The Last Time
Earlier this month, a combination of excessive wind, extremely high tide, and enormous waves brought down the historic bell tower at the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Bristol, Maine. If you were one of those who collected the commemorative state quarters, you have seen this lighthouse on Maine’s coin. The bell tower, constructed with red brick, was built in 1897 and held a fog bell fastened to the outside wall facing the Atlantic Ocean. Jenni and I were fortunate enough to visit this icon of the Maine coast in the fall of 2022 while on a trip in Wanda, our campervan.
That trip to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse was a last-minute decision on that trip. It was more than an hour (one-way) detour from our planned route—just to see ONE lighthouse. But photos showed it to be quite a beauty and a family we had met the day before highly recommended seeing it, so we made the decision to go and never regretted it. In my second book, Living With Wanda 2, one of the chapters describes the lighthouse but more importantly the “lightkeeper and lobsterman” we met in the museum that day. He was a 92-year-old WWII veteran named Kendrick who was spending his retirement years being a docent in the lightkeeper’s museum where he could share his vast knowledge of lobster-fishing as well as living on the Maine coast. We may have briefly hatched a plan to take him back home with us. He was a delight.
In the time following our encounter I often thought of Kendrick. I guess his tenacity just reminded me so much of my own father--WWII vet, age has nothing to do with how long you work. Luckily small town newspapers can be a wealth of information—with a little online research, I learned that he had a fall a few months after we were there and he broke his hip. I feared the worst, but then a story was published this past October informing the community that their beloved “Energizer Bunny” was back home from rehab. That’s the latest I can find and I wish him all the best in his recovery.
But back to the lighthouse, sort of.
When I pulled away from Pemaquid on that September day I could safely assume that I would probably never be back to see it, or my lobsterman, again. But I wasn’t prepared to hear of a storm taking down one of the historic structures I had walked through. Jenni and I waited our turn that day to go inside the brick structure and then sit in Adirondack chairs beside the bell house so we could enjoy the sunshine and listen to crashing waves far below on the granite rocks. After this month’s storm, I saw photos on social media of not only the scattered red bricks but also the Adirondack chairs strewn like a child would do his toys in a temper tantrum.
It made me ponder all the other “last times” I saw something or someone.
When I used to commute to work, I drove by a barn twice a day. I always said I wanted to get a photo of it. And then one day a bulldozer beat me and took it down. I only have a fading mental image and can’t even spot the location now when I drive that road.
When my mother was slipping from consciousness in 2006, my sister called me (in South Carolina) from her bedside (in Texas) and let us speak for a few seconds. My mother’s last words to me were “I love you” in a manner that only she could utter. I hear that recording in my mind quite often.
In the following years, I often left my father’s house thinking “this will be the last time” and then one day it was.
The last time I held my son’s hand while walking around an amusement park came without realizing it. And it makes me wonder when will be the last time my granddaughter gives me a hug and a “pat-pat-pat” on the back.
“Last times” can be beautiful. And they can be painful—maybe not in the moment but later in the realization. And they can be gone without even knowing they are gone.