And it is just an old boat
by SARAH MORRISON STEPHENS
It’s just an old boat. It hasn’t been in the water in years.
My Dad bought it in 1985. Sleek, and blue it skimmed across the water as a thing of beauty. It was his pride and joy.
I couldn’t count the hours we spent in that boat as a family on various lakes across the states of Louisiana and Texas.
It was back in the days when life was simple.
A sunny day, on Lake Bistineau, Dad behind the wheel, Mom handing us a bologna sandwich and a Grapico. The smell of coconut sunscreen. The wind whipping through my hair, as I sat on the front of the boat, my legs dangling down, the waves rolling up and spraying me with cold water.
Life was good. I was safe. And we were all together.
But it’s just an old boat.
Today it sits under a cover in my parent’s back yard. Well, it isn’t really my parent’s house anymore. With their death, my sister and I sold our share of the house to my oldest sister. She has gutted the house, made it sparkling new. I am supposed to go see it soon.
A part of me fears walking into that house again, knowing the house I knew and grew up in no longer exists.
I am not angry at my oldest sister for making such drastic renovations. It is her house, now. It definitely needed updating if she plans to rent it out. And it is just a house.
And it is just a boat.
A boat that in later years, when Dad couldn’t do the upkeep, my husband Mel would come with me into town and he would get it running again. He would put the engine in a big trashcan full of water, and tinker around with the carburetor until it fired up again. Dad would walk out on the patio, smile, and say it was good to hear the old engine running again.
A few times before they died, we loaded up Mom and Dad back into that old boat and took her back to Lake Bistineau for a ride through the Spanish moss-covered Cypress trees. I brought bologna sandwiches and Grapico. I made sure Dad had a cold beer to enjoy since he wasn’t driving the boat anymore.
And it is just an old boat.
In the last couple of years since they are both gone, we, their children, have divvied up the remains of their lives. We have chosen the things we wanted, got rid of what we didn’t. About the only thing that remains is the old boat.
Neither Charlene or Dianne want it. The old cushions in the chairs are dry-rotted, but the engine is still good. The cover is torn and dirt has managed to creep in. The carpet is ruined.
Mom always kept the boat pristine. It was always picture perfect beautiful. I can remember her out there on a hot summer day washing and waxing it, long after they had stopped actually taking it out anywhere.
“We are going to get back out in the boat, you just wait,” she would say. “Your Daddy is gonna get his strength back, and we will be back out on the water again.”
A few times, they were. And that makes me smile.
And it’s just an old boat.
I planned on taking the boat, and moving it to my lake house. I planned on having someone renovate it again, get it back up and running.
But Charlene called the other night to let me know the renovations on the house are done, and she needs me to come get the boat out of the yard. This is where living in Alabama isn’t convenient. Sometimes I feel like I have two lives, with one foot in Louisiana and one foot in Alabama. I can’t do both.
Sometimes you have to let things go.
“I have a guy that wants the boat, Sarah,” she said. And my gut twisted. “No!” was my first thought and word.
“Well, if you want it, you really need to come get it soon,” she said.
And that is easier said than done. The tires are shot on the trailer. Mel never has time anymore to come with me on my trips back home. I would have to do a lot of the work myself to even get it to my lake house.
And it is just an old boat, anyway. I keep telling myself that. Eventually I am going to believe it.
So, I write this column in memory of that old boat, and my parents, and the days we spent on the lake. I write it in honor of the innocence lost, the security blanket that was the love of my parents. I will call Charlene and tell her to go ahead and let the guy have it. Practicality and good reason tells me that is the right thing to do.
And it is just an old boat.
Until next time…
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