Some people might call the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled heaven on earth; it’s actually the definition of serenity.
I was blessed this week with a visit back in time, to my teenage years, to be precise. Our friends Dave and Jen were kind enough to invite us on a beautiful trip aboard their boat Serenity, also lovingly referred to as the "yachet." Traveling up to the Delta, we docked at the Delta Yacht Club for a few days. We reminisced about years gone by, swam or probably more accurately stood in three feet of water talking, and enjoyed delicious meals. Everything tastes better when mixed with nature and good friends, right?
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My father loved boating, so I grew up around boats. Over the years, he owned two cabin cruisers and a ski boat as I remember it. I've written in earlier posts as well as my book, about the fact that my parents were alcoholics. Many of my memories are filled with strife, arguments, and even violence— except for my high school years.
When I entered high school, my parents stopped drinking cold turkey. I don't remember the day or even how it came to pass. I do know that ease replaced fighting and bitterness, and it might be accurate to characterize the three of us as happy during those years.
My mother told me years later, and I had no reason to doubt her, that they were afraid I was traveling down the wrong path (which I was) and that they chose to come together in sobriety to create a united force to hold me accountable for my actions.
It worked. By the end of 9th grade, I stopped smoking and abstained from drugs. I know, wow, I have to shake my head that I can even write that. I was only 13 years old. But it's a fact that I was smoking grass (as we called it in our day) and taking pills as early as 8th grade and probably had been smoking cigarettes since 5th or 6th grade. I had also begun to skip classes (more on this in a future post).
My high school years were our saving grace. We spent a good deal of time on our boat in the Delta, exploring the numerous channels. I was always allowed to bring my friends, which over the four years ranged from my first friend Joan (friends since we were five) to my high school boyfriend Mike, along with our buddies Diane and Alan. Each trip would begin and end with a frosty at the corner hamburger joint in whatever little town we docked our boat in. My parents parked a small trailer nearby. We swam in the Delta as well as nearby pools. For the first time in my life, anger and unhappiness dwelled somewhere in the distance, perhaps beyond the reeds that lined the water's edge. I was happy for the reprieve.
My friend Pam accidentally threw my dad's new fishing pole into the water. My father chuckled and hung his head ever so slightly. He had a distinctive sound he would often make, which I can't even describe, except to say it was full of goodwill and expressed his lively spirit. He let that sound out with a smile on his face and a tear in his eye. The pole was history. It was okay.
That's the kind of man my dad was when he wasn't drinking, generous and thoughtful and probably what I loved most, lighthearted.
I wish I could remember more about my mom during those years, but sadly I don't. Joy didn't come as easily for her, nor did abstaining from alcohol, so perhaps she was having a more challenging time than my dad. Regardless, it was a joint effort on their part.
Those years passed quickly, as most happy ones do. Sadly my parents began drinking again after I graduated from high school. And while we did have some pleasant times in the following years, they were hit and miss, and alcohol typically dictated.
But we had those four years. And I'm grateful they put me first, ahead of their needs, understanding the precipice I was at. And believe me, I don't use the word "needs" lightly. I think they each were suffering and continued to do so until their final days, so the drink that they refused each day for four years was their way of showing me how much they loved me. Their actions undoubtedly changed the course of my life, helping me to eventually arrive at a peace of mind that sadly I don't believe either of them ever achieved.
After we docked on the first day, I ventured to the front of Dave and Jen's boat. The memories came flooding back to me. As a kid, I always loved being on the ship's bow, close to the water and nature all around. I likely also loved the serenity of the bow, being alone with my thoughts or with friends trying to get a tan (aka future skin cancer) talking and laughing.
It appears I still love the bow, as I had to drag myself off of it to return to Rick and our gracious hosts. Being as intuitive as he is, Rick left me alone as I allowed myself time to linger and remember. In those minutes, I pieced together the importance of this boat ride on a yacht named Serenity— a time to reflect and appreciate my peaceful heart and my parents' efforts toward that end.
I'm sincerely grateful to Dave and Jen for their fantastic hospitality and for sharing Serenity with Rick and me.
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Thank you, Sallie. It was nice to be reminded of that miracle. It's much easier to remember the pain sadly. Having had the pleasure of getting to know you this last year, it's clear to me that you also have made wonder of your experiences.
LOVED reading this just now. I don't think it was until this month that I learned we both grew up with boats. I too have some memories of heavily drinking parents at home or during boating trips to Lake Powell. There were more than a few bad things that happened (injuries and a few other dangerous things that I'll save for HH) but thankfully they quit for good, probably because they realized the influence it was having and probably because of the realization that they were alcoholics.