacht where he was watching a sportscast on big screen located on deck. It was break time and he was enjoying it. The owners were out of town and the trusted job of keeping house on the yacht was his and his alone. He had worked on and around boats for most of his seventy something years. He could never understand why they needed or rather why they made so much money. but still, they were very kind and appreciated him. They paid him well and paid for him to hire out jobs he saw fit, as he was aging and could no longer do the harder manual labor.
He walked over to the rail of the deck to see the questioner and answered questions about - "if it was his giant boat" and "did he get to fish off the side", from the curious long blond haired boy that was strolling on the dock with his mother. He smiled and took each question with delight and interest.
He asked a few of his own questions to them both, as well.
For the previous fifteen years he had lived on his own sailboat in the islands. It was a carefree and happy life. Not the daily troubles we had living the states, he stated. He said no one watched the television there and therefore the islanders just lived their lives with each other contently. He always felt safe even after coming home to his sailboat after a night of drinking. He was never bothered and never felt threatened. He missed his life there, but after the last hurricane came through it destroyed his sailboat and many lives and livelihoods of the people.
So for the fourth time in his life, he had started over. He never did so out of regret or sadness. He saw adventure and abundant gratitude in it all. It was not so easy the first time he had started over though. The first time he was out of sheer desperation after his new wife bearing his unborn son was hit and killed by a drunk driver. For years he was utterly lost and he wandered. He was lost and was never quite the same after that.
He has learnt since then to take each new start with gratitude, hope and faith.
The islands are coming back, he says, and if he is still alive next year that he will go again. He said in a serious tone that it is a half -life here and is not soulful. His employers and community put their resources together and have replaced his sailboat - his home.
He will start again with a new sail.
He was full of stories and none of them were out of sadness or regret.
His zest and exuberance for life continues to inspire me. I have always loved southern people - full of character, grace and grit. I aspire to be a memorable southern character myself. Until then...Here & Now