Yes, today is my birthday. June 2nd. Normally I don't even think about birthdays, but a couple of things happened this past month that give me cause to reflect.
One was the death of my former wife, Susan. Ten years my junior, ours was probably a star-crossed union from the get-go. There isn't a whole lot of commonalty between a Jewish girl from New York and a Florida Cracker but we found enough to have fun times together and to form a union that lasted a little over 5 years. But, her dreams were of returning to Brooklyn and mine the Virgin Islands and... well, you get the picture.
Susan was the most gentle and generous person I've ever known. She wouldn't even kill a roach. She would try to coax it onto a piece of paper and put it outside.
Our parting was mutually agreed to and cordial. We even enjoyed a celebratory dinner the night of our separation and remained good friends over the years. I loved her and she me and we kept in touch.
Breast cancer. She had become Buddhist and wouldn't give modern medicine a chance until it was too late. True to form, the last time I spoke with her she down-played her illness and never let me know the extent of the cancer that was killing her for over a year for fear that I would worry. A tragic and unexpected loss and a stark reminder of my own mortality.
Rest easy sweetie. Your radiant smile will forever live in my heart.
The other thing that happened was an invitation for me and my brother to be the guest speakers at the local historical society. We presented a slide-show and talk about growing up in a fish camp and were recognized as being a "pioneer" family.
Jesus Cresus. I didn't realize just how old I was until reminiscing to a room full of people about my childhood in a fish camp with no electricity. We were in tall cotton however because we had an artesian well. That's a deep well that reaches the aquifer and so it had plenty of water pressure. Therefore we had indoor plumbing, unlike our neighbors who used an outhouse.
The fish camp was a partnership between my father and his brother-in-law, Pappy. They bought it in 1945 on a part of the St. Johns River that was the tarpon capital of the world. It was a boy's paradise. River, boats, woods, alligators, snakes, fish, hogs, chickens and dogs. We were poor as dirt but didn't give a damn. We had it all.
This is what the compound looked like. We lived in the cabin to the right, under the tree. My aunt and uncle lived in another, a couple were for rent to fishermen.
The fish camp proper. Note cane poles and picnic tables. We had a generator that my dad would fire up on Saturday nights so as to run the jukebox for the weekly fish-fry and shindig.
My dad in his little fishing boat. It seemed so much bigger then.
He used to drag a trawl behind it and the family lived off of the fish and shrimp he caught. I recall the whole family going out at sunset and dragging the net. When dad would pull in the catch he and my older brother would sort out the shrimp and throw everything else back. I used to pick up handfuls of baby fish, flounders, hermit crabs, puffer fish, blue claw crabs and even the occasional star fish. Today, none of that exists.
The dock with rental boats.
My big brother and me.
Me, catching a ride with "Uncle" Dennis.
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high.
Our house. My brother and I shared the room with the windows overlooking the river.
The view from the dock today. What was once so deep in the woods there was no electricity is now inside the beltway.
Nicer than most, yes, but nothing close to what it once was. Then again, neither am I, as I watch another year go by. But you know, I'm feeling good. In fact, I would go so far as to say I'm feeling downright lucky. Think I'll go buy a lottery ticket.