Showing posts with label Aging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aging. Show all posts

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Solitary Journey



Last week my long-time college friend, Bruce, wrote “My brother died this morning.  I tell you because you are my oldest friend, and also, because I sat down just now in front of our fireplace with the logs burning and read On Growing Old and remembered that we memorized that poem together.”

My first thought was of Camus’s novel L’√Čtranger which I read in French in school (alas, no longer have any ability in that beautiful language). But those haunting first words sprang to mind: “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte.”  There is finality about it.  This is part of life.

I also remember memorizing John Masefield’s great poem On Growing Old with Bruce.  We were romantics back then and Masefield wrote so poignantly about what we thought was the unthinkable in our youth.  I wrote something about that experience on my 70th birthday which is now more than a half decade ago. 

I bring this up because last Saturday night I had to go to the local hospital ER.  I had been on antibiotics and Prednisone for a bronchial infection and late Sat. night I could hardly breathe, persistent uncontrollable cough in the chest in spite of all my medications.   Pulmonary Embolism?  Congestive Heart Failure?  That was the motivation to go.

My wonderful wife, Ann, was with me every step of the way but eventually, when they get you in that ER bed, everything is out of your control and even trying to explain my complicated health history seems of little interest except for recent medications. 

She was exhausted by midnight and as our home is five minutes from the hospital, I asked her to go.  And so, alone.  Then I was sent off for tests, x-rays, CAT scan, blood tests, finally being admitted to a room at 3.00 AM.  Indeed, a solitary journey.

Hospital life: constant interruptions, no rest with nurses and Doctors (most of whom I don’t know) popping in unexpectedly at all times.  Nighttime is the worst.  TV is useless of course so I brought one book in particular that turned out to “save” me.  It calmly and poetically put living (and dying) in perspective.

It is a recent book by one of my favorite writers, Richard Ford.  I wish I was writing this blog when his earlier Frank Bascombe novels were published, but I covered his last, Let Me Be Frank With You,which is actually a collection of novellas.  As I said in that entry: “I feel I know this person as I knew Updike’s Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom.  Frank is four years younger than I and Rabbit ten years older.  But the times recounted by these characters are of my era.  No wonder I’m so familiar with the landscapes of their lives.” 

I also loved his last novel, Canada, which was not from the Bascombe line, but Ford’s voice is unwavering.  I thought it one of the best novels of the year.

His latest work is essentially a memoir Between Them; Remembering My Parents.  It was particularly affecting reading it in my hospital stupor and I felt that Ford drew me away from the illness into the very private lives of two ordinary people, who did the best they could, swept along by the rivers of time and chance.  Edna and Parker marrying early in life, both from the deep south, building their lives as a partnership, accustomed to living on the road together as he was a salesman, even successfully surviving the depression.  It was just the two of them until later in life (in their 30s) along came their only child, Richard Ford.  The title of the book is particularly revealing.  It was in effect a life separately lived by the parents, and then Richard coming between them.  It changed the formula and as life dishes out the unexpected, so we make our adjustments.

Parker, Richard, and Edna
For Richard, this meant having a part-time Dad, who, even when he was in Richard’s life, wasn’t particularly interactive with him.  Neither was my father, who I loved dearly, and although he returned from work each night, he lived in a marriage which was essentially unhappy.  At the end of this entry I am pasting the brief essay I wrote about my own father.

What stunned me about Richard Ford’s sparse lapidary memoir is he poses as many questions about the multitude of blanks, things he could not even conjecture at, regarding his parent’s relationship.  Here he shines as a creative writer, while this blog, which is fundamentally an ongoing memoir, is the work of an essayist.  Ford engages the reader to think about those blanks as well, whereas I’ve tried to define some, probably woefully incorrectly.  Memory is so faulty, so fungible.

My mother carried most of the fury of my parent’s marriage.   My father was the “beaten” one emotionally. One neatly fed into the other.  But Ford’s memoir, reading it while I lay vulnerable in my hospital bed, reminded me there was another side to her.  The loving one.  Memories swelled, one’s I’ve forgotten. 

Silly ones, like the time we were driving back from my cousin’s house in New Hyde Park to our home in Queens one late Sunday night and my mother and I asked my father to stop at a drug store as we both were dying of thirst.  We jumped out of the car and in the paperback rack I saw one of the then best-selling books, Don't Go Near the Water, a 1956 novel by William Brinkley.  I showed my mother the cover as we were asking for water and we began to laugh so uncontrollably that those in the drug store probably thought we were wacky.  Funny how a memory like that, unlocked for years, could be unleashed in a hospital bed in the middle of the night while reading about someone else’s parents. 

