When Life Isn’t Rosy

My husband and my first date took place on a grey, windless, drizzly Sunday. We motored around Marina del Rey on his beloved 37 foot sailboat while the message sent and received was, “This is a test. My boat and I are a package deal.”

Shortly after we were engaged, my future husband started giving me gifts of books written by famous sailing couple Larry and Lin Pardey in which they recounted their extensive sailing experiences. Sailing purists, their home-built wooden boat, Seraffyn, didn’t even have an auxiliary motor. Perhaps the books were meant to show me how reasonable my spouse was. He only wanted to sail to Hawaii, not circumnavigate the globe as they did. Furthermore, he was happy to have a diesel engine though he preferred not to use it. More likely, the books were just meant to provide some needed nautical knowledge along with seductive messages about life afloat.

Though we did once meet the Pardeys at a boat race (their boat designer Lyle Hess built our dinghy) we had little else in common. Their passion for boating led them to a pact not to have children while our passion for children led us from sailing to power boating.  While they embarked on ambitious and amazing adventures, except for our Pacific crossing, we stayed close to shore.

Nevertheless, role models they were, both for their sailing expertise and for Lin’s writing style. So, despite the fact that I haven’t consulted one of my earliest gifts, Lin’s classic, The Care and Feeding of the Sailing Crew, in a few decades, I was still intrigued when I read about a biography of the iconic couple. Having written extensively about their own lives, what was left for author Herb McCormick to add?

I am looking forward to reading the biography, but so far I have only read reviews of it. Mr. McCormick, it seems, adds some of the warts that didn’t feature in the autobiographical cruising adventures. We’re not talking of anything major —certainly no hints of cannibalism or piracy. But, it seems that he does write of experienced navigators finding themselves at sea with no idea of their location; of Larry’s Captain Bligh moments (a persona that blessedly, my own husband never adopted) and even of strains on the marriage that are less shocking than completely normal.

This set me thinking. I sometimes regret the sugarcoating of my personal life that these Musings occasionally offer. Like some of our friends’ annual Christmas letters where they write of their children’s charm and cuteness, of their piano recitals and academic awards rather than of their moments of failure, my own family mentions tend to be positive ones.  Writing of the problems, you see, would betray the privacy to which marriage and children are entitled.

My husband and I are immensely proud of our children and grateful beyond belief that they follow God’s way in many Torah laws such as keeping kosher, the Shabbat and holidays and in being upright people. Yet, like parents everywhere, we have our worries and concerns and have had some desperate moments over the years. I can write of a four-year-old shoplifting gum without worries that a cloud will hang over her adult years, but is the same true for a sixteen year old who narrowly escaped a brush with the law due to a high-spirited adventure? I’m not so sure.

A number of years back when one of our daughters caused us great anguish – and at the time, we did not know as we now do that she would safely move past that period of her life – I was literally on the floor in a torrent of tears. I went to the library seeking some source of encouragement. Wandering the shelves, I found a book written by the late Christian author and humorist, Barbara Johnson. After facing severe crises in her children’s lives, she founded Spatula Ministries, designed to “peel parents off the ceiling with a spatula of love and begin them on the road to recovery.” Although her problems had little in common with mine and her faith was a different one than mine, I appreciated and benefited from her writing.

Still, while I share my own difficult experiences with individuals when I feel I can help them, I don’t write about those (blessedly few) gray periods of my life. I can’t; it is not my life alone that is involved. Yet, reading a review of Larry and Lin Pardey’s biography reminded me that while most of us present a positive face to the world, none of us escapes challenges and low points.  While, I hope, we don’t revel in another human being’s travails, knowing that everyone has them can help us get through our own.

7 thoughts on “When Life Isn’t Rosy”

  1. Kristy, I prefer Susan – as long as you’re an adult. I admit to still getting the shivers when a child calls me by my first name unless there’s a title along with it (Mrs. Susan; Capt. Susan…)Thanks for your kind words.

  2. Dear Susan (Would you prefer Mrs. Lapin?),
    I love reading your Musings each week! Thank you to you and Rabbi Lapin. We learn so much from your Musings, Thought Tools, & Ancient Jewish Wisdom program. God Bless you and have fun boating! (My husband is scared of the water!)

  3. James, I know a lot of “P.K.s” and we jokingly have sometimes called our children that. I don’t think our kids actually fell into that category as we had a unique synagogue when they were younger and after that our “virtual” congregation. I think they did inherit, shall we say creative and independent personalities from their parents that led them to some adventures. Thank God, nothing truly harmful.
    As for boating – look for this week’s Thought Tool.

  4. There exists a tradition of self-deprecating humor, but apart from that, it must be in our DNA to present ourselves, our family and our offspring in the most positive and favorable light possible. The fact that you have acknowledged your own human frailty is testimony to your humility and your personal honesty. Thank you! Yes, we all have such moments when life is not so rosy, every one of us, that we must overcome.
    But your anecdote about your children brings to mind another phenomenon long observed; that of the P.K. (Preachers’ Kid). For whatever reason, whether of nature or nurture, so very often Men of the Cloth seem to produce offspring whose incorrigible attitudes and notorious misdeeds plague their parents and constitute severe trials in their parents’ spiritual life. Or at least until they grow up… I wonder if this happens in your community, as well?
    Hope you guys are getting in some grand boating moments in your new locale…

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