Grand love, mighty Orioles and Virginia's Corotoman River

Rick and Sue in their skiff, pulled alongside Nellie Lankford. BY DENNIS FORNEY
August 14, 2014

Rick and Sue stopped by last night. We were anchored in eleven feet of water in Myer Creek off Virginia's Corotoman River.  Western Shore. Northern Neck.  Virginia. Sweet part of the Chesapeake tidewater. They live around the corner in another cove.

That's the Chesapeake. Thousands of miles of crenelated shoreline. And all of those crenelations create hundreds of coves with plenty of water to float the matched pair of shallow-draft C-Dories we're exploring with this week. We're in Nellie Lankford, named for my grandmother. Mary and Pat are aboard Jamma. That's what their grandson Ian called Mary before he could say Gramma. Nellie was Mary's grandmother too

So it's evening and we're gathered on the poop deck of Nellie, knees to knees, one of us on an overturned peach basket, another on an overturned five-gallon bucket, the other two in rusty folding chairs that tuck under the gunnels. Our card table is a five-day cooler spread with a red and white striped towel, still showing the indentation of the plates that held our hard salami, cheese, crackers and celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese and olives. We're drinking Painkillers and the plates have been replaced with a deck of cards bearing a photo of our grandson Ford as an infant with a faint but contented smile. We're about to begin an epic battle of Whist.

In the background is the drone of an Orioles-Yankees baseball game, punctuated now and then by the roar of the crowd and the excited play-by-play of a broadcaster calling a home run. It's a good year to be an Orioles fan. They lead the majors in home runs, launching at least 150 so far, bringing crowds to their feet, winning lots of games with the long ball, helping secure the Birds' current eight-game gap over the second-place Yanks. Wednesday night was no exception. The Bombers had the Birds by a 2-1 score going into late innings but Nick Markakis reached, and Chris Davis too. Adam Jones followed with a blast overthe centerfield fence to give the Orioles a comfortable lead and eventual victory.

Oh that sweet smell of success!

But Rick nosed his aluminum skiff - with a three-horse engine on the stern and his lovely wife in the bow – up to Nellie's starboard side before we bid our first hand. Their grandchildren played on a slice of sandy beach 50 yards away. The two dories caught their eyes and they acquiesced to the pull of their natural curiosity. They accepted a short taste of the Painkillers and we chatted about this and that. Just pleasant in the fading light. Then they acquiesced again, this time to the stronger pull of their grandchildren signaling with raised voices that they were ready to be picked up.

We bid farewell and turned our attention to the cards. About three hands in, we looked up to see Sue and Rick approaching again, this time bearing gifts. So hospitable. Sue handed over a colorful and strongly scented bouquet of flowers and herbs – parsley and mint and basil, hostas, salvia and others – from their garden, and a white plastic bag with other goodies. Tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, peaches and a book. Sue's book. Written with her two daughters. Titled GrandLoving. Making Memories with Your Grandchildren. Love straight out of the heart. Love for grandchildren, laced with suggestions for activities and communications and full-on appreciation. Wrapping up the essence of that feeling supercharging the sound waves carrying from the little beach to our vessels. We've all had grandparents. We've felt the sensations in varying degrees. The glue that holds the universe together.

“We can spend a weekend in a cottage by the Isle of Wight,

if it's not too dear. We shall scrimp and save.

Grandchildren on our knees: Vera, Chuck and Dave.”

– The Beatles, When I'm 64

Becky tells me that President Jimmy Carter proclaimed National Grandparents Day in 1979. Always the first Sunday after Labor Day. A lovely holiday.


It was good meeting Sue and Rick, good to hear the Birds beat the Yanks, good to see the big waning moon rise over the trees to the southeast, over the creek and reaching toward the Milky Way. Shooting stars streaked toward the distant recesses of the universe and an eternal waterfall that spreads love in every direction.

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go.”

Becky reminded me to let folks know about the outcome of the game of Whist. The whole game was a tight horse race but going into the final round with eight cards, Pat held a narrow lead. Becky looked at her cards, face showing an expression of possibility, body rising from the peach basket in a stance of preparation, the gears in her mind silently turning over a strategy.

“I'm channeling Frank Hepbron,” she said as she went into an almost trance-like, über-focus mode of operation. (Frank plays cards a lot, knows where things stand, runs his mouth to distraction especially with a couple belts of Crown Royal greasing his synapses and dendrites, and maintains almost as good a winning percentage as the Os right now.)

Pat knew he was in trouble. Mary and I were figuring out how to organize our reds and blacks.

Becky rolled in heavy, bid five tricks out of eight possible. Clubs were trump. Then she went to work.

“The sneer is gone from Casey's lips, his teeth are clenched in hate. He pounds with cruel violence, his bat upon the plate.”

Casey struck out. Becky didn't. She played her hand masterfully. Frank would have been proud.

When Pat placed his final pencil marks on the scoring paper, Becky had edged him by two points, winning the match.

I'm pretty sure love made it all happen.