In Ford’s skillful hands, the very ordinariness of these two forgotten people, his parents, is elevated to a kind of tribute to the human condition: the solitary journey we’re all on.

Some other writer’s memoirs emphasize how they developed as writers, influenced by parents, particularly mothers.  Ironically, I read the late Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life after emerging from open heart surgery now seven years ago.  His mother used to read him Gone With The Wind, instilling a love of reading.


I had no such mentoring and apparently neither did Richard Ford, although Ford supplies a teaser on that subject.  One day the young Richard and his mother were shopping at the “Jitney Jungle grocery,” and his mother asked him to look at a woman in the store.  Richard looked and saw “someone I didn’t know – tall and smiling, chatting with people, laughing." His mother said, "‘That's Eudora Welty. She's a writer,’ which was information that meant nothing to me, except that it meant something to my mother, who sometimes read bestsellers in bed at night. I don't know if she had ever read something Eudora Welty wrote. I don't know if the woman was Eudora Welty, or was someone else. My mother may have wanted it to be Eudora Welty for reasons of her own. Possibly this event could seem significant now, in view of my life to come. But it didn't, then. I was only eight or nine. To me, it was just another piece in a life of pieces.”

In Ford’s Acknowledgements at the end of the book he gives thanks (among others) “to the incomparable Eudora Welty, who in writing so affectingly about parents, have provided models for me and made writing seem both feasible and possibly useful.”  So there is an arc there, from that vague memory of being with his mother to becoming a writer.  Although in the Afterward he says something that Updike might have said as well about writing: “Mine has been a life of noticing and being a witness.  Most writers’ lives are.”

Unfortunately for me, I did not come from a reading family.  My father read Reader’s Digest Condensed books.  I can’t remember my mother reading anything but magazines.  But Ford and I share the fact we were poor students in high school.  He refers to a disability.  I had several, one an emotional one coming from a troubled family, feeling shame, and I was a small kid, trying to make up for it by excelling in baseball, and even basketball to a degree, anything to fit in.  But I also think I had a form of dyslexia.  My mother interpreted my disability as the need for speech therapy, which was also embarrassing as the speech therapist worked at the high school and I was still in elementary school, and had to walk through the halls with the high school kids, standing out as any young kid would.  I hated it.

And that of course was not the only problem.  My spelling was atrocious.  And as I said although my parents generally did not read to me as a kid, I do remember one that was read.  I loved to look at the pictures.  It was probably their sense of well-intended therapy: Boo Who Used to be Scared of the Dark.  I had reason.

In school I read only what was assigned and it wasn’t until I came under the influence of two great teachers in my life while a senior in high school that I discovered the joys of reading.   After publishing thousands of books in my publishing career, I guess I learned to compensate, word processing being a good crutch for poor spelling. 

Ford does not deal with the leap from his hardship in high school to his days at Michigan State to writer.  Not appropriate in this work as it is about THEM and less about HIM.  And there is yet another ironic thing we had in common.  He first thought of going into Hotel Management.  It is no wonder; his parents frequently took him on his father’s road trips, living in hotels all over the Deep South.  No such explanation for me other than Kent State had such a program and I vaguely thought of that as an escape route from my family (this plan did not work out thankfully).  I was flotsam in the tide of life.

Between Them is really two separate works, one about his mother which he wrote soon after she died, and the other about his father, which he recently wrote.  But you wouldn’t know it, as it flows with such continuity.  His prose is breathtaking.  Here is one paragraph that was particularly affecting (to me), about his father:

“But hardly an hour goes by on any day that I do not think something about my father. Much of these things I've written here. Some men have their fathers all their lives, grow up and become men within their fathers' orbit and sight. My father did not experience this. And I can imagine such a life, but only imagine it. The novelist Michael Ondaatje wrote about his father that ‘... my loss was that I never spoke to him as an adult.’ Mine is the same - and also different - inasmuch as had my father lived beyond his appointed time, I would likely never have written anything, so extensive would his influence over me have soon become. And while not to have written anything would be a bearable loss - we must all make the most of the lives we find - there would, however, not now be this slender record of my father, of his otherwise invisible joys and travails and of his virtue - qualities that merit notice in us all. For his son, not to have left this record would be a sad loss indeed.”

