Three generations of my wife’s kin enjoying a grey Decemeber day on MON TIKI
Our daughters are dancing in the local production of The Nutcracker, and last night some of my wife’s family came out to see the show.
Today my daughters had a matinee performance, so while they danced, I took my wife’s mother, a brother, a sister, and her daughter down to see the boat.
My mother-in-law is old, 91. Spry for her years, she’s still frail. But she wanted to ride on the boat, and the tide was right so that it was an even step from dock to deck. So slowly slowly we helped Mary down the finger dock, pulled Mon Tiki in tight and with no hesitation my mother-in-law climbed aboard. That’s her, bundled up with her granddaughter, her daughter at the tiller, and her son opposite. MON TIKI is steaming past the empty docks of the Montauk Yacht Club on her way to Block Island Sound.
My father’s parents died when I was 18 years old. My grandfather died quickly and unexpectedly a few days before I graduated from high school. A few weeks later his wife told one of my cousins she was “staying around just long enough for us to get used to me not being around,” and a few weeks after that that same cousin found her dead in her bed. I missed both of their funerals.
My mother’s father died when she was 17, but her mother lived a long, and (until the last few years) healthy life. She lived so long that when we buried her it was just my mother and the family she had made, and my mother’s brother. Everyone one else — friends, family — was already gone. There were seven of us.
There have been too many funerals in our family in the last couple of years. Last year my wife lost a sister, a brother-in-law, and her father. This year a brother-in-law who is very close to my wife’s family (that’s his wife and daughter above) lost his mother. In September I took my girls to New Jersey to meet their cousins and help them bury their mother. Her grandchildren wailing graveside was one of the saddest and most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. A couple weeks later I learned one of my cousin’s spouses is gravely ill.
My friend Loraine sent the below slide-show to me today, after she saw the above picture on FaceBook. It’s another day on the water with my wife’s family, a summer’s day of clamming from a few years ago, before we were all so acquainted with death. That’s my wife’s mother in the first boat I ever built, a Bolger Teal called Lil’ Winnie. The boat is gone. The dog is gone. Sherry, my wife’s sister, the woman with all that curly hair and the bright smile is gone. And someday you and I will be gone too.
If someone points a camera at you, smile. Someday it will be a comfort to those you’ve left behind.