When you’re traveling on a boat, you tend to “leap frog” with other boats. You see each other in an anchorage or marina somewhere, then somehow they get ahead of you, and 2 weeks later you sidle up next to them again somewhere 50 miles south of here and the process starts all over.
For me this was Merry and Eric, my “boat parents”. I was 27 when I lived on the boat, and Merry and Eric had just lost a son to cancer about a year previous. Nate. He was 26 when he died.
I knew she loved me, but my having brown curly hair and being 27, and possessing a similar vernacular to her own dearly departed son was like a knife through her heart sometimes.
Sometimes we’d just be sitting there doing nothing, and her eyes would fill with tears and she’d hug me real hard and give me a wet snotty kiss on the cheek and then excuse herself to go re-calibrate.
Eric would always just give me this pained look. What could he say?
It broke my heart but I knew there was nothing I could do except be there… hear her… and I also knew that in spite of the pain that my presence sometimes caused, there was comfort in my presence too. Here was someone who looked something like, and talked something like, Nate. A part of him was me.
Until tonight I hadn’t thought about any of this in 15 years.
Having dinner this evening there was a woman staring a hole into the side of my head. I had noticed her dress when I walked in, and I too was wearing one of my fave pieces… maybe she was just checking me out?
She tells her husband that I am the spitting image of Anna.
“I can’t take my eyes off her. Look.”
Husband casually turns to look but neither of them must realize they are hard of hearing and speak in a volume that would not be considered discrete.
Merry’s pain came flooding back. I look like this couple’s daughter, or niece, or friend, and that person isn’t with us anymore. I’m about to make this poor woman cry.
In my mind, I am back on the boat. I’m back in the salon of Merry and Eric’s boat and I’m making Merry cry just by hanging around. But I am also back to those hugs… the almost aching, “please don’t go” feel to her hugs.
She was sad, yes, but she was so glad to have someone to hold, someone roughly styled after her son, that she could physically hold on to.
I looked over and smiled at the lady. She put her hand to her heart, let out a visible exhale, and smiled back.
Later we would chat a little, about life, what we’re doing here… and she would give my dog the pancetta from her spaghetti carbonara.
To me she would give a warm hug.
“I know this might seem weird, but you remind me so much of someone I recently lost, and we’ve so enjoyed your company this evening. May I give you a hug goodbye?”
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