Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Talking Pumpkin

Halloween was a big deal in the neighborhood; a suburban enclave where our "baby boom" generation was born and lived its early years. Hundreds of kids would go door to door in costume, collecting enough candy to keep a sugar buzz going clean through to the New Year. Houses were in costume as well, some modestly with just a pumpkin on the doorstep and maybe a sheet thrown over small shrub as a welcoming "ghost". Others were more elaborate; family members in full scary makeup and costume, garages and lower levels turned into haunted houses, off-key dirges playing in the background, and lighting to fit the intended theater.

Our house fell somewhere in the middle, but still managed to be the talk of the neighborhood. Each year we would find the biggest pumpkin we could, hollow it out, carve a scary face, and set it in the window by the door. Hidden inside the pumpkin was a dim light to set the scary face aglow, and a speaker. Hidden in the darkened room with microphone in hand was my Dad, the voice of the Talking Pumpkin.

It was a pretty innovative use of technology for the early 1960s, which turned into a kind of neighborhood staple. As the years went by people would drive in to introduce their kids to the Talking Pumpkin, little ones giggling but also looking around, not exactly sure what to make of the mysterious voice.  It was all good fun.

Pops at our eldest daughter's wedding in  2005
On Sunday, October 18th, 2015, late in the afternoon, the Talking Pumpkin fell silent. The news came via the tiny speaker held in my hand, the voice of Brother Youngest telling me that our Father had passed away suddenly, fallen by a massive heart attack.

Kintala was anchored at the edge of the grid, waiting out some weather. It took more than an hour of broken communications and dropped calls to get the news to Daughters Three. The logistics of finding a safe place to dock the boat for several weeks, then finding our way to PA as quickly as possible, looked to be nightmarish.

But then...

Two years ago, on our first trip down the ICW, the Beast sprung a massive fuel leak forcing us to spend a month in Oriental, NC. We were there over Thanksgiving, our first away from family. Chris and Sherry were also away from family, working to get their own cruising plans together. We shared Thanksgiving dinner at a local eatery that caters to the cruising tribe, and they became some of the earliest of our cruising friends. As it turns out they bought a slip in Oriental but their boat is currently on the hard. Seeing us heading south they had gotten in touch with us once again, enticing us to stop in Oriental with the offer of a free slip and a chance to catch up.

Oriental was a day's sail away when we got the news, and they offered us the slip for as long as we needed. We arrived after a glorious day of sailing to be met by Friends Mizzy and Brian. After a couple of days of buddy boating they had beaten us to Oriental by a few hours and so were on hand to help ease Kintala safely onto the dock. Over dinner that night their gentle conversation and obvious care helped ease our hearts as well.

A week or so ago Friends Nancy and David cut their Seaward 32 loose from Oak Harbor and pointed the bow south, leaving their car behind as they normally do. A car free for us to use if they could work out a way to get it to us, or us to it. So they did. Currently in Hampton and having already made plans to rent a car for a day to do some chores, they left at O-So-Dark-Thirty the next morning and drove to Oriental. After a quick coffee with the Gang from Oak Harbor (Mizzy, Brian, Nancy, David, and us) they loaded us aboard the rental and headed north. At about that same time other members of the Gang from Oak Harbor, Wayne and Sue, themselves just two days away from dropping the lines and sailing off, got in their car and headed south.

The two vehicles met at a truck stop somewhere south of Richmond. Deb and I were handed off for the next leg of this Pony Express of Kindness. By late afternoon we were back at Oak Harbor loading up. Barely 36 hours after picking up Kintala's hook in the remote waters of the Pungo River and unsure of how we were going to get where we needed to be, we were pulling into the driveway of family with all transportation worries behind us.

There are no words big enough or deep enough to describe people who step up like that, utterly careless of their own plans and time; not expecting, indeed rejecting, any idea of getting something in return. They had friends in need and that was all that mattered.

If a person be very lucky in life they will accrue debts like these. Debts that can never be repaid.

Debts that can never be forgotten.

Pops and his brother Gene
We will be away from the boat for a few weeks. Kintala will sit quietly, as will this blog. Fathers die. Sons and Daughters lay them to rest, struggling with a world that is somehow, fundamentally different than it was. Then we look to our own sons and daughters.

And the journey goes on.

Pops and Tim and our eldest daughter at their 50th wedding anniversary in 2004


Robert Sapp said...

Rhonda and I extend our deepest condolences and sympathies. May warm memories of your father live on in the hearts and minds of his children and grandchildren for decades to come.

Rhonda & Robert
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

Matt Mc. said...

Eloquent prose is so difficult, and you make it seem so easy; whether speaking of a knot you learned to tie or attempting to untie the impossible knot that is the struggle with unspeakable loss. We're thinking of you. Much love from the Glen.

Stephen Winand said...

Jan and I are so sorry to hear of your loss. True friends are hard to come by, and you are truly blessed to have many. Our thoughts are with you.

Jan and Steve Winand
M/V Rogue
Chestertown Md.

Jon Kutassy said...

I am new to your blog but still very sorry for your loss.

A very elegant and poignant piece.

(I hope that I can be a Friend to someone like your Friends have been to you.)

Don Parsons said...

Very sad to hear this news Tim.

If you need some help, I'll be here...just call.

Hang in there and love to you all.


John Dakins said...

Tim and Deb, please accept condolences and prayers from Mari and me. It's an awful time, just know that it will pass as well.


Nicholas Wolfe said...

I am sorry for your loss, but am very glad to see that there are caring people still out there.

Kristina Lemaster said...

So sorry uncle Tim. See you tomorrow

Marci Fisher said...

Steve and I are sorry to hear of the death of your father. We feel your pain. It's tough losing a parent and after reading your post, it's obvious the Talking Pumpkin will be missed something fierce.


S/V Veranda said...

We're both sooo sorry to hear of your loss. I'm glad your boat is safe and you made it to family in this time.

Bill & Christy said...

I'm very sorry for the loss of your father, Tim. That's a particularly hard thing to go through. Thanks for the lovely post and so glad that the cruising community took you two under its wing. That's quite a testament to the human spirit.

Katrina Greenwood said...

You have both been in my thoughts and prayers.
You've paid support forward many times over. I know we are not the only ones.
Without you guys I wouldn't still be on out S/V Happy Dance boat.

Pam Mcbride said...

So sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. The comradery in the boating community is amazing.

sailingaway said...

Hope all is well and you are back in Oriental soon.
Steve And Dorothy

Atty said...

Very sorry for your loss. Having lost my own father at a young age, I know that words are small comfort but the prayers are real.