When a reunion in adoption is considered, most often it is between the adoptee and birth parent, usually the birth mother. I have written an entire book on the subject. But, the unexpected prize I won in reuniting with my birth mother was an uncle. Uncle Jack. Last week I wrote about my little family vacation in Florida. Florida; sun, pools, sunsets, sunrises and cocktails. It was during this vacation, I had my first kayaking experience….just me and my uncle….and the alligators….and the birds….and the turtles.
We arrived at the little kayak rental shack on the banks of the Rainbow River, set under large cypress and pine trees, after an hour plus ride of nonstop conversation. A man with a slow stride and matching accent greeted us, as he fussed with some kayaks. He explained, sort of, that a van would drive us a little more than two miles upriver and we were to travel back down on our own.
“Do you think we should get a double?” I asked the kayak man. Adding,“it’s my first time.”
“Nope, my boats don’t tip.You may end up in the water, but it won’t be because of my boat,” he told me in his most southern of southern drawls.
“Ah, there aren't any alligators in there are there?” I continued.
“Yup, this is a river in Florida. But you don’t have to worry if you see their eyes this far apart,” he said, gesturing with his thumb and pointer. “Paddle fast if you see them this far apart,” he continued, now using both hands to make his point.
OK, so now I’m all in, looking brave, hoping no one knows the truth about me.
After a false start, following the kayak man to the shore as he launched a boat, only to find out it wasn't for us, and the wait in town for the 75 car train to pass, we were launched into the Rainbow River and were on our way. And there it was, the alligator on the shore, eyes not too far apart, then the turtles, then the cypress trees. Finally the calm and the rhythm of the paddles, the paddles I learned an hour into our trip, by a passing kayaking couple, I had all wrong, 180 degrees wrong. But I continued, appearing confident, in the center of the river, skillfully avoiding the alligators, the trees and the hornet’s nests on the shores.
Then it happened. Unexpected, unexplained, unwelcomed. A bird, about the size of the alligator with the wide spread eyes, jumped out of the water in front of my kayak. I’m certain it was prehistoric.
“Oh shit…shit….shit…,” I managed.
I hadn't mentioned to Uncle Jack that I have a bird phobia. I’m not sure if it is a nature or nurture phobia, there is evidence to support both etiologies. And like any loving uncle, Uncle Jack, found a new source of pleasure at his niece’s expense.
“Really you’re afraid of birds?” he shouted with glee.
“Look out! That bird almost dive bombed you.”
“Oh boy another one just missed you.”
“I don’t know if I should point out that tree with twelve turkey vultures ready to pounce.”
This teasing was not new to me, but in a way refreshing and well received. I was reminded that teasing and love go hand and hand, or in this case ore and ore.
And so by the end of our journey, when we climbed up the bank, dragging our kayaks behind, we had become truly and miraculously uncle and niece.