What happened this beautiful morning, barely a ripple on the water, will probably never happen again.
But what a morning, what a memory.
With the oldest – and the smallest of our children – as cox, the rest of us remarked later how odd it seemed to not have to look over our shoulder. That was her job, steering the boat from the bow.
For which we all threw her in at the end.
“Shouldn’t we at least hit one buoy?” my son said. “Just for old time’s sake?”
We had someone who could see where we were going.
All our family have rowed before. Some hundreds of miles. All our miles added together total in the thousands.
But we’ve never been in the same boat. In life, but not on the water.
Brody Howe, Men’s Coach at Commencement Bay Rowing Club, walked us through the particulars.
Including who sat where.
At the one-quarter mile mark, an oncoming wake caused Coach Brody to suggest we let it run and ride it out.
Good. At 70 years old I needed to catch my breath.
“Aren’t we going kind of fast? Isn’t this stroke rate too high?” I wanted to know.
“Hey dad,” daughter number three reminded me from where she sat next to her brother in the bow. “You’re the stroke. You set the pace.”
Having reached our objective – all of one-half mile (total, out and back) – we were exhausted. It’s been awhile. And the hill to walk up to return the boat to the rack? It’s steep.
“Now, back down that hill and back up with your oars,” Coach Brody said, adding “It’s in the fine print.”
“Did we set a record for around the island and back?” I wanted to know.
“Yes. Yes, you did,” Coach Brody smiled.
We’re not the Boys in the Boat. We’re the children and their father in the boat.
We don’t represent the United States in the Olympics, but we do represent what it means to be family.
And in that sense, 48 years ago this month, we set out on our own epic quest to win the gold.
And we won.
Of that family effort, wrote one philosopher, ‘there is no diadem, nor rank, nor office, nor emolument, that can confer, that can compare, when children are found following dad, who sets the pace.’
And happily, dad – at least this beautiful morning – no longer has to steer.
We weren’t perfect, but it was a perfect memory. Photographic evidence – including the video linked below – by Kevin Klas, husband of daughter number three.