With her long white hair twisted into a loose knot on her head, joy emanating from her face, she grinned back over her shoulder and called back, “Survivors!”
It had been years since Dave and I spent time with Charlie and Joanne. We’d met in 1988 when our sons Tucker and Jake became friends. Back then, Joanne wrote a column for the Greenwich Time and was re-decorating her house. I was into quilting, crafts, and animal rights. Our husbands loved playing guitars together, two aging hippies strumming Rolling Stones and Beatles songs. Hm. I say “aging,” yet we were still in our thirties. Ah well.
A lot has happened in the intervening years.
Dave and I moved to Easton. Terrorism took out the Twin Towers. Joanne got breast cancer. Charlie had a heart attack. Our kids grew up and moved on to their own lives. I got breast cancer. Joanne and Charlie moved to New Hampshire. And finally, over the 4th of July, we were able to accept their invitation to visit them in their now not-so-new home.
One afternoon during our stay, I sat on the dock with Jake. His cousin Lauren was eager to rent a stand-up paddleboard. “You better try it early on,” he said, “before the boats and Jetskis make it too rough.”
I scanned the crests and troughs of water circled by pine-fringed shores and the mountains beyond. A few boats dotted the lake, but surely not enough to stir the surface to this degree. “But those boats are so far away…” I said.
“Yes. But you know how it is when you drop a pebble in still water,” Jake said. “The ripples just keep on going.”
Ripples. I have always loved the possibilities, literal or not: a line in a book that resonates and leads to a new direction. A random observation that sparks an idea and generates invention. Small acts of kindness or valor that change lives or a world. My friend Joanne, struck with cancer, coming through it, and helping me make it through my own…and now the two of us, jubilant together, sending ripples cascading in our Jetski’s wake.
On the morning of the 4th of July parade, along with Charlie and Joanne, their kids, their kids’ spouses, their adorable granddaughter Abbey, and assorted siblings and cousins, we staked out spots with blankets and chairs under a spreading maple on the lawn of an antique colonial. Nearby, an old retriever, the coppery fur of her muzzle gone to white, panted in the scant shade cast by her human companion’s beach chair.
Vintage cars, fire engines, farmers on John Deere tractors, a troop of little girls in gauzy skirts and fairy wings, and, on roller skates, an aging majorette in spangled attire, glided past, some tossing candy to the small children who scampered to the road with hands outstretched.
A skinny scrap of a guy in a straw boater and patriotic vest stood among his fellow WW II vets on a float draped in red, white and blue bunting, and lip-synced Jimmy Durante songs. With the cock and shake of his head and a distinctive fake nose, he had Jimmy nailed.
A convoy of vintage WW II vehicles rolled by followed by a float bearing the old men who’d once driven them. I thought of Uncle Jack who, during his service in North Africa, drove an ambulance much like the one cruising past. Dave’s father, Colombo, served in Italy in that war, and the third brother, Uncle Phil, was posted in the Pacific. Miraculously, they all came home, but Cam, their sister, said of Jack, “He was too sensitive for war. He never spoke about it when he returned, and he was never the same.”
“Always remember the soldiers,” Colombo once said to my daughter Casey.
With pride and a tug in my heart, I ran to the roadside to take pictures knowing the three brothers would have gotten a kick out of this day, and out of the role they played in giving us this opportunity to celebrate; extraordinary ripples from the sacrifices of brave old men - once brave young servicemen – waving as their floats drove by.