Dateline: The Waves Of Bodega Bay
How do you say goodbye?
To the ones who brought you here.
How do you say goodbye?
To the ones you travel through life with.
How do you say goodbye to the ones you kiss?
Hold hands with.
How do you say goodbye to those who can't possibly leave? But do so.
Today, I stood on an ocean cliff and watched a father go out to sea.
As his daughter stood on the shore.
With the surf covering her feet.
With the wind whipping her hair.
With Dad in the sky.
Taking Dad To Bodega Bay
No one told me this was their year.
Their last year of life.
We're all going to have one, our last year of life. Our last month. Our last day. Our last ...
My parents, Don & Helen, had one.
And I missed it. Their last year of life.
That when I hugged my father on a rain filled stairwell in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., it would be the last time I would feel his warmth, smell his cologne, shake his hand.
That when I flipped the cell phone closed with an, "Uh-huh," it would be the last thing I would ever say to my mother.
No one told me this was their year.
The last year of their lives.
And I never thought about that until today. On California I-5. Between Stockton and Bodega Bay, between the Elite launch and Elite weigh-in. In the county of wine, in a pink wrapped dually truck, while eating a breakfast burrito and drinking coffee, black ... 4 sugars.
I was riding shotgun. Kevin Short's wife, Kerry (K2 as I call her) was driving, and her father, Michael Maynard was in the dually's back seat.
In a baggie in a box.
We were bringing Dad to Bodega Bay.
And leaving him there.
Bringing him to the ocean that he loved.
But K2 had just said something about the " ... last three years of his life," and when I thought about that I said, "We all will have a last year of our life."
We just won't know ... when.
Could be this year is your year?
Fishing with your child, is it your last cast together? Your last family trip? Your last time to tuck someone in?
Do you possibly want your last words they hear to be, "Uh-huh."
Michael Maynard was an outdoor kind of guy, owned a couple of scuba diving shops, loved to fish the surf, took K2 spear fishing with him in oceans.
Massive Coronary, age 66. His last year of life.
K2 didn't know that then. Neither did her sisters, Leslie or Leigh.
I didn't know of their last year in life.
And chances are you won't either. This last year of life. Birth Certificates don't come with an expiration date.
In my last year of life I want to feel sand between my toes. A tiny hand around my finger. Watch the clouds, feel the wind, catch the leaves, taste the rain and frozen Margaritas.
And with the faces of my family in front of me, close my eyes.
And with a lifetime of working with words, the last one, I hope is, "Love."
That's what I think we all would do, if this was our year.
Our last year of life.
And we knew it.
So as K2 and I headed west through the county of wine, I tipped my coffee, black, 4 sugars, in a silent salute to the man in a box in the back seat.
Michael Maynard, a man I never met, never knew, but who between launch and weigh-in taught me to live this year as the last year of my life.
Even if it's not.
I want to be the wind.
In life I could never run, when it's over, I never want to stop.
I want to be the wind. Move free.
And when my family needs me, they only need to feel the breeze. To know I am there.
K2 said her father loved the sea. "This is the right place for him to be." Maybe so. But I think Dad was already in the right place, and that, standing there on a cliff facing the roaring ocean, this was the right place after all.
The right place for K2 to be.
Below, the waves beat on the rocks. Tiny birds ran up and down the beach dodging the waves. A hawk hung motionless on the currents of wind. Trees bent from the constant beating, boulders with holes cut through by tides, gray sky, gray ocean, gray rain.
As I was pulling on my rain gear in the pink truck, K2 was already out, and standing on a cliff looking out to sea, and clutching dad to her chest. Rain pounded the passenger window, up front the wipers were useless, a metal sign CEMENTED into the ground shook back and forth.
Out there, stood a tiny lady, and her dad. And she never backed up, she never wiped the storm from off her face. And when she saw me looking at her through the window she mouthed this to me, "It's perfect."
And it was.
As I climbed out of the truck we started down a dirt path with a river running down the middle of it, and after the second turn I stopped, and K2 looked back at me and said, "I'm going to go down there."
And I stayed on the path, the second turn, and watched as she weaved around mud and rocks to bring Dad to Bodega Bay.
And I watched as a columnist.
And I watched as a friend.
But I stayed on the path, the second turn, because as I watched, I watched as a dad with a daughter.
And I knew that if I was about to go out to sea, I would want to do it alone, in the arms of my children.
So I stayed on the path, the second turn, and gave a dad, his due.
And I watched, Kerry Short bring her dad, Michael, to Bodega Bay.
And I watched the tiny birds run up and down the sand.
And I watched the wind bend the trees.
And I watched a wave come in, and take a father out to sea.
To a place he loved.
Given to him by one he loved.
As we drove back east to the weigh-in through the county of wine, K2 looked straight ahead through the windshield and told me this, "db, my sister told me that when I do it, to be happy. And I thought I would be, but you know, I'm not, happy ... it's like I'm living it all over again. You know, the end ... the end."
And I said nothing. Couldn't.
But now I can. K2, be happy.
There is no end.
When you share life, when you share joy, share passion, hope, love with someone, YOU, never end.
You'll know that, when you face sea and sky
And stand on ocean cliffs.
And look to Bodega Bay.
Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com.