My father-in-law was a sailor at heart, a man who enjoyed ships of all sizes.
He served in the navy in World War II and when he returned, as soon as he could afford it, he bought his own boat for trips to the California coast near his home. It was a significant expense and the vessel required a great deal of tinkering to keep it going, but Bill seemed to relish tinkering.
Even though the boat stayed parked in front of the house most of the time, we all knew that Bill would have preferred to be out at sea.
Naturally, as soon as my son was old enough to go, we took a three-generation family cruise. My wife, two-year-old son and both sets of his grandparents sailed Princess to the Caribbean, where it's easy to find a beach for a toddler.
We played tag team with our little bundle of energy, and with no one under the pressure of hosting the others and plenty to do on board ship, we had just the right mix of togetherness and time to relax or explore on our own.
Bill was fascinated by the technical operation of a large cruise ship, what goes on behind the scenes. We all enjoyed the vacation so much that several years later we reunited our families on a cruise to Alaska.
While my parents took my young son panning for gold in Juneau, Bill and his wife, Pat, both pushing 70, joined my wife and me on a hike up Perseverance Trail. I was surprised that they could keep up, even as the elevation increased and we reached patches of snow and ice. I knew they were exhausted, but they never complained and they never gave up.
Later, after the ship had sailed, we opened the doors between our balconies to form one large outdoor space and sat wrapped in blankets and sipping coffee as whales breached and frolicked in the long twilight of a summer evening. We agreed that that Alaska cruise was the greatest vacation of our lives.
Years passed before we could all manage a cruise to the Mediterranean, and by that time it was evident that age and perhaps something else was catching up to Bill.
On our arrival in Barcelona for the start of the trip, he and I stood at the luggage carousel as his bag passed repeatedly, until it was the only one left, before he recognized it. That was the beginning of what would later be diagnosed as Alzheimer's, but it did not change his gentle and amiable way.
Even then, Bill was the kind of traveler that I aspire to be: respectful of other cultures and people and ways of doing things, and up for just about anything. For his 75th birthday, his daughters gave him a flight in an open-air biplane, above the California coast.
All my fondest memories of Bill involve boats and travel: The trip to Lake Casitas where we launched his boat with the plug out and started taking on water (funny afterward); a gondola traffic jam in the canals of Venice; a fishing excursion from Skagway where we were so awe-struck by the beauty of our surroundings and the otters and bald eagles and sea lions that we hardly noticed we had not caught any salmon.
Bill's traveling ended some time ago, but he left just last week on his greatest journey. Yesterday, as befits a true sailor, we scattered Bill's ashes on his beloved blue Pacific.
Thanks for the memories, Bill, and for your steadfastness and integrity. We will think of you often, and especially out on the water.
Vacations To Go
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