This would have been my love of a lifetime’s 89th birthday: July 16. Didn’t happen, sorry to say. But his being seven years deceased in no way dims the good memories—vibrant as ever and worth the telling. He made his musician/teaching mark professionally, but for me, all the best days of our fifty-eight married years—and the five years leading up to that momentous occasion—made a personal mark. I can picture Frank up front on the H.S. band’s lead bus headed for Disney World announcing ,“Let the good times roll!” And did they ever! Time after time.
When we had reached retirement age and opportunity and had saved enough of what we’d earned, travelling became one of our favorite things to do. Besides enjoying the Maritime Provinces twice, a Rocky Mt. Railway cross-Canada plus two Australia/New Zealand treks made indelible photos-in-the-mind. And then we fell under the spell of several escorted Discovery tours with Grand Circle Travel—on River Boats of such names as M.S. Harmony and M.S. Melody. We basked in delight on all of the major European rivers
But in between, we fancied (“cottoned to,” in the vernacular) Steamboatin’. I’m thinking we didn’t miss a navigable river in all of the USA. We loved the onshore excursions, too, anticipating the two black ladies sitting on the side hill whenever we tied up at Natchez. We knew they’d be set up and waiting for passengers who couldn’t pass up buying a bag of their yummy pralines. We always did.
Of our ten Steamboatin’ jaunts –some just prior to Christmas—some from three days to a week—the good times rolled for us aboard The Mississippi Queen.
I’m thinking 2008 may have been our last such trip on the paddle wheeler. We took everything in stride including the Captain’s Welcome Reception and his fresh bouquet for our stateroom. We tolerated twin beds. Barely. On the last night aboard, we accepted the resident photographer’s photo-op on our way to first seating dinner.
Both sporting earlier trip’s SteamBoatique purchases —mine a satin scarf and Frank’s, a tie—keepers.
After dinner, on impulse, I pulled the bright red carnation from our bouquet and secured it in my hair—just for fun. Proceeding into the Grand Saloon for the always grand and memorable musical show, I got a lot of attention from ladies who claimed they wished they’d thought of it, themselves. Post second show time we relaxed in posh chairs while the in-house band played for dancing. My talented husband was welcomed by the band guys, as always, and invited to sit in when they (and the bassist) took a break. Our table mates were impressed. So was I.
Then came the moment when I almost regretted all the married years when my spouse was out there playing for other folks to dance the night away. I had never really learned to dance because I never would have said yes to anyone else who might have asked from age 18 on.
“Come on, Skeet, this is the last slow one in their last set,” my trusting mate whispers and offers his signature engaging smile. And his warm loving hand.
“Well, you know I’ll probably step all over your feet. And embarrass you,” I say, letting him lead me onto the dance floor.
“Won’t what? Step on your feet?”
“You won’t embarrass me.”
What a sweetheart!
And what a life of good times all rolled together. The phrase “Happy Birthday!” seems to me a meaningless phrase to offer the dear deceased. But I’m still living; the memories are forever here and now. I’ll happily roll with that.
Last photo of Frank taken two weeks before his unexpected demise in 2009