Wednesday, March 16, 2016

wednesday words ...

linking again with elephant's child for words on wednesday...

I woke with a start as I heard the boat bump along the walls of the lock.

In the dark of my cabin, I was unsure at first of where I was.  My flights several days before had been long, followed by a train ride and bus before I had finally arrived in the city of Köln.  I was still feeling the exhaustion from jet lag.

I slipped out of bed and stood at the window, hearing now the voices of the crew as they called to each other in German on the deck, and to the men controlling the rise and fall of the water in the lock.  It was the first time I had been through a river lock, but not the first time I had been on the Rhine River.

It felt like it had been a lifetime ago.  Or more.  I had been ten, and in love with the mysteries of the castles on the Rhine.  Daughter of a military man, we had lived in West Germany for almost three years and would soon be heading back to the United States.  The day trip with my parents and younger brother would be the last time I was on the Rhine for another 35 years.

I had been planning my return to Germany since the moment our flight had left Wiesbaden in 1972, but it wasn't until 2007 that I was able to turn that dream a reality.

After he retired from the military, some 27 years before his death, my father became a carpenter, and a sailor, combining those two loves into a business of rebuilding sailboats before he began rebuilding houses and relationships.

It took me nearly that long to get to know him.  The man whose DNA I shared.  The man in whose silence and distance I had grown up.

He had kept his emotions under his hat ... whether it was his Air Force blue, or his blue and white striped train engineers cap that he wore every time he went sailing.  He was a complex man who kept who he was at arm's length from those who loved him the most.  He was a man who found companionship at various ports in the storms of his life.

I learned more about who he was after his death than I ever knew during his life.

But it was that trip to the Rhine River, the Christmas after he died, that made me realize that in spite of our shared DNA, I was not my father's daughter, and never would be.

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