By Deanna Silvey | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was such a great sacrifice, because the ocean was his love.
In October of 2005 my father retired from the United States Coast Guard. He said goodbye to 24 years of his life and to his position as Senior Chief. My older sister and I said goodbye to our childhood.
My father did not have to retire, nor did he want to. He was offered a choice: retire or go on another leave.
I remember being 9 years old and riding in the back of his old red pickup truck.
“Girls,” he said quietly. “I might need to leave for a few months for work.” I knew he was hesitant of this decision, and he needed us to be OK with him leaving.
But we weren’t.
I was stunned and angry. Between my silent treatment and my glaring eyes, I think he could sense that I was hurt. What I didn’t realize at the time was that hurt him.
He chose to stay.
For years now I’ve listened to my father talk about his dream to sell our three bedroom house tucked away in a little suburban neighborhood in Daytona Beach, use the money to buy “his” sailboat and travel the world. Like he used to.
But my sister and I needed school supplies and new clothes every year and braces and glasses and contacts and cell phones and clarinet lessons. He paid for all of it as a single father, and he never wanted us to worry about money, even though we secretly did anyway.
The day we said goodbye to my father’s job was also the day that the greatest time in all of our lives became distant memories.
The Coast Guard base was located at the end of Peninsula Avenue in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. My sister and I would spend our summers exploring the beach, playing teacher in their classrooms and watching TV in the recreation room.
His office always smelled of fresh ink and crisp paper. Near his desk was a large window that faced the ocean. A set of binoculars rested peacefully on the dark wooden window sill. I used to watch the sailboats in the distance while he worked quietly at his desk
We would tune out all of the important work being conducted around us and pretend to be anything we wanted. Our birthday parties, family cookouts and celebrations all happened on that base. It was our playground and our home.
But after his retirement, he couldn’t really retire. We didn’t have the money for it. So he spent years working lousy jobs that he was over-qualified for like working for a construction company and bartending at night.
Years and years after spending his earnings on his daughters, he was never able to get that sailboat.
I always felt bad for him, but I am also young. When we’re young, we’re told that it is OK to be selfish.
Last year, however, I got a call from my father. His voice was weak.
“I don’t want you to worry, but I’m in the hospital. I had a heart attack.”
He told me the whole story when I arrived at the hospital the next day.
He had started having chest pains that morning, and when he realized he was having a heart attack, he jumped in his truck and raced to the hospital.
“Why didn’t you just call 911?” I asked in a disapproving tone.
“Because I didn’t want the neighbors to see me getting in an ambulance,” he replied with a smirk, his gray speckled mustache widening with his smile.
I took him home that same day. As I laid in my high school bedroom, I thought of my dad leaving this world without ever having his sailboat.
He has sacrificed much more than money for us. He sacrificed his dream so that we may have our own.
Fortunately, we have seen somewhat of a new beginning. An old friend recently sold my dad a 25-foot Sea Ray in need of a lot of TLC. My dad has been working on it for a few weeks now. We are all excited to see him back on the water just in time for summer.
It may not be the sailboat he has been dreaming of, but it’s a boat and that will do for now.
At the end of Peninsula Avenue, there’s a Coast Guard base. It’s the place where I grew up, and it’s the place where I came to know the greatest sailor man.