At 12 yrs. old he decided he was going to sail on tall ships. You know, like 1800's brigantines and schooners. At 13 he began learning through doing. It's a small slice of the world where you still learn through apprenticeship. Every summer since, he has sailed on the Great Lakes as part of a youth sail training program, working his way up to becoming first mate this past summer aboard "Playfair" of Toronto Brigantine. Some of you know his story. It continues...
Now he is on the crew of "Pride of Baltimore." They sailed up the St. Lawrence, past Montreal, Quebec City, up to the Atlantic Provinces. They sailed down to Boston. The hurricane approached with 5 inches of rain in one day. As it came up the coast they were heading down to New York City. While he is at sea there is no communicating with him. Other parents of kids his age are coping with things like their kids moving away to live in a dorm. They feel a certain powerlessness and hope their kids will be all right. Us? Our kid is reduced to a red dot on a map that indicates where the ship is. We watch it helplessly as it skirts the hurricane. We await the red dot's safe arrival in New York harbor.
One day, the red dot arrives safely. Whew! Two days later he calls. "We're in port. I can see the Statue of Liberty. Where the World Trade Center was? It's up the street. Oh, we're at the end of Wall St..." So there's my son, harbored on the end of Wall St. as it's going through it's nightmare collapse.
"What's it like there on Wall Street?" I ask.
"Bunch of crazy, angry people," he says. There's my boy, sitting on the edge of America on a tall ship as the golden street turns to rust.
They sailed on.
Today he calls me. "I only have a minute to talk. I just wanted to tell you about the race. We just got into port a couple of hours ago." They had just completed and won the "Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race." He's geeked, He's high on adrenaline, talking fast and excited. "We were neck and neck with the Virginia for 14 hours... First we would take the lead and steal their wind and then they would take the lead... We were never more than a boat length apart for 14 hrs. We were doing all sorts of sailing tricks - some of 'em kinda risky."
My knee-jerk parental response was, "Why were you guys doing it, if it was risky?"
"It was a race, Dad!"
Oh, yeah.... And once again I am reminded I am powerless as the father of Popeye.
He continues on with his story, "We were sailing hard when all of a sudden a big gust came up and snapped the main sail of the VIrginia. We pulled out ahead of them and won the race!" I can hear his crew-mates in the background. He's talking with them and then suddenly is back to me saying, "I've gotta go. I've got the afternoon off and tomorrow too. We're off to explore Portsmouth, Virginia." And he's gone...
I once heard someone say, "With the world the way it is now, if you're not living life on the edge, you're probably taking up too much room." Popeye is one who takes up little room. Sometimes I think some of the lessons he learned in his teenage years of having a sick Dad, were about Life lived on the edge. Each day counts. A lot. Squeeze the most living out of every single day. Live on the edge, but most importantly - Passionately Live!!!