Thursday, May 26, 2011

Retreat! Retreat!

There is such a thing as strategic retreat. Military history is filled with battles where retreat, planned strategically rather than simply fearful fleeing, became the pathway to victory. Such is true in life generally, as it is in the battle with Parkinson's disease.

The vintage watercraft, "Lazee Gal", rested at anchor in Bedwell Bay as she had many times before. The water, rhythmically patting the hull, scarcely rocked the guest stateroom starboard lower berth where I awaited the imminent arrival of sleep. It was a soothing and blissful moment away from the busyness and breakneck speed of life; a retreat, an oasis of silence.

It took only an hour at 10 knots for the 62-foot Grenfell-designed boat to bring three of us to this bay. It was more of a narrow inlet than a bay, bounded by steep slopes that made for deep water, the bottom lying more than 50 feet below us. Protected, out of the currents, winds and waves, it was a perfect retreat location for we three long-time friends.

Each time I have spent time aboard this teak-decked beauty I am reminded that she and I are similar in age, she being commissioned in 1953, while I entered the world in 1952. I felt a sort of pride for her, she having weathered her story-filled years so valiantly as she continued to serve others well. I wondered whether I could honestly say the same. She had survived striking a deadhead log or two (once under my careless control of the helm) and remained fully functional, if a little shaky for a short while after. I, on the other hand, run the risk of physically shuddering to the point of being taken out of service. We both tend to need a little more maintenance these days, perform better under gentler seas, and can break down at the most inopportune moments. Yet we both seemed to continue to perform our appointed tasks with determination.

Several times a year, as busy calendars permit, my two committed friends and I escape our meetings and obligations for a day or two. It is not, as you might expect, a male bonding time filled with activities, but rather extended time loaded with dialogue, presenting each of us with the opportunity to take stock of our lives, share the lessons learned, recount our current challenges and disclose those dreams we dare whisper not too loudly. It is time to be accountable, to be encouraged and to experience honesty in the reflection of two “mirrors” that can be trusted.

For me, an acute sense of vulnerability accompanies the day-to-day demands of a degenerative disease that cries out for safe harbor. While the comfort and constancy found with my lifelong companion and wife is certainly the refuge of greatest value, yet it is buttressed, made stronger, by the availability of committed friends who seek to listen and understand. They have permission to prod and pry in order to unmask my fears and failures, but they do so for no other purpose than my own best interests.

After 20 years of experience I am convinced that there is a necessity for retreat, reflection, and recharging the batteries. Whether in luxury or simplicity, it is strategic time to ponder and to plan. For life is a long-distance race, an exhausting battle, and rest, renewal and refreshment are needed if we are to engage the evermore demanding demons that would defeat us.

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