My Father's Boat - Part I


I've been waiting to write a post about my father's boat for a long time.  You see, the Rhonda B. (possibly named after an old girlfriend) is my dad's small bass boat purchased in 1973.  The boat company/builder Ouachita (pronounced Wash-A-Taw) operated through the 1970s and was declared "out of business" in 1980.  (I found a video of the very same boat in very good condition here, complete with its signature sea-foam green color with an orange stripe at the top.  You've gotta love the 70's!)

The boat was my dad's pride and joy, and just like a best friend, it went with him everywhere.  By day, my dad worked as a distribution plant manager at Warnaco, a company that designed and sold women's underwear, sportswear, and swimwear worldwide.  (The name Warner's still exists, but the company was purchased by PVH, another American clothing company, in 2013).  By evening, my dad was a fisherman, spending his nights and weekends either fishing, repairing the boat, planning boat trips, or going to boat shows.  His passion was fishing, and he told me one day that his biggest regret was not going to college to become a forest ranger.  Truly, my dad loved nature, and I owe my own love of the great outdoors to him.

From the time I was five (maybe even younger), my dad took me out on his boat, and we would spend hours cruising around lakes (he loved fresh water the best), fishing, and sitting outside being ever present of the whistling wind, the birds calling, the occasional splash from a fish below, and the water lapping persistently against the boat.  It was magical.  My teen years toyed with my brain, convincing me that boat trips were trite and boring, but oh do I wish I could get those days back with my dad again!

In June 2007, life as I knew it changed forever.  My dad had passed away in his sleep, and since he was living alone in another state, I had to authorize the police to use forced entry, if necessary, to check on him.  My worst fears were realized.   After calling in to work, my husband and I left for an 18 hour trip to Georgia, so I could take care of everything as his only child and the executor of his estate.

The trip wasn't an easy one, but we decisively agreed that my dad's most important "valuables" were his photographs, a few letters/cards, and of course, the Rhonda B.  We brought those back home with us, and we brought my dad's ashes back home, too.  Connecticut was his true home; he was only forced to move to Georgia in the 90's to keep his job with Warnaco.

A lot happened that year after my dad's death.  We held a funeral, buried most of my dad's ashes in a cemetery with his mom, and then planned for a trip to Belgrade Lakes, Maine where we could release a few more of his ashes in his most favorite place.  One more thing happened; I found out I was pregnant with Little Lewie!  The planned trip to Belgrade Lakes, therefore, would be doubly significant.  It would be a revered time to celebrate my dad's life and legacy as well as a time to celebrate the coming of a new life.  I was eight months pregnant at the time.

Dining at the Belgrade Lakes Inn

Hubby aboard the Rhonda B.

Almost a year after my father's passing, in June 2008, Lew and I took the Rhonda B onto the open waters of Great Pond, the largest lake as part of the Belgrade Lakes region.  It was the lake my dad would visit faithfully to spend his two weeks of vacation every year, and it was the lake where I would get some of my first fishing lessons as a pre-teen and teenager.  (I have pictures somewhere.)  The trip brought back a rush of childhood memories, and yet, here I was now thirty three years-old with my husband of two years and pregnant with our first and only child.  We chose a calm evening to take the boat out, say a a few words, and then release my dad's ashes against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.  It was the most perfect moment--one that somehow gave me peace, closure, and a reverence for the cycle of life.  It was sad and wonderful at the same time.

Holding onto my dad's few ashes.

When we returned from this most sacred trip, it was full-speed ahead.  Little Lewie was born, my husband became sick (addicted to opiates after being prescribed Oxycodone for his back surgery), and my father's beloved boat, the Rhonda B, fell into disrepair from sitting out in the elements unused.

We entered a decade of uncertainty, and while we still shared many joyous and beautiful moments as a family (especially with Little Lewie), there was a dark shadow looming.  Would my husband be able to fight his addiction?  Would he survive?  Would our marriage survive? the same time, would my dad's favorite boat ever see water again?  Would Little Lewie ever get to ride on the boat that brought me so many blissful childhood memories?  The boat, waiting patiently in the driveway and in storage for this decade to pass, became a symbol, and my answer would come this year...

Cub Scout Trip to Battleship Cove


This weekend, we went to Battleship Cove Maritime Museum in Fall River, Mass. and slept over on the USS Massachusetts, a World War II battleship.  I really wanted to enjoy the stay, but I do have to admit that I found the sleepover a bit unnerving.  For one, there were only twenty-five of us from our pack, and we had the entire run of the ship--dark corners, steep stairways, and all.  It was EASY to get lost--so easy, that my husband actually did get separated from our group and gave up trying to look for us.  Even with my cell phone, I couldn't explain to him what stairs to take to find us!

On Sunday night, a young employee welcomed us to the ship, brought us to our bunks, and then played a short documentary about the battleship.  Afterward, an eighty year-old gentleman, provided more facts about the ship.  We learned that it survived 45 battles and was nicknamed "the lucky ship" because not a single one of its 2,000+ men ever died in combat.  The ship took an enormous amount of fuel (I wish I could remember the statistic), and every time a fuel tanker came to fill it up, it would bring food, mail, and supplies to the men.  Some men stayed aboard the ship for two years straight!

