A Memory: August 1999

The Woods Hole Ferry was right on time. Fortified by steamers and beer we wheeled our luggage up the ramp and found a place below to sit. It was dark and the night sky was coming alive. Haley and I ran up the stairs to explore the top deck leaving my wife and other daughter below. At thirteen Haley is at that not child/not woman stage of adolescence. She is becoming the center of her own universe. Parents want their children to stand on their shoulders to go further in the world but always long for a downward look of appreciation. As she disappears around the corner I sit near the front facing east. The ocean is dark. The night is much clearer than ten days ago. It was probably about there that the plane went down. (John Kennedy Jr., flying a private plane, and his wife had fatally crashed in the ocean just the week before). Boom. Gone. Life. No life-only memory, only regret. I think of another John, my cousin in South Carolina. His college roommate of long ago was murdered in Los Angeles by a jealous lover. A new experience with no manual. My cell phone works even in Massachusetts. He is not home. I leave a message of concern and love.
The ride to Martha’s Vineyard is only an hour. Vineyard Haven is deserted when we arrive. The agent told me that we could walk to the Captain Dexter House. Man, am I glad that I brought our industrial strength carrier with wheels. Buying it is the best one hundred dollars I ever spent. Following Haley, who has directions, we wheel down the Main Street. A sign in front of a three story clapboard house says , “Captain Dexter House – 1843.” On the front porch a couple sits on either side of the etched glass door drinking wine, white as I remember. “You can’t get in here,” she says. “You have to go to the side.” Our roller is useless so I carry as much as I can around him to the side door.
I am drenched in sweat after my second trip. He sips his wine and doesn’t say a word. I don’t exist. This is not Texas.
The Captain Dexter Suite is at the top of the stairs. We can imagine the sea captain living here but it is a stretch for the four of us. We look out on the garden through a trapezoid shaped window, a rectangle bullied by gravity over the years.
Stacy, my older daughter who always lands on her feet, calls her husband in Boston. Though married only eighteen months, he has loaned us his wife for 48 hours.
Tomorrow we will bike to Edgartown where the sailboats will remind three of us of Belize where Cherry and I honeymooned when Stacy was twelve. That evening we will dine at a French restaurant across the garden. Stacy will fly back to Boston the day after tomorrow and the three of us remaining will rent a jeep and drive to Gay Head looking east to the site if the crash.
But tonight we sit on the floor playing cards, enjoying the night and each other.

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Retired physician, author, and nonprofit worker in Africa

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