Yes, a sad loss, especially from such an exceptional writer, Richard Ford.  The book was a gift from my wife for my birthday and the coincidence of it landing in my hands while in the hospital, helped deal with the travails of my setback, and even more so with the ultimate philosophical question I’ve quoted many times before by Eugene Ionesco: “why was I born if it wasn’t forever?”   

I got to know two perfect strangers, now memorialized, and appreciate Ford’s writing even more.  I will always look forward to his next work 

As to my own brief essay about my father, I reprint it below as an appendage.  

An Unspoken Obligation

Up Park Avenue we speed to beat the lights from lower Manhattan in the small Ford station wagon with Hagelstein Bros., Commercial Photographers since 1866, 100 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY imprinted on its panels. The Queens Midtown Tunnel awaits us.

It is a summer in the late 1950s and, once again, I’m working for my father after another high school year. In the back of the wagon I share a small space with props, flood lamps, and background curtains. The hot, midtown air, washed by exhaust fumes and the smoke from my father’s perpetual burning cigarette, surround me.

Me and my Dad
My father’s brother and partner, my Uncle Phil, occupies the passenger’s seat. They have made this round trip, day-in and day-out since my father returned from WWII. They speak of the city, its problems, the Russians, and politics disagreeing on most matters. Meanwhile I sleepily daydream about where my friends and I will cruise that evening in one of their cars, a 57’ Merc, probably Queens Blvd., winding up at Jahn’s next to the RKO on Lefferts Boulevard.

The family photography business was established right after the Civil War, soon after my great-great grandfather, Carl, emigrated from Cologne, Germany with his brother, settling in New York City.  Their portrait photography business at 142 Bowery flourished in the 19th century.  The 20th century brought a new focus: commercial photography which necessitated moving to a larger studio, better located, at 100 Fifth Avenue on the corner of 15th Street.  There the business remained until the 1980’s, occupying the top floor.

My father took it for granted that I was being groomed for the business, the next generation to carry it on. Uncle Phil was a bachelor and since I was the only one with the name to preserve the tradition, it would naturally fall to me.

This was such an understood, implicit obligation, that nothing of a formal nature such as a college education was needed to foster this direction. Simply, it was my job to learn the business from the bottom up, working first as a messenger on the NY City streets, delivering glossies to clients for salesmen’s samples, or for catalog display at the annual Furniture Show. As a youngster, I roamed NYC by subway and taxi with my deliveries without incident – after all, this was the innocent, placid 50’s.  Eventually, I graduated to photographer’s assistant, adjusting lamp shades under the hot flood lamps so the seams would not show, and, later, as an assistant in the color lab, making prints, dodging negatives of a clients’ tables, lamps, and sofas to minimize any overexposures.

I see my father through the lens of his working life, revealing a personality normally invisible to me. At home he was a more contemplative, private person, crushed by a troubled marriage. My mother expected more, often reminding him of his failures. But strolling down the halls of his photography business he is a transformed person, smiling, extending his hand to a customer, kidding in his usual way. “How’s Geschaft?” he would say.

His office overlooks the reception area and there he, my Uncle, and his two cousins preside over a sandwich and soda delivered from a luncheonette downstairs. I sit, listen, and devour my big greasy burger. They discuss the business among themselves. Osmosis was my mentor.

In spite of the filial duty that prompted me to continue learning the photography business, I inveigled his support to go to college – with the understanding I would major in business. By then I think I knew going to school would be the first step away from the family business, a step, once taken, would not be taken back. The question was how to reveal this to him.

However, as silently was the expectation that I would take over one day, my retreat was equally furtive. We both avoided the topic as I went to college and yet continued to work there during the summers. Once I switched majors from business to the humanities, we both knew the outcome of the change, but still, no discussion. This was territory neither he nor I wanted to visit at the time.

My reasons were instinctively clear to me, in spite of the guilt I often felt. In the studio he was larger than life, the consummate photographer, but he was also provincial in his business thinking. He had bet the future on producing those prints for salesmen, discounting the impact of the developing mass media.  My opinion on the matter would mean little. After all, he was my Dad and I was his kid. So I kept my silence and progressively moved away.

Why he never brought up the subject I will, now, never know, although I suspect he understood I wanted to find my own way in life. Ultimately, I married and found a job in publishing with an office, ironically, only three blocks from his studio. I still occasionally joined him for that greasy burger at his office during those first few years of my publishing career, his greeting me with a smile when I arrived, “so, how’s Geschaft?




Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day Melancholy



Memorial Day brings a certain kind of sadness beyond its meaning.  The day itself should be dedicated to the men and women who died for this country but aside from some dutiful parades has become a day of commercialization.  The Memorial Day sale ads for cars, mattresses, whatever, are overflowing your mail box (snail and Internet), in the newspapers, TV, wherever you turn.

The “holiday” also is a reminder of the most precious commodity, one we take for granted when young; time.  Memorial Days of the past, memories of different neighborhoods in which we lived, and thoughts of aging now flood my senses.  I wrote a piece about those feeling which I later turned into a short story, with Memorial Day at its conclusion.  Some of the details are real and others are imagined.  It was intended as a memory induced impressionistic piece and it can be read here.
  
I’m reminded of this once again, not only by the marking of still another Memorial Day, but my continuing walks through our Florida neighborhood and golf course.  I walk early in the morning, out on the golf course before the golfers, frequently as the sun is rising.  Although man-made there is a quiet beauty and solitariness about being there, observing the plentiful wildlife, birds ranging from Mallard and Muscovy ducks, Florida grackles, and White Egrets.  The Muscovy ducks are dangerous when they fly low to the ground.  Better watch out as their aerodynamics do not allow for much avoidance when in flight.  I’ve almost been hit in the head at times so when I hear their unmistakable flapping, I duck (no pun intended!).


After walking the golf course, I usually take a turn in the neighborhood.  Early in the morning I see some of the same people and so we sometimes talk.  I’ve been doing this now for nearly 18 years. Although day to day changes are imperceptible, over so many years they are huge.  Houses have been torn down and rebuilt; people have come and have gone.  One of the common themes, though, is the process of aging.  Although I would like to think that I’m an outsider looking in at the process, I’m in lock step with everyone else.

I used to see a man walking the streets, very briskly, at a pace which was mine 15 years ago, but he was older than me.  We always smiled as we passed one another, but we were out there for exercise and it seemed that there was no time to talk.  One day his house was for sale and he was no longer walking the road.  Another neighbor said he was moving into an assisted living facility, that he had had some issues.  After the sale of the house it was gutted and a young family moved in.  And that was not the only one during these many years, and for the same reason. 

A few days ago I saw this sad sign in front of a neighbor’s house at the very end of our road: Goodbye; Friends & Neighbors.  We have Enjoyed Being Here These Past 43 Years -- The De Santis Family.  I really didn’t know them, other than to say hello when the husband collected his newspaper in the morning, but they were one of the “original” people on the road, building their home 43 years ago.  I’ve always admired their house as it reminded me of my northeastern roots and looking at it you would not know you are in Florida. Word has it that they are now going into a “graduated” independent, to assisted, to critical care facility.

Aging comes with several price tags, the increasing healthcare requirements, sudden emergency care, and, the worst consequence, to me, the loss of independence.

On this Memorial Day, there are these memories and thoughts, but there is also the increased awareness that our own turn comes now with gathering alacrity, every day lived to be appreciated, to be productive, but another day closer until we hang our own sign,” goodbye friends and neighbors.” 

And Memorial Day should be a more fully realized day to honor those who heeded the call of Democracy and paid the ultimate price.  I will not buy a car or a mattress this weekend.  It is a time to think of them.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Another Summer, Another Year



This is a continuation of the prior entry, written a couple of weeks and 1,250 miles ago, the flip side of the same old 33 we’ve played on the record player before.  But oh that drive up I95!  I figure that over the years I’ve driven that road some 35 times one way.  At one time we did it over one night, but as we’ve aged have chosen a more “leisurely” two night drive, although this means schlepping bags into a hotel, not once, but twice.  We try to time our drive so we’re passing by Washington at about 8.00 AM on Sunday morning, just about the most benign time to traverse that heavily travelled corridor.  In fact, this time we didn’t take the I495 bypass but went straight through Washington, to the Washington-Baltimore Parkway, and was able to enjoy the sights of Washington we don’t normally see from I495.

We listen to “books on tape” for most of the long, tedious drive and we were particularly pleased with our first choice, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  Just about a perfect book to pass the time, 85 year old Addie Baum’s recollection of coming of age in early 20th century Boston, as told to her granddaughter.  This was very competently read by Linda Lavin who balanced an immigrant Jewish accent with that of a new Bostonian.  Highly recommended as something to listen to (not sure I would want to read it though).