After the presentation, we had pizza and were free to take self-guided tours all the way until 11 p.m.  They played The Lego Movie for any families that wanted other entertainment at 9 p.m.  (My husband and son were the only ones in the group that watched the movie in its entirety.)  The self-guided tours were a little spooky.  We saw the brig, an actual U.S. prison aboard the ship, which was often used for military members that disobeyed rules.  (You could be thrown into the brig for being tardy!)  We also saw the ship's tailor shop (where uniforms were sewed/repaired), laundry room, post office, kitchen, cafeteria, machine shop, barber shop, soda fountain, and separate bunks for all the naval officers.  Some of our pack even went to the lower part of the ship where the bombs and naval artillery were stored.  (We passed on the opportunity.)

The brig.  Funny story: The boys all crammed into one jail cell, and then one of them farted. 
The smell was so bad, they left the cell in a hurry.

The tailor shop

The barber shop

A Boy Scout uniform from the 1940's.

The soda fountian

The kitchen.  They had to prepare 7,000+ meals a day for all the marines.

Our bunks.  Funny story:  I was supposed to sleep on the second bed between Lew and Lewie, but I couldn't pull myself up and lie parallel that quickly.  I ended up taking the very bottom bunk an inch away from the floor.

There were many World War II items and memorabilia encased in glass throughout the ship, and one area played a looped recording of someone (maybe a naval officer) speaking at the time.  When the lights went out in our bunk room at 11 p.m., the lights in the rest of the ship remained on and that looped recording still played.  It was creepy.  There were also a few mannequins on our floor that would repeatedly catch me by surprise.  The bathrooms were outside of the bunk room, so we did need to leave the room and listen to the recording, etc. if we had to use the facilities.

Lew, Little Lewie, and I all slept at the back of the room.  Lew chose the top bunk; Lewie selected the second bunk to the floor, and I chose the bottom bunk--so close to the floor, I could actually roll right onto the cement.  The men on the ship actually slept this way, but we were told that their bed space was actually much narrower than ours.  (Our bunks had a few feet between them instead of just 18 inches.)  I could only imagine what these bunk rooms must have smelled like with 2,000 sweaty men sleeping in the tropics with no air-conditioning!  With missions out in the Philippines and Japan, the men had to endure very hot and humid climates all day and night long.

In all, the trip made me appreciate what our Navy had to endure during this very dark period in history.  The ship was uncomfortable.  They worked long 11 hour days and had to sleep in hot, humid, cramped quarters at night.  It was an interesting and eye-opening experience.  For me, I couldn't get used to the smell of dirty fuel and metal, and I slept very little.  At one point during the night, one of our younger boys woke up crying because he couldn't remember where he was; another one woke up a few hours later because he fell off his bunk.  Then, of course, were the sounds of bunks squeaking (every time someone turned), people snoring, and the muffled voice recording playing outside the door.  It was an interesting one-time experience.

Lewie told me he wasn't interested in the self-guided tour.  All he wanted to do was stay above ship and watch the sunset.  (He really is my kid!)

We left bright and early the next morning, right after 7 a.m. breakfast.

A Back to School Retreat for Hubby and Me


Truth be told, I've been wanting to go to the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies (in Rhinebeck, NY) for the past five years.  I first learned about the place when thumbing through their catalog at a doctor's office.  With women's leadership conferences; yoga and meditation workshops; spiritual workshops; financial workshops; and more, I just knew I had to swipe the catalog off the coffee table and bring it home.

Fast forward five years later, and now I've made sure that I'm on Omega's mailing list.  They send catalogs straight to me, and each year, I circle a handful of workshops I would like to attend--if only I had 1) the time, and 2) the money.

This August, I looked through the catalog and circled a workshop called "The Power of the Soul."  Just like each year before, I put the catalog back on my bookshelf  in a space known as the "maybe one day area."  However, the very next week, I surprised myself.  I grabbed the catalog from the shelf, took out my credit card, and scheduled the retreat, as if my mind was on autopilot.  It would be a birthday present for my husband and me (his birthday is in Sept., and mine is in Oct.) and a little reward for all the work we do doing the school year, i.e. our full-time administration jobs, teaching classes, serving as Cub Scout Den and Pack Leaders, etc.

The walk to the Meditation Room.  (There was a handicapped accessible one, too, but I like this one!)

The Meditation Area - It was beautiful!

A Koi Fish Pond

I swear purchasing the trip must have been divine intervention because shortly after, a dear friend of ours, age 45, left this world way too soon.  The news felt like a punch in the gut to both of us.  (I wrote about him last year at this time because he bought us front row tickets to Hamilton.)

The next few weeks felt empty, and yet, during this very dark time, knowing the retreat was coming helped us keep our sanity.  "Just one more week," I would tell a grief-stricken husband who couldn't stop sobbing each day.  Thinking about Michael's death, brought back memories of his father's death, and then lead to worry over his own.  (My husband has some serious health concerns.)

We went to the retreat initially hoping it would help us bond, relax, and feel more spiritually connected.  We left the retreat having achieved all of this and more.  Guided imagery exercises helped us find our "soul" and the spiritual energy that connects all living things.  Through prayer and meditation, we found healing, purpose, and forgiveness.  We also found joy, laughter, and gratitude.

We arrived to Omega with heavy hearts but left with light ones.  My husband had joked when I first signed us up for the retreat that I would be forcing him to eat "twigs, nuts, and berries" for the weekend.  He now admits the food (organic/farm-to-table) was delicious and that the retreat was exactly what we needed--to believe, to reconnect, and to remember our higher calling.  All I can say is, thank goodness for divine intervention and synchronicity.  I will never doubt prayer again.

From the deck of the cafeteria.

Our cabin.  They have "tent" cabins, too, as well as platforms for tents.  It was cold the weekend of Sept. 22-23.

Like my shorts and winter coat look?  This was my "fashionable look"
for most of the weekend as I didn't want to give up summer.