A Good Life

Josh could not resist leaving the big Danforth anchor on the bottom, so he dragged it over next to the boat’s hook and came back up the anchor line to ask permission to raise it. Standing on the ladder, he explained that he had 1800 psi left in his low pressure steel tank and wanted to return to the sea floor to use a lift bag to bring his prize to the surface. I have a lot of faith in his skills and judgment as a diver, so I told him to go for it. The other divers were making their way back to the boat and I figured he would be finished with his salvage operation by the time I got everyone settled in. 15 minutes later, the bright orange lift bag pierced the surface of the water, sending ripples outward in perfect circles. Everyone else was already out of their wetsuits and packing up for the return trip to the dock when Josh came to the surface and tapped on the side of the boat. “Captain, can I breathe on your hang regulator for a little while?” I knew instinctively what he was asking, and quickly deployed the 20’ feet of hose into the water and opened the valve on the tank of oxygen enriched air. He was low on gas and had a decompression obligation. The long hose with a regulator hangs from the back of the boat for that very purpose, if a diver gets low on air it is there as additional breathing gas to allow them to complete their safety stop. I had pulled it in and coiled the hose after the other divers were on the boat, not even thinking that Josh might need it. He was one of those guys with enough experience to never let that situation arise.
10 minutes passed as I kept a sharp eye on Josh 15’ below the boat, the regulator on the tank hissing with each breath. Everyone was patient, getting drinks and a snack, relaxing as Josh completed his decompression obligation. A few years older than me, Josh is a good customer and has become a good friend. Even so, what he was doing was not an acceptable practice on the boat and had basically put him in an emergency situation. I became a bit irritated. It must have been apparent as he climbed back in the boat and then struggled to pull the big Danforth anchor with the attached 20’ of chain aboard. Some divers just cannot resist the opportunity to salvage things they find on the bottom. Granted, the anchor was worth a couple of hundred dollars, but that is not the point. It is the thrill of the find, the treasure hunt.
As Josh doffed his gear, I quickly pulled in the boat’s safety line and main anchor line and got the boat underway towards port. Josh was extremely apologetic for holding everyone up; humbled by the fact he knew he had misbehaved. I never reprimanded him with words, but I guess my dissatisfaction was transparent.
“Captain, I am really sorry”, coming to the helm and speaking directly to me.
“Don’t worry about it Josh, it turned out ok and you got your prize.”
In his early 60’s, Josh is still fit and in good health. He has the physique of a man 20 years younger. A puzzled look came on his face as he confessed his epiphany: “You know what I just now realized James? I am not 27 anymore.”
The tension was broken as I burst into laughter. “Seriously? You just realized that this very moment?”
With a very serious look on his face, he shook his head twice, his eyes directed at the deck. “Yea, I just realized that for the first time today.”
For those of you who have read some of my ramblings on the male condition, you know I embraced my mid-life crisis and came out on the other side with a healthy attitude about my age. I am in my mid 50’s and having the time of my life. I cannot do the things that I could do when I was 27 and that is okay by me. (Does that remind you of a Toby Keith song?). I recently heard Dr. J (Julius Ervin) say he could still dunk a basketball. I don’t believe him. I could never dunk like the Doc, but I could throw down pretty well for a skinny white kid. I could not even touch the net now.
One of the things I noticed about this time of life is that you go to a lot of weddings and funerals. The generation that proceeded you is at the end of life times, and the generation that followed is at the marrying age.
My father was one of seven children born to James and Sybil Rosemond. Three remain, one older sister, and a younger brother and sister. I have a bunch of cousins, and we have a big family reunion coming up in Morehead in July. It will be the third one we have had in the last decade at our family cottage on the water at Calico Creek. My wife and I were married on the pier of that house years ago by an Episcopalian minister named Don Raby Edwards. “Raby” and his wife Jane were good friends of my parents. He was the team Chaplin for UGA in Athens when my father coached there, and by coincidence was the minister of a large church just minutes from the campus of the University of Richmond while I was there. Raby, Jane and their two sons Nat and Blount would bring their 25’ Dusky center console down the ICW from Rappahannock to Atlantic Beach for the entire month of August. My first trip to Cape Lookout over 40 years ago was on that very boat. Later, after Raby retired, I fished many days aboard his 38’ Bertram “Temptation” that he kept at the Yacht Basin.
With the reunion coming up, I had been thinking a lot about the generation that precedes mine. Although Raby and Jane lived in Brandywine, I had not seen them in a while. The thought occurred to me to invite them to the reunion. I called and left a message but did not get a return call. A few days later I tried again. Monday morning I got a return call from Jane. Raby had passed away the day before.
There is always a handful of people in your life that indirectly impact who you become. Raby was one of those models for me. Raby had a noticeable presence, tall and handsome with a quiet confidence. When you spoke to him, you could tell by his eyes that he was really listening to what you were saying. Unlike my father who told you how to do things, Raby just showed you. While fishing with him on Temptation as a teenager, he looked at me and said “here, take the wheel for a minute” and then left the bridge only to return 30 minutes later. He never told me what to do or where to go. It was small moments like that that helped me develop my own sense of confidence. I wish I could write as well as Raby communicated. He never wasted a word, making his point perfectly clear with one short sentence. Just before performing our wedding vows on that hot July day, he pulled Jan and me aside on the pier. Placing one hand on my shoulder and the other on hers, he leaned in and whispered “You know this is forever, right?”
Years later, after reading my book, he looked at me and smiled saying “You have hit a lot of home runs.” In that one sentence, I realized that he picked up on the most important thing I had written. Just like I knew he really listened to me when we talked, I knew that he really read the book and understood what I meant. Raby was a good man and I miss him already.
I was able to speak to his sons after the service in Tarboro. I expressed my condolences to Blount.
All he said was; “Dad lived a good life.”
On the way home I realized that was the defining moment of my day. Unlike Josh, I realized a long time ago that I was not 27 years old anymore. When my life ends, I hope that is what my sons will say about me. It does not matter how you define a “good life” just as long as you live it.

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