End of the Road, Beginning of the Sea: Onancock Harbor in Winter
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. ~Andrew Wyeth
Winter has been, since the days when writers scratched symbols with berry ink on papyrus scrolls, a great symbol of dying and death. Nature collapses on herself, retreats, sinks away and leaves us poor contemplative creatures to stare out windows into bitterness.
Our family lost a patriarch this month. As the winter descended, it took with it Albin J. Voit, my father-in-law, who passed away after a brief struggle with an aggressive cancer. Al was, of course, a member of what we are now calling the greatest generation. During WWII, as an 18-year-old sailor, (Mine Man, 2nd Class, Underwater Demolition), he fought on Guam and Okinawa, and Iwo Jima, too. And survived. He was a physics major in college but the war interfered and he never went back. Instead, he managed an auto parts warehouse in Philadelphia and settled in to raise six kids. I thank him for that.
I'll bet he was a damned good UDT guy. He was a quiet man, smart and steady and fearless, and a strict disciplinarian who worked hard at a job he did not necessarily relish. When he was sixty-two, he did what many men only dream of doing: he bought a sailboat and, for the next ten years or so, spent as much time as he could sailing the Caribbean. Being married to one of his four daughters, I was lucky enough to sail with him for three summers and I became a better man and a better sailor for it. I thank him for that, too.
It was a horrific thing, a terrible and sad thing, to watch a man you knew well and liked and admired a lot take his last breaths. But it was winter, after all, and things were descending, cold and dark, into that frigid abyss, an abyss we shall all someday slip away into.
We loved you, Al, and now we must deal with the rest of it, a long winter of mourning. But, as Andrew Wyeth said, something waits down deep beneath the lonely, dead feeling of this season. We all know that. It is a certainty. The whole story doesn't show.