In the sea of infinite waves, I found myself with one oar that day. The wind had picked up, and my hand clumsily hit the side of the boat. I will add it was built by my dear friend. He has since passed away, body mixed in with the dirt by now, and creepy crawly insects having a corpse to explore. I shouldn’t view Tobias as a corpse, but I’m not one to exchange that word for another. He became a corpse when his soul left him, and just because you might find that word repulsive is not a problem I want to inherit. People tend to have little pity for the situations I placed myself in, and maybe I deserve some of it, but it doesn’t reverse my desire to exist. My true love was the only one to understand me. She had a radiance I’ve never seen in a woman before or since our time. I miss her more days than not, but let’s get back to my dilemma.
It floated past my boat with great speed into the wild waves. I almost jumped to retrieve it, but then I’d be dealing with another issue, and that was hypothermia. My children would never forgive me either if I died this way. They never feared me getting lost when they were children, but we are thirty years older now. If I arrive one minute past my projected time, my son and daughter panic. My desire of living out my days in peaceful self-reflection never really came to fruition as I expected, but on this day they gave it to me wholeheartedly. It had to do with my birthday and the fact I was well past my drinking days.
What was tantamount to suicide, I was distraught over losing the oar. My grandfather had never used them as they rested on pegs above his fireplace. I understood the importance of keeping treasured objects within the family tree, and now it was forever gone. I sat down on the hardened seat when my eye caught sight of the oar. I leapt up and burned the location into my mind. I grabbed the remaining oar and shoved it into the water. I paddled with long strokes, switching sides, until I was close enough to grab its nearly identical twin still in my grasp.
The anticipation of holding both my oars unsteadied my balance. My remaining oar flung into the sea. This is the way I’d like to remember it, but in actuality, I lost my balance for no other reason of being old. No one was around to hear my cursing at God, the sea, the boat, Tobias who had died, my wife who had died unexpectedly, and the oars themselves. I scrambled to the boat edge and searched for the oar. It was about ten feet away, bobbing with the waves, and teasing me every time it moved a little closer. My hope was it would float its way back to me as if it was scared of being away for so long. I imagined the water droplets hiding in the tiny cracks of both oars when I lifted them to safety. It would be good to have them back in my possession. When the oars didn’t come back on their own, I recognized my situation with more urgency.
My flesh tried to resist the effects of the icy water when I jumped feet first. I had managed to remember to take off my shoes, socks, and jacket as all three would keep me warm once I got out of the water. The pesky oars that never should’ve left my grip were not visible. I screamed loudly, making the nearby birds take flight. My attention went back to the sea and swam in the general direction of where I had last seen the oars. They were on the same side of the boat when I lost them. I scanned the surface for any hint of my oars, and unfortunately my fingers turned a lovely purple before I found one of them. I reached it in record time for a man in his late sixties. After craning my neck in all directions, I located the other one. I swam to it just as fast in hopes it would warm my body. Hypothermia had claimed most of it, and I was forced to embrace it with open arms.
I focused my grip around the oars not to lose them on my swim back. It took every determination to not close my eyes and sink into the sea in a death spiral. One thing kept me going and that was the warmth of my socks and jacket waiting for me on the boat. It could not have drifted far away, but when I looked up it appeared much farther even though it wasn’t the case. I thought about all the things I hated doing, but now I would take that over my current predicament. I kicked my feet as hard as possible, hunger clawing at my stomach.
The nature of my situation had turned to critical when I arrived at my boat. I imagined the warmth my socks and jacket would provide as I picked them up. If only a towel would drop from the sky so I could dry myself, but my weary body soon didn’t care about that. I fell into a heap and sat there, breathing in and out heavily before starting the task of jamming my feet into the socks. My unfocused eyes remained that way while I tore off my water-soaked clothes. They had the scent of seaweed and dead fish. What an exquisite combination was the last thing I remembered as I slipped into unconsciousness. When I came back to reality, I didn’t notice the goose egg on my head.
The sea went from puzzled to indignant, back to puzzled, and remained at a rumble. I was caught during the roar, but now it was my turn to be angry. I kicked at my heavy soaked pants and threw my shirt into the water. It would have been a sight to witness a sixty-seven year old in his underwear flailing about, but good riddance to it all. I wore my half dry socks with pride and my jacket didn’t fully hide my behind. I’ve since bought a longer jacket to wear in case this happens again although it hasn’t. My shoes were the last to go on and once I picked up my oars, I made sure to smack the water with them a few times before rowing back home. Similar to the sea, I went from frustration to rage. It was going to take a while to get home, and I used this time to release this steam with each stroke. The situation had spun out of control quickly, but now it was calmer. The thing chasing me this morning was no longer with me. The grief of what had happened could fit onto the diameter of a penny.
While I did not know it at the time, losing my oars was a blessing in disguise. Some say God works in mysterious ways, and but I haven’t met any of them. I suppose there are shards of truth to everything. My daughter believes I’m trying to feel better about myself when I go out on my boat. She thinks I’m instinctively sailing toward something better, but it’s all in my head. I’m not sure about this. My son thinks I’m trying to recapture my youth. I’m not sure about this either, but when I arrived back home and soaked in hot water up to my chin, I had time to think about how lucky I was to be breathing oxygen.
The sea can be a small place when there are people fluttering around you, trying to stay afloat such as in a shipwreck; but when you are alone, no one sees you struggling. The day the sea challenged my longing for it, my body was not in the best of shape. I had wanted to give up, but I prevailed to feel stability under my feet again. When my feet touched dry land, I bent down and grabbed a handful of sand. Damn the sea who tried to take me and damn the God who put me on this wobbly ride in the first place, but shortly after saying this I also thanked both for returning my oars to me when they could have been swallowed for dinner by the ever moody sea.