The Niggle of Memoir: Uncle Charlie Owned a Marina

Lake Flower, Saranac Lake, NY
My Uncle Charlie owned a boat marina. I loved the smell of that place, a mix of oil and water.

He is gone now, hopefully with God, but I never discussed God with my only uncle. My mother was an only child and my father had one brother, my Uncle Charlie. Now that it is years too late, I have a list of topics I wish I’d asked this uncle who smoked a pipe, a habit I found intriguing. I learned very important things about carrying on life in the face of imminent death from this uncle.As cancer ate away at his life, he continued to get up each week day morning to open his business, knowing there were boats to sell and motors to repair. Battling cancer, he shared the story of a long time customer who forbid Charlie to even think of retiring. The man asked, “Who would keep his boat and motor in peak operating condition?” Telling me that story Charlie chuckled, removed his ever present hat, patted his bald head, speckled with brown age spots, and wondered why it was okay for the customer, a former big shot banker, to retire but not Charlie at 86. Charlie was unperturbed at the prospect of death. He was willing to fight the cancer battle but pointed out that at his age, death was inevitable. “I'm going to die of something or other,” he said with a disarming nonchalance. I wish now that I’d asked him why he decided to spend his entire work life running that marina. What happened to the World War II Air Force pilot? Did he miss racing boats or the thrill of the Olympic bobsled run? His wife, my Aunt Dodie squelched my Uncle's love of speed. It was okay until he was a father and then she told him in stern tones that enough was enough. I wonder if he resented her pronouncement. I never asked him but I did wonder.

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