Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For Mother's Day 2012

Ronnie is THAT MOM.

The best poem I ever wrote, no contest, is the one I wrote for Ronnie for Mother’s Day 2009. She inspires me. From the very beginning of our relationship to this point, more than a quarter of a century later, she is my muse in every aspect of life, not just poetry.

Kindness and thoughtfulness are inextricably intertwined in my perception. She is both of those personified. She has put up with my shit for that quarter-century-plus and still retained the bandwidth to be the best mom imaginable for our MJ and Chloe throughout their sweet, young lives. And even beyond that, she has demonstrated the depth of character to also share herself unselfishly and unstintingly with relatives and friends.

She is the bravest person I know, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ll tell you one illustrative story. In the Fall of 2005 after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we finally managed to get our family sailboat, the Zombie Princess, under the multiple bridges keeping us in New Orleans and escape to the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. We spent a couple of days resting at anchor behind a Mississippi barrier island waiting for a good weather window to make our crossing from there to Naples, Florida, then tucked in behind a squall front which was heading in our direction but ahead/away from us.

Unfortunately, we were faster than the front and caught up with it the evening of our departure day. I’ve been sailing most of my life. I’ve been in some truly shit conditions: conditions bad enough to knock down a keelboat manned by a skilled 8-man crew; conditions where a tack consisted of the crew running the tack then climbing to the high side to be “rail whales” where they all sat puking their guts out and anticipating the same experience on the next tack; conditions where the autopilot could not handle things and hand steering was required and that was so taxing that we had to switch off every hour due to fatigue; and so on. During all those experiences, I never puked. I was always the iron-stomach guy.

Well, I puked that night. And I was cold and miserable. Yes, cold in the Gulf of Mexico in September. And it was all hand steering, all the time. And you know who kept an eye on the girls and relieved me at the wheel? You guessed it. Ronnie would get up from trying to rest and relax in the forward berth. She would first puke in the head, then make her way aft to the galley, near the companionway, where she’d puke again, in the sink. Then, she’d climb up to the cockpit, come sit by me at the wheel, and puke off the stern. Then she’d take the wheel and relieve me so I could try to rest and relax and recuperate a bit. After a coupla off-duty hours where I was at least horizontal and not at the wheel, I’d return and relieve her. Ronnie would relinquish the wheel to me and reverse her approach path, puking off the stern, going down the companionway to puke in the sink, going forward to puke in the head, then lying down to try to rest for a coupla hours until she relieved me. Again. And again. And again...

She did this for two days, until we mostly parted ways with that squall. If you’ve never been in circumstances like that, I can only tell you that she is not just mentally, physically, and emotionally tough, she is double tough. Beyond tough. Even though the squall was gone, we still faced three more days of sailing before reaching Naples. She, of course, continued to do her part and more. I wish you could have seen her as she piloted the Zombie Princess into the gas dock at the Naples Marina pretty as you please. An elemental power. A goddess.

My ability to tell you about her is desperately poor compared to her own writings. If you’ve never met her, or only know her superficially, read her in her own words. Start anywhere, read in any order. An exquisite human being will reveal herself to you. Ronnie is the Zombie Princess incarnate.

And as Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci) says in “My Cousin Vinny”:

She’s cute too, huh?


  1. That is so sweet. Well, not the puking part, but all the rest. :-)

  2. *speechless*

    Thank you. <3

  3. I love that the fact she is that Mum makes you love her more. That is a lovely example to your daughters in a culture that doesn't promote the importance of such values enough.

  4. What a lovely entry, even though it involves so much puking. Sweet!

  5. Great post, Frank! That's quite a harrowing tale - not sure I could have pulled it off! Although, my husband is off sailboat-shopping this weekend, so adventures such as these are probably in my future!
    Thanks for sharing on the Unschooling Blog Carnival! :)

  6. That was a beautiful piece, puking and all. Now I'm off to read Ronnie's words!

  7. Thanks, Jen. Ronnie's been writing there since 05 so there's a good bit of prose. You can use the "labels' to filter for subjects.

    Sue, well, now I'm curious. What kind of sailboat and what are your plans? Most saioling is WAYYYYY better than that post-hurricane passage.

    Tracy, thanks.

    KP, she is truly my better half.

  8. Ron has sailed off and on for nearly 40 years. He's about 2 years away from retirement, so we're thinking it might be good to get another. We've had a few bad droughts here, so he made a trade with his brother: our boat for his motorcycle.
    He's looking at a Hunter 31, a Bristol 29, and a Cal 27. I like the Bristol because there's lots of good light below. He's more into the way a boat actually works - go figure! Last weekend he took a course in Corpus Christi to start all the certifications for chartering - something he's always wanted to do. This weekend he went up to Lake Texoma to look at these 3 boats. We're looking for something around 30, but it needs to be at the best price we can get it for. We live in Central Texas, but he's willing to travel to get it here. Or, after he retires, who knows where we'll end up!!

  9. Sounds like lots of fun. If you've never chartered, you're gonna love it. I recommend the Virgins (British Virgin Islands) as a first charter spot. My post about Chloe and the blue tang is from a trip we took with the girls in 2001 to the BVI. I did a 13 post trip report on a SCUBA plus sailing trip I did with a coupla other unschooling dads in the BVI in 2011 (starting here).

    Sailing in the Caribbean is my idea of heaven. Ronnie and I did our honeymoon on a Swan we chartered out of St. Martin. 2 weeks alone on a beautiful Nautor Swan. Ahhhh.....

  10. Frank, that unschooling dad trip looked great! I love the pics - except the one of the bruise!! OUCH!
    We've never done "Big Trip" sailing, just little day trips. But, I have a feeling that might be changing soon! :)

  11. Sue,

    That was a great trip. Some excellent male bonding as well as great sailing and diving. The trip we took with the girls which spawned Chloe's "Blue Tang of Death" story was a fabulous family trip.

    We're all different and you can't predict with certainty what someone else likes or dislikes; but I suspect you'd love a week (or two) cruising in the Caribbean.