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Solace in the Sea
Paul was always happy to have his kid brother Frank visit, sentimental to a fault as he was; it made him happily remember the older times when they would have fun together, boyish fun that got them into so much trouble with their mother. Ah, she never scolded harshly, and they all loved each other dearly. A tinge of old age, a knowledge of the loss of mother and father crept into his mind, but was easily shattered by the young laughter of his nephew Robert, a bright, inquisitive young lad who always was cheerful, but had almost reverence for his uncle, who always spent time with him when possible, telling him stories or teaching him how to fish, swim, or build boats.
He had planned to go fishing with him again, but when he opened the garage, he saw a box of photographs his wife had collected had fallen off the top shelf, and spilled its contents all over, like a surge of distant memories suddenly tangible, but chaotically unrestrained. He immediately rushed to pick up all the photos, his precious life behind him suddenly in danger of tearing or fading quickly and suddenly. Robert needed no urging, but swiftly began rescuing them as well, until he stopped suddenly. With his curiosity evident, he asked “Uncle Paul, who is this?” Paul saw the photograph, perhaps the oldest one in the box, and then drew it closer to his old eyes to focus. It was a black and white photo portrait of a young man, though not younger than twenty-five. He had on a suit that looked as if it was made before the turn of the century, tall and thin to match its wearer, but still stiff and perhaps a touch too formal with a gold pocket watch chain visible. He looked away from the camera, as if trying to look stern and imposing, but the sense of concern and sadness that arose from his deep brow and soft eyes ruined the effect.
Feeling nostalgia for the second time that day, with a soft smile and eyes lost in thought, he began to work out what he would tell Robert of his own uncle, Frederick, as the deeply caring face in the picture brought the words and images to his head from his far-distant recollections.
Frederick J Michaelson. He somehow never liked his name; it sounded too businesslike. He never seemed exceptionally happy about anything he accomplished these days, as if it never lived up to his expectations. He had always held on to his childhood dreams, feeling awkward about the fruits of his labor in his now later years. He had tried to be many things in his long life, and somehow they all only worked halfway, with bittersweet results at best. Frederick wondered idly how he had come to this crossroads of bitterness in his life so late, when he knew he would not have many more years ahead of him, and began to reminisce.
<i>Looking back at his childhood, Frederick was very idealistic, always wanting to be the hero among his friends, but always teased by the bullies he wanted to stop. His friends were few but loyal, and being an only child, and of a wealthy family no less, never was an issue or object. His father and mother supported his dreams and aspirations, using them to foster their morals and sense of righteousness in him early, strongly. They had done many things together, but he had always loved sailing the most. He remembered this small bit of his own history, and then let the story of his life keep flashing before his eyes.
His teenage years, somehow, were worse, never seeming to fit the mold given to him in school life by peers and teachers. He was constantly at odds with others, who simply went through the motions of life, as opposed to trying to change as he did, however minutely. Conflicting values of courtesy overrode his self-assertion, and he developed a habit of mumbling then that magnified his natural soft-spoken nature, and hampered further social successes for years to come. It was then that his father began to demand financial success as well as well-being from Frederick; a daunting task considering the levels of wealth that dictated success in Morris Michaelson’s eyes. It was also then that Sarah, his little sister, was born, just as Frederick began to approach adulthood. As happy as this made everyone, It bode no solace for a young man in need of a job. He had plans to become a fisherman or join the Navy. His father made him work to inherit the family business, a fairly well-known company specializing in making suitcases.
He had tried to move on from the factory, but he became bitter with the work of a life he never truly wanted for his own. He never was able to marry until his later thirties, and even then it was a marriage of convenience more than true love, as much as he did care for Victoria as much as she cared for him, though not greatly. He became fairly wealthy, more than his father, but troubling failures in starting a family of his own tarnished his economic prowess. As he aged further, he moved to a small house outside of the San Francisco area, where he could enjoy looking out at the sea and partake of his more favorite dishes, always seafood when possible.
It almost seemed, to him, as if his life was just a prelude to something else, to someone else. Looking back now, it almost wanted to seem ridiculous how mediocre he had turned out, living up to his father’s expectations of success in all areas and still expecting to feel fulfilled by his own needs and designs. If it wasn’t for his sister’s son, Paul, he might never had bothered to try anything anymore in his life.
At the thought of Paul, the young boy himself entered the room, and held a picture out. It had faded little, if at all, but was obvious it at least ten years older than it looked with the suit taken into account. “Is this you, Uncle? You look so young and different in here!”
“Where did you find this?”
“I saw it sticking out of a book on your shelf. Was that a bad idea to take out?”
Frederick smiled, as he had always done when his nephew asked thoughtful or considerate questions, as he had always seemed to have done. He truly loved Paul, and saw in him the wondrous possibilities he had never quite reached himself. Frederick tried to foster Paul better than his parents did him, to be a better person, pushing for success at both work and play, helping others and self equally. He replied, “That is an old picture of me, yes. I had it taken when your aunt wanted to show her Mom and Dad, your Great Uncle and Aunt, what I looked like after we married. We never sent it because they came over to visit instead, and I do not think your aunt liked how it came out. But, I want you to hold onto it for me. It’ better a memory like that is held by someone who looks at it with more enjoyment.” With that, the picture went carefully into the book he was using, and into Paul’s waiting hands. He saw in those hands the future that he helped shape, a future better than his past. Or maybe he was getting too sentimental again, and being ridiculous about his own philosophy. He sighed as Paul left the room, and again lost himself in thought.</i>
“That is a picture of my uncle, when he was younger. It’s important to me, because he was such a great man. I’ll tell you more later, after we finish picking these photos up off the wet garage floor.” As Robert got back to work quickly, with much enthusiasm, Paul looked again at his Uncle’s visage. It was one that was not unkind, but still held a touch too much sadness to be anything cheerful. Still, he loved him much, and again was sad to think he had outlived another family member. But, he told himself, he had work to do before getting around to reminiscing again. If he didn’t fix that leak on the third fishing boat soon, it may not just wet his garage floor, but actually take on water on the seas. Still, such a thought didn’t make him sad to live in San Francisco, where this was almost inevitable. He actually looked forward to a little boat repair; it was his job, after all, and he loved it. Maybe he’d take Robert out in the bay this time.