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Monday
Oct032011

Sail(s) to Remember

Today is my birthday, let me tell you how I celebrated my ongoing joy in being alive.
 
I went sailing for the first time on the San Francisco Bay this Saturday.
 
Sailing on a real sailboat has been on my bucket list for a long time. I grew up in Indiana, smack dab in the middle of the Midwest, about as far from the ocean as you can get. But we had a lot of lakes near my home, and my family had a Sunfish, which is the smallest sailboat you can get, if you can even call it a boat, it is basically a surfboard with a mast stuck in it.  Because my father was either too cheap, or too mistrustful of driving with a trailer, we traveled with it on the top of the car.  That means that if my dad wanted to sail,  he needed at least one person with him, not necessarily to sail, but to manhandle that boat off the top of the stationwagon and into the water.  
 
I guess he invited me on those Saturday sails because my brothers were playing sports or burning down the garage – that’s another story. I was the surly teenager moping around, watching TV and hating everyone. So my dad would take me sailing.
 
Those days were my best days. The wind, the water lapping the boat, the sun baking my shoulders after a long,long, gray, dark winter. Sometimes we would go slow and easy, and I could tan my legs on the bow and trail my fingers in the water. Sometimes we would go fast, and to keep the boat from tipping we would have to lean way over on the other side as the wind whipped my hair.  I trusted my father about 98% not to tip the boat, but that 2% of unease equaled an intense rush of adrenalin that has hooked me ever since.
Occasionally we did tip over and capsize.

When that happens,  I learned you just flip your boat and start again. And that it's easier if your father is there.


When my dad would ask me if I wanted to go sailing, I could not refuse him because I knew how much he wanted to go.  Now I know what an exceptional experience this was. Fathers in those days didn’t spend a lot of time with their kids, and daughters missed out most, since we generally didn’t play sports.  At least I didn’t, I thought sweat was disgusting.

Sailing was something my father and I shared when we shared almost nothing else.

Fast forward to my birthday. Every year, since being released from the whirl of dance recitals, wrestling tournaments and college tuitions, I try to do something, challenging, new, and “bucket listy” for my birthday. Two years ago I skydived for the first time, last year I hiked Half Dome.  My goal for this year was to learn to ski better- and I failed.  But Providence provides.  I met someone with a sailboat just in time for my birthday.

This was no Sunfish, this was the kind of boat I told myself I was going to buy for my dad, before I learned the lesson that not all our dreams come true.  This was a real boat, not a surfboard and a mast, and it was a boat for the San Francisco Bay.

Yet the elements that make life so worth living -  the piercing blue sky,  the lazy clouds, waves kissing the boat as they rush by and the sunlight that dances like so many fairies on the water, were just as alive on Saturday as they were on all those Saturdays so far away and so long ago. The only thing that could have improved that birthday sail was to have shared it with my dad. 

 

I did this for a Toastmaster speech today - funny how you can say things aloud that sound rather schamlzy in print. 

 

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