August 27th 2016
Coming here to Delaware was a good decision, the right decision. It brought perfect clarity to what it was I’d been searching for.
Uncle Stan and Joe took us out for a nice breakfast at the Clubhouse here and then we headed out for a tour of the area. First stop was Lewes, DE and the Ship Carpenter Square. It is a community of authentically restored Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century homes that had been moved here for preservation. Unlike a museum though, these homes are being lived in. It is quite an interesting neighborhood and being an Architectural buff, I really enjoyed the tour here.
From there they took Arlene and I down to the beach to see the World War II Watch Towers. These towers were built to protect the Delaware River from German Ships and Subs. A German sub would sink a US Ship every week off the East Coast during World War II. These towers held 12” and 16” guns that could shoot 2,700 pound shells 25 miles. What strange times it must have been.
After Lewes, we headed over to Rehoboth Beach and toured that area. Rehoboth is a typical ocean resort town that’s been spared the influx of the Mega Hotel chains and franchises that gentrify every area they enter and destroy the local feel. Here, we had small outdoor shops that lined the streets and ally ways of the community; Boutique restaurants, bars, gift shops, books stores, art and craft shops, each with its own distinct feel. I walked by one gift shop where the merchant sat in a window facing the street offering free samples of chocolate as people passed by. I took a sample and we headed inside where I purchased a post card for my friend Elena back at the nursing home in New York.
Rehoboth, like Lewes was a community where bicyclists flooded the streets. Bicycles were everywhere here and many areas catered to people on bicycle. There is just something about a community whose residents rely more on a bicycle than a car that I love. I can’t tell you why, but anytime I see this, I know I will like the community and today was no exception. Both Rehoboth and Lewes were added to my favorites list.
We left the beach area and headed for the Peter Marsh House. This homestead was built in 1743. The homestead is the visual center of Henlopen Acres, a Residential Community developed in the 1930’s. Today the Homestead and the out buildings surrounding it serve as an Art Gallery for local artists.
After our tour, we headed back to Uncle Stan and Joe’s house and Arlene and I headed to the pool. Typically, a community like this would have a pool and perhaps a tennis court, but here we had a Wave Pool, Indoor Pool where games are played and laps are swum, an outdoor pool for just hanging out, a large hot tub and of course, the clubhouse. The clubhouse held a game room, a gym, a spa, golf pro shop and a restaurant. An outdoor Tiki Bar, another pool and a large Clubhouse for events were under construction. I went for a swim while Arlene rested in the shade up on the Sundeck. This is quite the community, quite the life. A life well deserved by Uncle Stan and Jo. My Dad, Uncle Stan and their brother Don did not have an easy life growing up as Uncle Stan would share with me later.
Our original plans were to head back down the Rehoboth or Lewes for dinner, but we all opted to stay here at the house and throw some steaks on the grill and listen to stories. I enjoyed the banter between Uncle Stan and Joe, both wonderful cooks, but when it came to grilling, they were not shy in saying it was not their forte. Arlene is right at home on a grill. She grills just about every week twelve months out of the year. She stepped in and helped Joe grill up our Filet Mignon steaks to perfection. Like me, Joe is a frustrated Graphic Artist and when it was time for dinner, I found these little menus at the table and it made me smile. Upon closer inspection, I let Joe know his eye for detail was impeccable for he matched the silhouette for my kayak perfectly and my kayak is not a typical kayak. We enjoyed the wonderful dinner they prepared and then headed outside to the Fire Pit for more conversation.
When I was young, there was a falling out between families and soon my family had been isolated, be it by choice or not, from the other Jensen clan. This was repeated on both side – my Mother and my Father, so I’ve never had any interaction with my Aunts, Uncles or Cousins. Because of this, I also never got to hear stories about my Dad from his brothers nor my Mom from her brothers or sister. I can still recall the day I first heard from Uncle Stan. I had an AOL account back in the very early days of the Internet and loved to chat in the chat rooms with people from all over the world. It was Christmas Day when I got a message from Uncle Stan. With no knowledge of the falling out and no desire to remain isolated, we connected, but not well. Stan and I remain connected throughout the progress of the internet and upon the release of Facebook, staying connected to family and connecting to family you never knew became effortless. Soon, I had connected to my cousins on both sides and my Uncle Stan. Eventually, my Mom began going to parties her relatives were having and reconnecting because of my Facebook connections. Now here I was connecting with my Dad’s side.
Uncle Stan poured his heart out to us over that fire pit. He told us stories about their lives growing up. How their father, my Grandfather, cleaned out his bank account and skipped town leaving a wife and three little kids to fend for themselves. He told me how they struggled to survive. Each of the boys, Stan 6, my Dad 11 and Uncle Don 16, finding work after school to put money on the table to pay rent, utilities and buy food. They had little time to be kids. My Uncle Don, a Star baseball player for his school, had an offer to go play for the Giants, but his Mom, who only had an 8th grade education, insisted he finish school. Both my Uncle Don and my Dad would end up being drafted into the Korean War and that put an end to Don’s chance at professional Baseball.
Here we were, in this beautiful community, in this beautiful house. My Dad, a successful business himself and my Uncle Don (now deceased) retired to Alabama rather well off and started a Pecan Farm on land he had bought when he got out of the service. These three boys who had struggled and overcame so much, had every reason to fail, succeeded.
We sat around that fire pit listening to Uncle Stan and I began to understand where I had come from, what brought me here and what struggles I had to overcome. I then saw the last piece of the riddle I had set out to solve. Who am I. Who am I now that Lexie was gone.
When I began this journey, my goal was to find Life after Death; specifically, my life after Lexie’s death. I needed to find out who I was. Where was the happiness I had with Lexie and where was I going. I needed to be able to be happy again. I turned to the one element that always brought me peace – Water. I set my sights on Key West for Key West was the farthest south I could go by kayak. Key West was simply a destination, but I have always believed that destinations are meant to give you a direction to aim towards. The journey to that destination is far more important than the destination itself and it is the experiences along the journey that make any destination memorable. This is why I’ve always enjoyed traveling by motorcycle, bicycle and now kayak. Flying brings you to the destination and does not afford you the experience of a journey.
The destination was Key West
The goal was to find myself
The journey has fulfilled that goal
Today I end my paddle. No, I did not reach Key West, but then I didn’t need to. It was never about reaching Key West, but what I would experience along the way. One thing I did say was that this was a one-way trip as I had no plans of returning and I’m not. I’m not returning to the person who left Vermont fifty-seven days ago. I am returning to Vermont a new man; a man with clarity and understanding about his past and a vision and hope for his future.
I may return on occasion to paddle segments of the trip that lay ahead, unfinished, but no longer would it be out of a need to find myself, but rather to enjoy the trip as I had paddled all those trips before this journey.
I’ll be spending some time in New York to help Arlene move into her new place and then I will return to Vermont to begin writing my book; Life after Death. I still have to work out or resolve the sailing aspect of my future, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be an either or. Perhaps I can do both; live in Vermont and Sail. I truly loved being on the water of Lake Champlain.
Thank you all for taking this journey with me. Reading your comments, your encouragement and your support were so important to the journey. I will continue writing and posting about my experiences along my ultimate journey of life. My door is open to all of you and I do hope you can take some time off and come visit with me on Lake St. Catherine in the near future.
Day 57 Done
The Journey Done
Love you all,