On first thinking about it, my Dad didn't seem particularly connected to water, and I wasn't sure there was a good water-related story as I was hoping to write for this edition. Somehow the fact that he liked his Scotch whiskey with water didn't seem to be the right sort of topic. Andrew wasn't a fisherman or have a job that caused him to be on or around water in particular. But the more thought I gave it, the more I realized that he was almost always by the water.
Andrew worked in, and greatly loved, the city of Boston, which sits neatly on Boston Harbor. I remember his bringing me on a harbor boat tour and seeing the islands in the harbor, including historical places like Fort Warren on George's Island where Union soldiers were trained during the Civil War and which later was a prison for captured Confederate soldiers.
I also remember Dad taking us on trips to Boston that included rides on the famous Swan Boats on the small lake in the middle of the Public Gardens between downtown and the Back Bay. The Boston Public Gardens were the first botanical park in the US, established in 1837. You may know the Swan Boats from the children's story Make Way for Ducklings.
There were summer visits to the New Hampshire coast where our grandparents would rent a cottage for a couple of weeks at Hampton Beach. I remember watching Dad swim smoothly out parallel to the shore. Somehow he never taught me to swim very well.
Family outings when we were little sometimes included outings to Crane's Beach on the North Shore above Boston. (Our Irish Catholic family grew to have 8 kids.) In addition to one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere, there is the old Cranes Estate, a great old mansion which was part of the huge estate of a Chicago industrialist. Today it includes the Crane Wildlife Refuge. I remember one trip to Cranes Beach with the whole family - which was a major outing once all the kids came along - where both Dad and Mom spent way too much time in the bright sun and went home looking just like the lobsters you can buy nearby.
One summer Dad rented us a vacation home in southern New Hampshire on Pelham Lake for a couple of weeks. It was here that he taught me how to properly row a rowboat and fish, when I was a really little guy. At the end of full week I had caught enough little fish to make a meal for one person! But I was pretty excited.
At one point during my youth Dad moved our family to a big house in Nahant. Nahant is one or perhaps two islands, depending upon how you see it, off the shore at Lynn Massachusetts. Nahant is connected to the mainland by a mile-long causeway, so it isn't isolated like many islands are. It's small but well-populated. The city of Lynn nearby is one of the old mill towns in New England. My mom was raised there. Her Dad worked at 'the GE" plant, as they used to say. I have memories of driving and walking with Dad along the shore in Nahant and in other areas around New England.
As adults, when Dad and I were both single a couple of years, we went in together to rent a cottage on Cape Cod for the winter. We'd go down many weekends, and spent many wonderful times together, going for walks on the beach in the day. (And Dad would mix water in his Scotch at night.)
But more than all of these things, my association between Dad and water is that he knew how to go with the flow. His approach to life was a wonder to behold. He awoke in the morning looking forward to a new day. He took challenges and setbacks in stride. When as a teen I dented up his car, his first question when I called him was "Are you okay?" His second was "Was anyone else hurt?" He knew what was important and he never forgot.
My Dad taught me how to be a good person. He demonstrated to me how to be a good man. He showed me what love really was. He was my best friend.
Thanks Dad. And thanks to all the good Dads out there. Let them know you appreciate them and love them.