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I've discovered when you can't shut out a particular memory--when it haunts and won't let you go--it is best you allow it to have its way with you. For me, that means giving the memory a voice by writing it down. Memory is strange and unpredictable in its workings. Many times a song will take me back to another time and place. Today, it was the ocean's song that lured me into memory.  

My body is in Destin, Florida on vacation with other family members, but my mind has been transported back to childhood and the boating escapades I shared with my father on the Delaware River and the Atlantic coast. I am with him again, sitting on the bow of his boat, singing into the wind. We were buddies then. He was the captain and I his first mate--eager and ready to do any job he might assign me.  Looking back, I believe the water brought out the best and most sensitive qualities in my father. 

I have a photo of him on the bow of his boat, looking out at the Chesapeake Bay. It was taken during the time my mother was dying. Those were difficult days for my father which probably makes this photo more poignant. It is the look of peace and sensitivity to his surroundings that always gets to me. He is obviously involved in his own dream or perhaps his memory of a sweeter time. My father was never a patient man, but somehow the water changed him--calmed the worry and anger his war injuries caused. I've come to believe there are many things we don't know about our parents until we experience them as an adult with children of our own. 

Today, more than five decades later, I remember a childhood on the river with my father. I remember fishing, learning to bait a hook, the first "monster" I caught which turned out to be a crab and the way he laughed as he removed it from the hook. I remembered our early morning stops at "Bloody Mary's" for blood worms and the way we laughed over her bloody hands and missing teeth. (It's a wonder I don't write horror novels).

As I stare out at the Gulf of Mexico, I feel grateful to my father for the times we shared on the water and for his patience with me as I learned to drop anchor, fish, dock a boat and water ski. All those things have come back to me as I watch my adult son play in the sand with his small children.  I hope that one summer day in their adult lives, their memories of him will be as fond and warm as mine are of my father today. I wonder if either of them will feel compelled to record those memories. Somehow, I hope they do.   

And now that I've given my memory a voice, I'm free to romp in the waves with my grandchildren. It's been a long time since anyone buried me in the sand. Am I up for it? You bet. 



Patsy Lally
10/07/2013 5:40pm

Susan...I envy you your memories...as you know, mine are quite different...

10/07/2013 11:36pm

After reading your blogs religiously, I feel I know your father. What about your mother? I'd love to know her too.

Martha Miller
11/03/2013 5:47pm

As always, your post was magnificent and very touching. I loved learning more of the positive effects your father had on you. Evidently there was a lot of good in him that came down to you. That's easy to see. And it goes on to your children and to theirs.

03/25/2015 5:15am

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03/08/2016 5:58am

It’s truly amazing how eloquently you give your memory a voice that’s actually easy for readers to relate to. I am reminded of a quote by Bianca Sparacino in Dying is Certain, Living is Not that you demonstrated to us daily: “At some point in our time on Earth, it becomes imperative that we promise ourselves to life. Promise yourself that you will believe in the uniqueness of your contribution that you will trust in what you know you are capable of. Though it may not be conventional, there is a passion that lives inside of you, and to truly live a life that honors your important gift is to justly guard it and defend it. You will never feel like you are fully living if you allow yourself to live the life someone hires you to live, if you care about the things someone pays you to care about.”
When we, as avid readers, reflect upon how writers of novels plan what they write, in part by determining, on the fly what they choose to allow of themselves to be shared with other via their work, we are faced with how to deal with memories and our lack of planning around harvesting them. This reflection from John Fowles from The French Lieutenant’s Woman fit’s your craft: “You may think novelists always have fixed plans to which they work, so that the future predicted by Chapter One is always inexorably the actuality of Chapter Thirteen. But novelists write for countless different reasons: for money, for fame, for reviewers, for parents, for friends, for loved ones; for vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for amusement: as skilled furniture makers enjoy making furniture, as drunkards like drinking, as judges like judging, as Sicilians like emptying a shotgun into an enemy's back. I could fill a book with reasons, and they would all be true, though not true of all. Only one same reason is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than the world that is. Or was. This is why we cannot plan. We know a world is an organism, not a machine.”

03/12/2016 3:00am

Please keep sharing it.


I want my body be in Destin, Florida too!))


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