Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

We have friends who have had a houseboat on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky for many years.  Each summer they invite us down for a weekend.

As we settled in on our very first visit to the boat our hosts, Ellie and Lionel, announced there were two simple houseboat rules. Number One, everyone must be happy.  That means if someone wants to ski and you don’t, that’s OK. You stay on the boat. If you want to get on the jet skis and take off by yourself for a while, that’s OK, too. If you want to be comatose and lie on a raft in the water all weekend, fine.  If you want to be really active and swim and ski, knock yourself out. Or you can sit on the deck and read without stopping.  The point is everyone gets along and doesn’t impose on others.  This rule has worked beautifully.

Rule two.  Regardless of who cooks, we must be through eating by 8 o’clock each night, so we can finish the dishes, get in the runabout, drive out to the middle of the lake, and watch the sun set and the moon come up.  There is nothing more soothing and knock-your-socks-off beautiful than sitting with great friends and watching the heavens perform.  We've spent countless beautiful nights doing just that.

Throughout the years, the houseboat rules have stayed the same.  However, the motivations now are a bit different.

Rule one.  Everyone still must be happy.  I’ve noticed in the past few years that what makes us happy has changed, quite a bit, in fact. I actually would like to ski.  But what would make me happy now is not falling; and my knees can’t promise that.  What would make me even happier is to be able to fall, get out of the water and get back in the boat without limping and whining and focusing on my pain.   If I don’t do something now, it may not be because I don’t want to do.  Could be that I just can’t any more.  

Last summer, I was reading a good book, looking up occasionally to watch the fish jump and listening to the birds in the nearby woods.  I was asked,  “Bob, do you want to go skiing?”  I said, “Let me think about it. OK I’m through.  No.”  The thought of me taking my body out of my resting mode and pulling myself up and onto skis while a taut rope jerked me across the water didn’t have the same appeal it did 10 years ago.  

I remember an incident when we were much younger when Lionel and I were “up top,” sunning and reading on the roof.  Ellie and Brenda were on the lower front deck, reading on “the porch.”  Without any planning or discussion, Lionel and I looked at each other, ran to the edge of the roof and jumped into the lake, cannon balling our wives with large waves.  They shouted things at us that perhaps they shouldn’t have, depending upon your view.  If that were to happen today, and we were to jump off the roof of the boat into the lake, there still would be shouting, but it might sound more like, “Breathe, you ole fool.  Breathe!”

Now back to the second rule.  We still need to get finished eating by 8. This is a hard, fast rule.  Cannot be broken.  But not so we can go out into the middle of the lake.  We’re still interested in the seeing the sunset, but we’re more concerned with getting to bed by 9.

Date of Blog Story: 
June 6, 2008

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