First stop, as usual, was Savannah, an easy six hour drive from our house, where we meet up with our friends Suzanne and George, a tradition going back many years.  Remarkable, warm people – I had recently written about them in this entry.

After enjoying a leisurely dinner with them, catching up on recent events, particularly health issues, and an early to bed, we were up first thing in the morning to get the next leg out of the way, a 7 plus hour drive to Fredericksburg.  But that morning – in spite of having run the car six hours the day before -- we were greeted by the dreaded “click-click” of a dead battery, and this at 6 AM on July 4.  Obviously the battery was no longer accepting a charge from the alternator so we immediately called AAA, but they could only give us a charge, which would not solve the problem.  They could not replace the battery as the Mercedes ML 350’s is under the passenger’s seat!  Mercedes to the rescue, their customer service dispatched a very proficient young man from a nearby garage within 20 minutes, who had the correct battery and replaced it in another 30, and we were on our way, about an hour “behind schedule.” 

One never knows what to expect as one approaches the Fredericksburg area.  I’ve seen traffic there as horrendous as Washington’s.  Luckily, most people were probably already at their destination on the 4th so we arrived at our hotel with enough time to unwind and prepare for dinner. I revere the historical significance of the 4th but without the fireworks, one of the reasons we travel over the holiday.

We’ve stayed at many of the Hampton Inns up and down I95 including this one in South Fredericksburg and remembered there was only one restaurant within easy walking distance (hate getting back into the car after all those jaw clinching hours on the road).  That restaurant is “Hooters,” a most unlikely place to find a couple of septuagenarians.  Well, on the way walking there, this only two weeks after Ann had arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus on her left knee, she slipped on some wet grass, her left leg completely folding underneath her.  Nearby people saw her slip and a young Good Samaritan came running over to help me lift her up. We thought she compromised her operated knee, but, instead she pulled thigh muscles above and behind the knee, so not only did we old folks arrive at Hooters, but stumbled in, Ann asking for ice to put on her thigh.  Talk about attracting attention to yourself.

They were accommodating, bringing bags of ice for Ann to use, and one thing we’ll say about Hooters other than the obvious, they have some tasty grilled food if you’re into that kind of thing.  I had a burger and Ann a rack of ribs.  She ordered a glass of wine and they carded her; obviously their policy to card everyone and that way they stay out of trouble, period.  You must be kidding we thought, but probably a good policy so assuredly no one under age can “look” old enough to imbibe. However, Ann’s pocketbook was in the hotel and as I don’t drink, I ordered the wine for her, she ordered my Coke, so when they carded me, I gave the very attractive young waitress who was now sitting at our table in her official Hooters outfit, my laminated university student ID card which I carry around as a joke (still in pristine condition, better than me!).  She said, what’s this?  I said it’s my official picture ID.  She said who is this?  I asked how old she was.  She said 19 and I replied that was exactly my age in the picture.  Rather than drag her head about the philosophical implications, tempus fugit, etc., I unceremoniously pulled out my license.

We arrived at the boat on Sunday afternoon and after our son, Jonathan, and his girl friend, Anna, helped us unpack, they served US dinner (for a change).  Nice to see them, one of the reasons we still do this, and we went to bed exhausted and in some chaos.

Ann’s knee and thigh needed rest and ice the next day so I was off alone to Stew Leonard’s, my favorite supermarket of all time, ideal for shoppers such as myself as it is configured as an orderly maze so you have to pass by everything.  I loaded up with groceries to get us started and began to get back into the swing of things at our boat club, first having our traditional welcome back dinner with our friends, Ray and Sue.

Wednesday nights is a family barbeque night here but it rained and as Ann was still somewhat immobile, I ended up “getting volunteered” to be a “runner” for the event, now held indoors, having to take orders and fill them in the club kitchen where other volunteers were laboring away grilling and prepping side orders. This event is a continuing testimony to the man who organized it years ago, Frank, and although he has now been partially disabled by a stroke, still overseas it to this day, with the able assistance of his wife, Barbara, and his sons. That following weekend was an antique car show in the parking lot and Ann was finally up and about for this, so here she is with a 1915 Chrysler.  There were also cars of my teenage dream years, T-Birds and Corvettes. 

So, our summer has begun here.

