Once I settled in Boston, I began to experience an inside out deja vu. Each day I was confronted by a familiar truth that seemed new to me. I found myself wondering why it had taken me so long to discover this or that. I felt as though I learned things I’d always known. My father called me regularly. He was worried about the yard. It was our private concern. He relied on my opinion. When I went home on weekends, we made elaborate strategies pretending not to see the writing on the wall. He received a certified letter in the mail from the offices of Somebody, Somebody, and Somebody Else, attorneys for the private equity firm, advising him an offer had been made on the yard contingent upon approval of the real property. A review of the property had been scheduled for the following week. My father didn’t need to ask, “I’ll be there. We’ll remain calm until we know the facts.”
I arrived the night before. We had a light supper and an early night so we’d be fresh for the morning’s attack. My father looked defeated as he drank his coffee. “You know, the yard has gone from one firm to another over the years but this is the first time an individual has made an offer.” My heart fell to my feet. Owning the yard was my father’s only dream. It was home to our extended family. Kindhearted Richard was still kicking around, waiting for Thanksgiving to arrive so he and Gloria 40 plus could join the blue-haired exodus south for the winter. He planned on returning to the yard in the spring. Ambrose pitched in during the busiest months and for haul out; otherwise, he was occupied with countless projects in various stages of completion. Frankie came for the season-end party in the fall, he usually had a nap in his chair before one of his, AARP member, offspring drove him back to the retirement village. There were a bunch of kids and liveaboards swirling in a whirlpool of melodrama, the way we used to.
I didn’t know who we’d be without the yard. We’d still have the house and the land that went with it. My father retained the right of way. I couldn’t believe the private equity firm had missed that all those years ago. There was nothing to do but wait to see what Somebody, Somebody, and Somebody Else had to say. Promptly at 9 the car arrived. The driver opened the door and out tottered a dried up, little raisin of a woman. Her body was victim to one too many games of tennis at the club; freeze dried tan, on parchment thin skin. Her face had been lifted to resemble a hybrid of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and the Mona Lisa at mach 10. She appeared serene because all expression had been cut out of her face. It became alarmingly clear that the humanity had been cut out of her heart too. I watched and listened as my father led her on a tour. He explained the history of the yard, the generations of sailors who enjoyed the harbor and coves of the larger bay. She inquired about our house and Somebody, Somebody, or Somebody Else quickly interceded, “That’s not part of the commercial parcel.”
She didn’t waste any time making her plans known, after she apprised us of the fact that she was one of the first women, ever, to graduate from Harvard’s MBA program, regaling us with stories of acquisition and development over the course of her visionary career. She told us she’d demo all of the buildings that comprised the boatyard shops and replace them with a condominium tower and entertainment pavilions. I thought my father would drop where he stood in the parking lot. She was oblivious enough to ask if we would reconsider selling the house with the right of way too. Somebody, Somebody, or Somebody Else spoke with us a moment before he left. He wasn’t without empathy. He reminded my father of the repurchase option, contained in the original private equity agreement and surviving each subsequent transfer of the business and its assets.
As they drove off my father said, “I need a drink.” I ran over to the Alice. Ambrose was there taking widgets apart to fasten somewhere or replace with something better. I told him my father had received bad news and thought a drink would be in order. Ambrose rattled around below, emerging with Tia Maria, Drambuie, Kahlua, and Cointreau as well as a pint of vodka. He offered them to me unsure of what the news called for. “You should come with me. I’ll need some help figuring this one out.” He abandoned the widget project without a second thought.
We settled in at the kitchen table, sipping and talking. My father told Ambrose the entire story from beginning to end. It was surprising that there were secrets in the yard. It wasn’t a secret as much as it was my father’s private business and people respected his privacy. Ambrose confessed he’d had no idea, had never given the financial situation any thought. He asked to see my father’s copy of the original document. He read it, smoking one Bugler after another, flipping pages back and forth. He passed it back to my father. He expressed disgust at the idea of a condominium tower in place of the utilitarian shops in the yard. He went on to state the obvious, we were getting too old to tolerate the demanding physical labor required in the boatbuilding business. We discussed alternate revenue sources and created a plan for the yard’s future; expanding the dock space was primary, adding to the moorings, stocking a chandlery with boat provisions as well as offering hot showers and laundry facilities. We talked about the roles we would assume. Ambrose would train a crew to work the dock and moorings, my father would run the chandlery and I could manage the business of the business. It was a wonderful dream. We were silent as we absorbed the futility of our plans. I smiled at my father. Ambrose looked at me, “I’m in.” “We’re all in Ambrose and soon The Raisin will build condos and we’ll all be out.” “Lucy, you learn more listening than you do talking. I am in. I will provide the capital for the repurchase.”
Ambrose made my father’s only dream come true. We had a huge celebration before Kindhearted Richard and Gloria 40 plus migrated for the winter. It was a party to end all parties. We roasted a pig. We danced. We drank. We remembered our friends who’d gone. We laughed. We stumbled. We peed. We passed out.
When I was fourteen years old I became good friends with a drunken sailor who had a Volkswagen Beetle that he called Hitler’s Revenge. It took me thirty years to understand what he meant to me.