“I didn’t get sick, I died!”
So said my good friend Greg when describing the massive heart attack he suffered six years ago. Lack of oxygen during the attack had caused significant brain damage, and now he couldn’t read, write or drive. Tall and gaunt, he walked with a shambling gate, held his left side lower than his right. His speech was slightly slurred. He fumbled with his cell phone when it rang, but eventually figured it out and answered. It was as though his mind had been blasted into a hundred pieces and never coalesced back into the Greg I new 18 years ago. He was still there, but broken and shattered. It was like visiting his ghost.
That night, we sat up and relived old times and mis-adventures. We reminisced about the people, places and things we had done those many years ago. He savored the memories and became more animated and alive as we talked. I showed him pictures of my F27 trimaran anchored in the San Juans – told him of my trips to Mexico and the Bahamas. Regaled him with tales of waterspouts and races, summer thunderstorms and deserted beaches, thirty mile spinnaker runs and screaming reaches.
He shook his head and growled – “You bastard! Stop….don’t tell me any more. I’m never going to see anything like that. Just stop talking about it.”
It was silent in the dark house for a moment. A clock somewhere ticked.
I said – “Come sailing with me. Get yer ass up out of that chair and come sailing with me.”
He said – “There’s no way….I cant….how would…..it will never work…..do you mean it?”
“Of course I mean it. We have time to figure out how to get you to the boat. She’s going to be in the San Juans for at least a year, then I’m taking her South. Somewhere along the line, my friend, you are going sailing with me.”
Choking, tearful, he nodded his head. “I would like that very, very much.”
And so was born the idea to take my dear friend on a sailing adventure. The trimaran makes a perfect platform for taking the disadvantaged out on the water. Flat sailing, deck space, speed and exhilaration are tailor-made to create a safe and stimulating experience for someone like Greg.
I will bundle him in the corner of the cockpit, tell him to hold on. I will hook us up with a puff, accelerate and roll down the header going nowhere fast and watch him light up with joy and life. I will let him steer and the sails, wind and water will work their magic to connect his broken mind with his shaky limbs.
And then we will do it again…
He called me yesterday, just days after concocting our scheme.
“Brother,” he said, “you have given me something to live for, you saved my life and I thank you for that.”
I can think of no better reason to go sailing.