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Fear of the Life Aquatic by Linda Knight Seccaspina

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Fear of the Life Aquatic by Linda Knight Seccaspina

Oakland Ferry- San Francisco 1880

Fear of the Life Aquatic by Linda Knight Seccaspina

One hot summer day when I was 6 my mother spoke some wise words while we stood on the edge of the dock at Selby Lake in Quebec. Bernice Ethylene Knight warned me over and over not to stare at the water as she prophesied that I would fall in. While everyone was enjoying their picnic lunch I immediately returned to the edge of that dock to test her theory.

Like a flying duck making a fell swoop into the water I fell in head first. That was the day I nearly drowned and water and “boating” became a fearful enemy. When I turned 60  ten years ago, I felt I should finally throw caution to the wind. 

Oakland, California- July 2012

I walked slowly down the planked path to the dock as the seagulls flew over me with mocking cries. They could smell my fear and taunted me as I approached the dock. I could feel my stomach inching up into my throat and it felt like the church picnic at Haven Isles in the 60’s all over again. Walking across the small plank that was hooked to the dock reminded me of the swinging bridge across the river at that annual picnic at the popular Townships location. If this thing swayed like that Haven Isles bridge Linda was going to be glued to the dock in fear forever.

Seldom late for anything I arrive 37 minutes ahead of schedule to make sure I am on time to possibly die. I call my friend and leave a message that if the ferry starts going down— please pick up my call and not let it go to message.  I decide to stick my identification that I have placed in a plastic bag inside my sports bra so if the boat goes down they can identify my body quickly.

I watch the elderly tourists getting onto the Potomac; fondly known as The Floating White House. The boat was originally called the USCG Cutter Electra in 1934. I watch as they pull anchor and gaze at the waving occupants that I feel might not make it across the bay.

We all proceed on to the ferry like a funeral march, and I glance at the sign that states that if the above alarm goes off to man your stations.  Where actually is my station I ask the steward as he silently motions me to go upstairs to the second deck. Watching from above I see a child below grasping a floater. He too is unsure of his fate and I silently berate myself for not bringing a floater.

We approach Treasure Island and the water begins to get rougher. An elderly man from the old 187th Airbourne assures me everything will be fine and begins to tell me stories from WWII. The fear has now been replaced by similar droning words that I have been told dozens of times by my late grandfather. 

I am amazed at how little that holds up the Bay Bridge and realize that the bridge will fall on us if an earthquake should immediately occur.  I wonder if the captain is slowing down just to scare us as there is most certainly no backed up traffic in these waters.

Attempting to get the perfect shot of the bridge I fall on the slippery deck as the captain increases his speed. Thankfully my nightmare does not occur and Linda does not do a fatal

swan dive over the edge. The passengers are impressed as I lay there and take a picture of the under belly of the Bay Bridge. There is no way I could have gotten this angle standing up.

The captain now assumes his ferry is a speed boat and we bounce off the crests of the waves that make the nearby sailboats heave up and down. I  suddenly question whether I should immediately go in and hit the bar.

I see Pier 39 in the distance and wonder how people swim from that pier to Alcatraz Island everyday. Neighbouring passengers tell me there are dolphins in this part of the bay and I immediately think of Flipper and how he helped drowning people.

Getting off the ferry I am immediately greeted by The Silver Man whose real name is Evan. I notice the large bucket he has for the exiting passengers like myself.  My stomach silently asks what form of payment he wants. I am proud that I faced my fear head on and know that if I ever win a cruise — it is going to the first person that wants it.

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Memories and Tears — In Memory of “Max”

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Three years ago I wrote a story about two people that touched my heart in San Francisco. I never seem to have time these days to write about the people and things that affect my inner soul– and I need to take a closer look at this issue, as I truly miss writing about these moments.

Yesterday I received an email from the owner of one of the most beloved dogs I have ever written about called “Max”. In all honesty, “Max” was not his real name, but he, along with all the other memories of the bay area have never left my mind.

The fact that “Max’s” owner took the time to track me down made my heart smile, but, it also made me very homesick for the people and places I once loved. With tears in my eyes I read the following words from his owner:

 

“I’m sorry to say, my Dear Old Pug Boy left here for The Undiscovered Country … from which, ever so very sadly, there is no return … going on two years ago, on Armistice Day, 11 November, of 2014 at the astonishing age of fifteen and a half, his eyesight and hearing as good as the day he was born and full to overflowing of The Ol’ Piss & Vinegar right up until the very, very last; he passed in my arms that morning, very suddenly and very, very quickly, his Poor Old Puggy Heart failing him at last … the cancer never recurred, and that despite his poor prognosis; he beat it clean, five and half years on”.

 

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I wept for poor “Max”, and the owner that treated him like gold, knowing how much he missed him.  After all, in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count–it’s the life in your years- and those two lived life to its fullest.

 “Whatever you make of it, my many thanks for your reply; it’s made my day. 🙂  As I said, I had so wanted to write you when I first came across what you’d written about Dear Old “Max”, but I was unable to find an address for you.  I’m pleased that I did, and thank you for the pictures”.

This was a reminder to me to enjoy the little things in life, as one day you will look back and realize they might have been the big things.  But then you stop and think, and realize life is like a wave that goes in an out like the waves I once wrote about and took pictures of at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

“Max” occupied a big piece of my heart when I wrote about him, and still does today.  I will remember that little pug in his little red wagon and his owner strolling down the Ocean Beach boardwalk forever. Everything in life happens for a reason, but you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. In the end, the only regret is the chances we didn’t take– and I think I have taken all those chances– I hope I have.

The tears have not stopped flowing as I write this, but I know that even though I miss my former life- the people that want to stay in your life will always find a way– like yesterday’s email.

Love to the late “Max” and thank you to ‘W’ for taking the time to hunt me down, and for the great love and care you showed “Max” who loved you dearly.

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

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Mighty Max – Pug Not Down!