Dear Michael and Caroline,
We’re all taking the ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to Cape Cod, the four of us, in late August of 1995. We’ve just spent most of the week staying in a rented house with our friends the Heymanns. Now we’re on the first leg of our trip home.
As soon as we leave the dock, though, a wave surges so high it splashes the front deck, the front of the ferry tipped upwards, the passengers crying out in alarm at the sudden spray striking without warning. We move away from the front, toward the middle.
We’re all taken by surprise by this show of oceanic force, even though we’ve just come through a summer of storms, one right after another, preventing us from swimming during our sojourn on the Vineyard.
We’re unaccustomed to riding a vessel that’s lurching to and fro, buffeted by waves on all sides. We’re all avowed landlubbers, no more nautical than your average New Yorker, and unsure what to expect, fearing the worst, namely drowning at sea.
At that moment I knew it was I who would have to be the steady hand at the wheel, I who would have to navigate my frightened family through this ordeal until we arrived safe at home. You look scared and Mom looks scared and some of the other passengers look scared, eyes all bugged out, and so someone is going to have to be the hero here, and so I decide no one is better equipped for the assignment than I.
After all, I’m the father.
There’s just one little hitch. I immediately start to feel nauseous.
The ferry plows along its path, listing left and right, the sea heaving all around us, the waves swelling and slapping the hull, and every few minutes, a surprised passenger lets out a yell.
And in this predicament, in this moment of need, I grow more nauseous still, the butterflies in my stomach transforming into caterpillars. Now I feel dizzy and faint, wobbly on my feet, no longer quite up to the task of herding my family to safety.
Whatever sea legs I might once have possessed have long since disappeared beneath me.
Nor should any of this nausea surprise me particularly. I’ve long suffered from motion sickness, whether on buses or airplanes or in the backs of cabs. I remember once actually getting dizzy on a seesaw with you, and swings proved no better.
And so I leave my family huddled together and go to the railing and lean over the side and start to puke my freaking guts out. Our family gets to behold this marvelous spectacle, the man of the family losing his breakfast in the wild Atlantic Ocean in the thick of a storm, Dad coming through in a pinch yet again.
Next time I feel like being a hero, I’ll try to remember to bring my Dramamine.