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Andre Langworthy's column: For the love of Dad

Towards the end of last month, I watched a news report about a 60-foot cruiser that sunk in the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wisc. Just seeing the vessel made me cringe. I had often worried about sinking while on a houseboat on that same river.

In the early 1970s, my father decided to buy a boat. The decision may have been symptomatic of a mid-life crisis but it was so out of character I worried Dad may have lost his mind. I don’t even know if the man could swim.

We never had a cabin when I was growing up. Sometimes, we were invited to visit friends or relatives of my parents at their lake home but I have no memories of Dad splashing in the water or even sitting in a row boat. So, you can imagine my surprise when Dad invited my then-husband and me and our youngsters to come and see his new toy and spend the day with him and his lady friend on the river.

I was even more shocked when we got to the dock and saw the size of the thing. There was a bathroom, a lower bedroom, upper bedroom, a kitchen, eating area and on top, a huge sun deck. Try as I might, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of my father sleeping and showering while rocking on the water.

True to form, even that far home, Dad could never just sit and relax. He could never leave well enough alone so his handyman friend was always part of the crew and they always had a project going. They added a trash compactor, a dishwasher, an indoor grill and a bunch of other things that caused the generator to go out on more than a few trips.

Many times, we would be in the middle of making a meal when there would be a sudden loss of power. The craft went still, the pan stopped sizzling and the air inside became still and heavy. Mike, the handyman, would work on the generator as my father nervously asked how it was going, what did he see. Meanwhile, the rest of us waited on the sun deck and hoped the food wouldn’t spoil.

Every time, as we drove home, my then-husband would say, “Never again.” But who could say no to my dad? Not us.

Eventually, Dad sold the boat. He liked to say the second happiest day in the life of a boat owner was when he bought the beautiful craft. The happiest was when he sold the thing. My father’s children would agree. But they would add the least happy day of their lives was when said boat owner later bought a one-level house as an investment property and decided to turn it into a place of beauty and instructed my siblings and me, my then-hubby and brother-in-law on how to use grout, glass cutters, turpentine and paint rollers. 

I’d tell you all about it but every time I think about it, my heart starts to race and I feel nauseous. Just as, every time I think about Dad’s boat, I get a sinking feeling.