I stood on the playground overlooking the Bay this morning. Four eight year-old boys stood with me. We were checking out the boats. Jaime looked up at me and asked:

“You ever been in a boat?”
“Yes I have,”

I told him about a time when I was eight where I went sailing with my father. We set out on a different bay in a small boat that could only hold the two of us. As I talked to Jaime, I could see my dad sitting in the stern with his life jacket on, grinning, and telling me to duck when the boom swung around.

I remember reaching over and putting my hand in the salt spray. Such a fast little boat. Then, I scrambled to the stern to watch the white water churn in the boat’s wake. Hundreds of feet behind us, you wouldn’t know our boat had come this way.

Back in the office an hour later, I got on a call from a friend of mine. Another principal who wanted to bail out. He told me he didn’t have the energy to fight any more. Change is coming and I’m going to let it come. I had known him for eight years, and he was a no-nonsense fighter. He stuck it out. I told him about the boys, the bay, and the boat. You’re the kind of man who stands up front, I said to him. Right in the wind. I don’t know what I’m going to do without knowing you’re there fighting on.

I remembered how it went when my dad died. We spent months planning, knowing he’d go, hoping he’d surprise us, get well, and be there to help make the next dream happen. Then life washed him overboard and I pretended nothing had happened. I kept pushing — staying busy, sailing into the storm. When I got off the phone with my friend, I understood what was happening. I didn’t ask him too many questions. Water parts as we come through, and closes after we pass. We would continue, but not as we had.

Water swirls around movement. People, unlike water, tend to cling. I still have a boy in me that wants to start over, and wants to live forever so that I can keep trying new things. But everything changes. Even on a short trip in a sail boat, I might come back to a shore where things have shifted.
This morning, I got to dream with the boys about piloting big boats. This afternoon, I am sitting here among my lists of projects and tasks. My calendar shows dozens of one-on-one meetings aimed at making the odds break in our favor. Next to my desk hangs a clipboard complete with a check-list. And right now, I’m OK with letting most of it just wait. It can wait.

When I stood with the boys, looking out over the bay, a big puff of wind tumbled in. Even from the playground way up the hill, we could see sails grow taut. The boys and I watched as boats cut through choppy waters.

I thought of my dad grinning as he steered our tiny craft, and felt him again inside me even though he’s long gone. No such thing as still water Dad used to say. Deep for sure. But never ever still. Today, I get what he meant. Do boats float forever? Jaime asked. Only till they sink my boy. That’s the way it is.


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