The last three days are winners. It began on Tuesday with the email from Aby Dolinger that started “I am in Columbia” and continued with the arrival on Wednesday of my long-time friend, Leslie. Unfortunately, she left earlier today to return home. Even though these were short visits, they were winners.
2016 is the 50th anniversary of my friendship with Leslie Wallis (Eley). We met in Junior High School. Both of us shy and awkward, we sat next to each other and began the friendship of a lifetime. Leslie moved. I moved. No matter the direction we traveled, we have always kept in contact with each other. The letters, now email, phone calls and visits, may not be frequent; but, whenever we see each other, it is like we just saw each other yesterday. My best friend, my oldest friend, my long-time friend.
And Leslie’s mother, Lucy, I thought she was way cool. Lucy worked as a cake decorator at the Giant Open Air Market (I Grew Up In Tidewater) and in the back of my mind, I knew Leslie and her sisters ate one of those beautifully decorated cakes every day.
Leslie has been in Florida since December taking care of her father, Pete, while he recovered from an injury. South Carolina is the halfway point – and I know how anxious Leslie was to get home after being away so long – so I’m really happy she spent this time with me.
The other half of Leslie is her “Sea Gypsy” father, Pete. A man with a life doing the things he loved – and they all had to do with the sea.
A shy young man, Pete enrolled in dance lessons at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio. While he may not admit it, we know it was to help him meet girls. Pete went from student to teacher and was so good, he was hired by Holland America Cruise Lines as a dance instructor. Pete worked for Carnival Cruise Lines and others; but spent most of his time with Holland. He has traveled all over the world.
While not cruising the world, Pete and two of his friends purchased a biplane and started a tour business of the Florida Gulf Coast. He must have missed the water because he went on to become the Captain of a tour boat that traveled southwest Florida between Tampa and Naples and the Everglades. Pete also worked with a friend who operated a kayak and canoe rental shop.
When his father became ill, Pete moved to Virginia and spent four years taking care of him. Now in his 50’s, thinking “No one will hire this old man,” Pete landed a job as Harbormaster on Norfolk’s (VA) Elizabeth River. Pete kind-of, sort-of retired, working an occasional cruise until a friend asked to become Captain of his private yacht. (Think Below Deck)
While hospitalized, one of Pete’s nurses, who was familiar with his work history, asked Pete if he had a girlfriend in every port. His response was “Well, I haven’t traveled to every port” and it was at this moment that family, friends and hospital staff knew he was on his way to recovery from brain surgery.
Do you have a life-long friend? How did you meet?