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"Are you ready to go?" my dad asked as he looked down at me.
I was wearing so many layers that I could hardly move. I had on four layers: a t-shirt, my Randolph Macon sweatshirt, an ugly wool sweater that my mom found, and a heavy black winter jacket. Along with that, I had on gloves, a scarf, and my "famous" raccoon hat, a ski hat that my dad passed down to me that resembled the head of a raccoon. I had loved it and worn it so much that it had become a trademark.
Dad, on the other hand, was wearing much less, but he swore that even though he was wearing less, he was still warm because his outfit was made for blasting wind and bitter conditions. He was wearing a camo turtleneck shirt and camo sweatshirt, along with black hunting pants and a black hunting beanie hat. We looked ridiculous.
"Yeah, I'm ready." I said, moving my whole body to face him, on account of I couldn't move my neck. With this, he grabbed hold of my wheelchair and popped me into a wheelie to get me over the grass.
We reached the dock and he put me back down to my regular rolling position. With a smile on my face, I rolled to the end of the dock where the boat was parked. I was so excited that I could have blown up.
Today, we had woken up early to boat two hours from Kilmarnock, Virginia to Virginia Beach. Dad had to get some work done on the boat and, since we didn't own a boat trailer, he would have to go there via water. Knowing of my love for the "open sea", he had asked me if I wanted to make the journey with him and have mom follow us there with the car. As expected, I jumped on the opportunity. More than most things, I loved going fast in the boat. Even more, I loved going fast in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, where we had no barriers or rules to follow- just open sea.
Mom came trotting down to the dock to help get me on the boat, a process that we had gotten used to. Dad climbed down into the boat and stood ready to receive me. Mom then swooped in front of me, ready to pick me up, and put me on the side of the boat. Once I was there, Dad swept me up and carried me to the passenger seat of the boat. Mom jumped in with a rough, wool blanket in her arms and ran over to where I was. She propped my legs up on the dashboard and wrapped them tightly in the blanket.
"Are you warm? Is there anything else that I can get you?" She said this with an anxious look on her face.
Once again, I had to move my whole torso to look at her.
"No, I think I'm good. Thank you though."
She kissed me on the sliver of face that the raccoon hat was not covering and clambered back onto the dock. Dad came over after untying the boat from the dock and grabbed his hat.
"Ooh! Do you want sunglasses? I'll get you some sunglasses, hold on." Before I could respond, she was scurrying up the lawn to the house.
"Look at Momma." Dad said between laughs. "She's so cute."
She ran the whole way there and the whole way back. As she ran, she had that look and smile on her face that said "I'm cute and I know it. But watch me run."
Within minutes, she was back, handing me a pair of sunglasses.
"Look," Dad said, "they're Tommy Hilfinger." We both laughed- like most times, at Mom's expense. This is how Mom pronounced "Tommy Hilfiger".
"Thank you Mom. I love you, drive safe please." I still had the remainder of the laughter on my face.
"I love you too. Be safe Dad. I'll see you in a couple of hours." Dad revved up the engine and we started to back up off of the dock. Mom picked up Cody, the dog, and waved frantically.
"Wave at me until I'm out of sight." She said it in her cute voice. How could I resist? I started waving...and waving...and waving until Dad turned the boat around and she was out of sight.
Now that we were facing the other way, my full attention was on the open sea. I assumed the position: one hand wrapped in the blanket and the other partly in front of me, ready to grab hold of the armrest and brace myself at any given moment. Soon after I did this, we picked up speed and I watched the speedometer as it went up. Because of the winter weather, this was the first time that I had been out all year; a wave of recognition and love fell over me.
I was curled up in a ball in the passenger seat, and that is how I spent the next two hours. Occasionally, my dad would look over at me and, not wanting him to think that I wasn't having as much fun as I was, I flashed him a smile. Sure, it was a little forced, but not forced because I wasn't having the time of my life, but forced because I was as cold as a nudist in a snow storm. I think he realized this, but appreciated the effort. We spent those hours in silence, exchanging only a few words due to the noise of the wind and waves. The weather report had said that there would be 1-2 foot waves with 10-15 knot winds, but in reality, the waves were 3-4 feet and the wind was blowing at 20-25 knots. On top of that, it felt like the maximum temperature was 35 degrees. With the combination of the waves and the speed of the boat, we were airborne quite a few times. It was so much fun.
At certain points, Dad would point to something and tell me what or where it was. It was all just words until we got closer to Virginia Beach and I started to recognize things. We had owned either a house or a condo in Virginia Beach for almost my whole life. It was not until two years ago that we had sold our Virginia Beach house and bought property in the Chesapeake Bay area. Virginia Beach and the area that we lived in now are almost polar opposites; Virginia Beach is filled with tourist spots and things to do, while Kilmarnock was filled with old people and antique stores. But somehow, my mom and dad had fallen in love with it, always talking about how it's so perfect and constantly doing things to ready it for their retirement. I, on the other hand, didn't like it at first, but it began to grow on me.
We started to slow down to a "no wake zone" and I began to be able to breathe again. I looked around me and saw the marinas and seaside shops where I had spent so much time. I saw the familiar beaches and roads where I had once played (the beaches, not the roads). It was nice to be back.
We pulled up to a dock and Dad started punching buttons to turn off the boat.
"I'm going to let you off here and then go and park the boat. Mom should be here soon; I just talked to her and she's about five minutes away." He said this as he pulled out parts from the bathroom area, if you would even call it that, and started to piece together my wheelchair. As I watched him do it, I thanked God for keeping us safe on the trip and prayed that Mom and Cody made it here safely.
"Alright, are you ready? Come here." He reached out his hands to grab me off of the seat where I was sitting.
"Are you sure you can do this alone? You usually have Mom here to help."
"Yeah. Not a problem. 'Common."
I grabbed around his neck and he picked me up and put me on the side of the boat. I grabbed my legs and swung them around.
"It's pretty level with my chair" I said, "I think I can just transfer right on."
"You sure?" He took a step closer and looked at the difference. "Oh, that's nothing, you can do that." He said it like it was nothing. And it was. I transferred onto my chair and unlocked to get away from the edge of the dock.
"Okay, you see that yellow line? Meet me right there and I'm going to go park the boat."
"Okay." I started up the ramp and onto the sidewalk. I rolled to the yellow line and looked to my right. There was Dad, in his cute black beanie and camo turtleneck. His outfit was a sight that only a daughter and a committed wife could love. Yes, it was that bad. But hey, who am I to talk? I was the one in the raccoon hat and wool sweater that looked like it was straight from a nursing home and felt like it was straight from the brier patch.
"Hey Dad, do you need help with anything?"
"No I'm good. I'm actually done." He climbed out of the boat and walked over to me. Your momma's right over there; let's go get in the car."
I turned around and started moving toward the car. As I got closer, I saw Mom sitting in the car with her usual quaint smile on. She opened the door and started toward us.
"Hey sweetie. I missed you. Were you cold?"
"No, I wasn't at all actually. How was the drive down?"
"It was good. Cody and I listened to a book on tape and I'm almost done with it."
I got myself into the car and turned on the stereo. Immediately, I heard a woman talking about someone named Copper who was going to court to testify the murder of Francis. It sounded horribly boring, so I switched it off.
"Where are we going to lunch?" I asked, once everyone had gotten into the car.
Mom looked over at me with a smile on her face.
"I was thinking Bubba's. I'm craving one of their crab cakes"