We would be at the dock.  The breeze would be whipping off the Chesapeake and the ripples on the water would remind me of butterfly wings lightly fluttering, just touching the surface, leaving “wing-prints” behind. 

We would have our jackets on now, because the warm summer days of shorts and T-shirts and flip-flops were tucked away with the summer skies. There would be no more sailing until Spring.

It was time to winterize the ‘Manitou’, a fine example of a sailboat skippered by a man who found peace and discovery every time he slipped behind her shiny stainless steel wheel. 

There were lines to flush, ropes to stow, sails to fold.  Winter was around the corner and Paul’s beloved boat would be tucked-in long before the first icy kernel of snow would bounce off her deck.

We did this year after year….it was our time together to talk and laugh, munch on wonderful cheese, eat shrimp,  and drink the perfect glass of wine to reward ourselves after a strenuous day of work.  I never thought of it as work, it was just a great day to spend with a great friend who taught me wonderful lessons of friendship over the years. 

That relationship began almost 20 years ago when I drove up his driveway in my old Jaguar.  Leroy and I had just purchased the house nextdoor and I’d come to say “Hello” as new neighbors.   There must have been  thousands of “Hello’s” since that day;thousands of dinners with Paul and Dee, his beautiful, wonderful Dee who baked the best lemon meringue pie in all the land!! Paul and I would get a whole pie for each of our birthdays and would never think of sharing even a slice!

We shared Thanksgivings together, birthdays, Paul and Dee would include us in their Christmas Eve family traditions.  Leroy and I were so lucky to have them in our lives.  We even took apart the fence that separated the two properties.  It just made it easier to walk next door….friends shouldn’t have fences between them.

Cancer separated us from Dee 7 years ago and by then Paul had his cancer scars too.  They had moved away to manage an easier lifestyle.  But miles didn’t matter.  When I would call Paul, I’d hear the words “Hello girlfriend” and feel like he was ten steps away.

His voice began to echo a diagnosis of lung disease a few years ago, but he refused to give-in to the fibrosis until the scarring began to really limit his deep breaths.  These last few weeks were filled with visits to pulmonary specialists, slower, shortened steps across his living room floor and long lines of plastic tubing that carried life sustaining oxygen to his lungs.

Today, I’m thinking back to those days of sailing with Paul.  The strong winds…the air that would fuel the ‘Manitou’ across the choppy bay and it’s captain in full command, taking deep breathes of the salt air, and enjoying life.  Living life.

That is how I choose to remember my friend.  If this was then….

 

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