The Old Mariner

When I told the guys at my office that I bought a boat, they laughed.

“Didn’t know you could go through a midlife crisis at your age Rick. How far did that one set you back?” Tim asked me at the water cooler

“Set me back a couple of grand,” I explained while refilling my water bottle.

“A couple of grand eh?” Tim chuckled “Sounds like you blew all the money you could have used to go on a good few dates with that Lori chick at reception.”

“Maybe,” pausing for a gulp of water “but there are more things to life than money and women, Tim.”

“Heh, sure there are. But do things matter?” He examined his Rolex “Wowza! Got to get back to the old grind. Have fun on the high seas there sailor!” he said while giving me a friendly slap on the shoulder.

When I first joined the company, I idolized people like Tim. He looked like the kind of guy that had it all figured out. He had money, power and a gorgeous wife. I thought I had to be just like him before I could ever find true happiness in this life.

Till I was walking by the docks on my way to the beach one sunny weekend. I saw an old man prepping his boat for a day on the water. I saw he was struggling with his sail so I lent him a hand.

Told him I had never been out in the open water before, or even a boat for that matter. The old man smiled a toothless grin and asked if I wanted to change that.

I’ve never been one to go outside my comfort zone. I did the same thing every week for years since starting at the office. Hell, I even had the same turkey and swiss sandwich for lunch every day.

But, for whatever reason, I agreed. We spent that afternoon together out on the ocean fishing. He told me tales of his youth. Like the first fish, he caught. He didn’t have the heart to kill it, so he tossed it back. His dad was furious with him, but, looking back, he said he didn’t regret it.

When I asked him why he told me “Somethings just need to be left free.”

For the next few months, the old man and I spent every weekend together. I helped him with the tasks he was physically unable to do anymore, and he, in turn, taught me how to sail. As long as the sun was out, we were out, and every evening we would watch the sun set behind the big blue sea.

Eventually, the old man took a turn for the worst. His cancer had rendered his body useless, and he couldn’t leave the hospital. I was by his bedside when he offered me the boat. “Just take it, boy. We know where this is headed, and I don’t trust it with no one else.”

I insisted on paying for it if anything to at least help him with his medical bills. He initially protested, but I eventually convinced him to take the cash.

“Whatchya got going on this weekend fella?” Tim asked me while we walked to the parking lot together “Going crabbing on that little dingy of yours?”

“Close,” I chuckled “I have an important favor to do for an old friend.”

When I reached our usual spot, I dropped the anchor and watched the sun. The humid air and salt on my skin were welcome friends now.

When the time was right, I pulled out the urn and scattered the old man’s ashes on the water as he requested. I watched as they floated away and disappeared into the sea he loved so very much.

After saying my farewell, I sat down and welcomed the sun’s warm embrace.

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