For me, living on the boat is increasingly complicated as at home I have my computer on most of the time and can stroll over to it and do what I need to do, managing our finances and particularly writing when I want to.  Here on the boat, the Wi-Fi no longer is “reachable” from where we are docked, so I’m dependent mostly on my iPhone’s cell connection and when I want to write anything lengthy, such as this for my blog, I have to set up my laptop and I’m dependent on the cellular “personal hotspot” to get connected.  This makes transferring photos more data intensive, expensive, slow, what can I say?  So if I post less, and some photos are compromised, that’s the reason.

Nonetheless, this is offset by more time to work on the boat (finished getting a few coats of sealer on the teak cover boards earlier in the week – they can be seen in one of the photos towards the end of this entry) and to read.  I’ve been alternating between William Trevor’s latest collection of short stories (Selected Stories) and the late Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything. 

Putting aside the Hitchens’ work for the time being -- which I’ll write about probably in my next entry -- one William Trevor short story each night is enough for the time being to satisfy my literary thirst.  The man simply never ceases to amaze me with his stories, the reader frequently thinking he is going with one part of the story, only to find the real story is about something else.  He deals with subtle aspects of relationships and his character descriptions are like photographs.  I’ve never read anyone like him.  It’s hard to read more than one story at a time as there is so much to think about.

Part of my routine – one borrowed from home – is my early morning walk.  I’ve written before about the nearby Shorefront Park, my walking grounds here.  It is an old waterfront community in Norwalk, sleepily nestled on the west shore of the Norwalk River.  When I first started walking the area years ago, mostly older homes from the 40’s and 50’s were the norm.  Over the years some of those older homes, particularly right on the river were torn down with new, much more expensive ones being built.  One problem with the area which was exposed during hurricane Sandy is it is low lying.  Many of the homes were inundated by the storm, becoming uninhabitable.  Some were repaired and raised off their foundations, insurance companies bearing all or part of the expense, while others were torn down and more mansion type homes being erected but at higher elevations.  This process is still going on, years after the storm.  So it is a place of change and I get to see it kaleidoscopically.
 
One thing that hasn’t changed when I walk it early in the morning is the sights and sounds of nature, so different here than in Florida.  The evening crickets are still evident in the grass, their murmur quieting by the early morning.  The aroma of pines permeates the air and the mornings can be cool, even in the summer.  A walk here is refreshing and nostalgic for me, remembering our decades in the area.  It is imprinted in my DNA by now. Then there is the view of the Norwalk Harbor, at the “turn around” point of my walk, a place where I always stop and take in the beauty of the scene. 


Still another reason to return.

The question as we age though, is how much longer?  The drive itself takes its toll.  Maybe fly up for only a month, leaving more time on the boat for our son (who has already stepped in maintaining it beautifully)?  Perhaps that will be something to consider next year.  It’s hard, maybe impossible, to just walk away from this area and our past.  Alternatively, let life dictate the outcome?

An event a couple of days ago -- at about 11.00 PM – will illustrate why boating and aging do not exactly mix.  We were already in bed as a strong cold front moved through. The boat began to bang against the port piling in a gusty NE wind. Our bow line had obviously stretched in the wind.  What to do?  Reluctantly, I decided I’d have to get out there to set up another bow line to keep the boat off the piling, as well as going down to the bilge to access another fender and setting it up against the piling.  I also thought it would be prudent to set up a redundant spring line to keep the swim platform off the dock.

I donned my jeans over my pajamas and stuck a flashlight in my back pocket.  I don’t relish walking up the gunnels to the bow, even under the best conditions and thought I should alert Ann that I’d be off the boat doing this work in the dark and under those conditions.  She had just fallen into a deep sleep – amazing given all the banging, and I didn’t have the heart to wake her up at that point.  So I rehearsed every movement in my mind and where things could go wrong and then went about my business.  Hey, what was the worst that could happen – finding a floating body at the mouth of the river in the morning? (Shouldn’t joke like that as when we were at another marina someone on our dock arrived late at night, obviously slipped trying to get on his boat, and his body was found the next morning floating between the finger of the dock and his boat.)

As the morning-after-the-front-passage photographs attest, everything went fine, but for the balance of the night the wind was unrelenting and I felt as if we were underway, the water slapping against the hull and the rubbing of the fender against the piling (better than banging though).  Ann continued to sleep right through!   This used to be “fun” when we were younger, even at an anchorage where it is exponentially more dangerous than the same conditions at a dock. With the passage of time, though, it becomes more difficult to manage, to tolerate even— and it’s certainly no fun.  So, still another factor to consider for the future.