Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

The good, the bad & the ugly are all, well, GOOD.

November 23rd, 2010 · No Comments · Australia, Introspection, Life Lessons, Life on the Boat, Loss of a Parent, The End, Thoughts on Family

Now that we are comfortably ensconced in civilization again and able to be off the boat and in movie theaters or cafes or restaurants at a moment’s notice, and have regular internet, and no longer have to worry about the anchor dragging or sails ripping or rigging breaking or being constantly tossed around at sea, well, it sort of seems like the trip was soooooo long ago, and that it really wasn’t all that bad.

Oddly, it reminds me of what it was like after my dad died.

My dad and I didn’t have the easiest or closest relationship and at times, just like any of us, he could be a bit of a, well, a jerk.  BUT – it didn’t mean that I didn’t love him, or that he couldn’t be a really great guy, etc. etc.  When he died, though, I remember feeling angry and frustrated with my mom and my brother because they only talked about how wonderful he was and all the good memories, and when I mentioned that time when he ____, they waved me off and acted like they didn’t remember or it wasn’t a big deal, that those memories didn’t matter anymore, or that they weren’t worth remembering.  A friend gave me a book about grieving the loss of a parent and I was relieved to read that I wasn’t the only one who experienced this “sanctification” of my dad and that it was quite a common part of grieving.

I find that some of us cruisers have started the process of “sanctifying” our trips.  A friend said that, now that it’s over, she realizes how special the experience was even though she wasn’t always ecstatic to be on their boat.  I, too, feel that way –  having a little bit of distance between me and the trip has made it easier, somehow, to enjoy what it was, even if I hated life while we were were in the midst of sailing.

What I hated most about doing this sort of thing with my dad is that it made him seem so one-dimensional; it made him less human; it made my experience with him seem superficial, almost like the same memories/words we were using could have described anyone.  My dad wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t always in a good mood, he wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine. Not every day with him was a walk in the park. But, he was my dad, he was real, and he was a huge part of my life and I loved him.  I couldn’t understand why people acted like it made his life less important or him less special to remember him as he was – the good and the bad and the ugly.

I feel the same way with this trip.  Of course, no one wants me to keep going on and on about how awful parts of the trip were or how much I hated the rocking and rolling or how miserable I felt for most of it.  People want to talk about how amazing it must have been and how lucky we are to have had this experience and how we lived their dream and they wish they could do it, too.  It’s so much easier and nicer to put a big fat smiley face on the whole adventure. BUT, again, that makes it seem so one-dimensional, so un-real, like anyone could have been on the trip. Just like with my dad, “sanctifying” the trip makes it less mine.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people doing whatever they need to do to grieve or understand an event or experience. When my dad died, I learned that everyone deals with death and loss differently and you have to be true to your very personal feelings and needs.  And our arrival in Australia signifies a death of sorts, an end to a significant time of our lives.  And I want to do my best to remember the trip as it was (for me).  I want to remember the really spectacular, amazing moments and also the really sh*tty ones, because that unique mix of good and bad is what makes the trip my own and not someone else’s.  Those days of being tossed around and banging shins and heads and elbows are what makes the trip an experience and not simply a picture-perfect postcard.  I want to remember the difficulty of creating the whole instead of just remembering those pieces that fit nicely and easily into the puzzle.

I think a lot about what I will someday tell our kids about their grandfather. I will tell them about his funny stories and how he always forgot the punchlines to jokes.  I will tell them about driving for hours to get into a 5-minute rain shower and about spending saturday nights up at “the loop” or above the Caliente tunnel watching trains and eating popcorn.  But, I will also tell them about his raging temper and how he could get upset over the stupidest things. I will tell them about how he would get angry and leave the house for hours and how he would sometimes give us the silent treatment.  I will tell them about his delicious frosting and graham cracker snacks and the horrible spaghetti he made that even our undiscriminating dog wouldn’t eat.  I will tell them how he took me to look at colleges and then lectured me about why I shouldn’t go away to school.  I will tell them how he didn’t want me to be a lawyer and thought I should be a writer or a teacher (and then I might have to admit to them that he was probably right about that one.)  I will tell them how he once irrationally took his anger out on one of my brother’s best friends, and how, when my dad was dying, he took that friend aside and apologized in tears for those things he had said 10 years ago.

I will not sugar-coat the memories of my dad or of this trip because when memories are all you have left of something (or someone), every single one – the good, the bad and the ugly – is a gift.


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