Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"When is it going to be finished?"

There were no poplars in our new yard. Just familiar maples, and some varieties we had never seen before: a cherry tree, a tulip tree, and a Japanese maple. By now we were used to foreigners, so foreign trees didn't bother us. Life took on a reassuring rhythm. Heino came to visit us, and I hoped he had forgotten about the war.

The new house needed plenty of work, and plenty of money, as did the boat. We were growing into impressionable adolescents, and my father's commitment to his boat, his perseverance (we didn't know about obsessions yet), infected and inspired us. We began to study his boat plans with him. That first winter he heated up the carriage house and strung lights up to put fiberglass on the hull. When the fiberglass went on, we began to think about possibly even sailing in this boat, and hoped it could happen before we went off to college.

Maybe my father chose to build a boat because it would take years to finish and that way no one could ever say, "See?" Perhaps he deliberately chose to tackle something he couldn't finish, lest in the finishing he betray his own father. Because his own father didn't finish raising him, but died suddenly when my father was twelve. Maybe that's why my father tried to build a boat. He had no one to tell him it was too big a job for him, like no one told him he couldn't be the man of the family at twelve.

We would ask impatiently, "When is it going to be finished?" and he would respond patiently, "It takes time to build a boat.”

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