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Gary Horton: The greatest thing you'll ever learn

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: June 16, 2009 6:04 p.m.
Updated: June 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
“The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return.”

— “Nature Boy,”
 by Eden Ahbez
FOURNEY’S COVE, Santa Cruz Island — Fourney’s might as well be the edge of the world, for all California knows. Fifty miles out of Oxnard Harbor and 23 miles off shore from Santa Barbara, my friends and I are utterly alone and on our own amidst this windswept island cove balanced between desolation and pristine beauty.

I’m on a two-day cruise with my son Jonathan and his close friends from college days. They met 10 years ago at Berkeley and their friendship has remained constant ever since.

Out here with them, offshore for two days, everything is discussed and on the table. The talk alternates between bar room banter and closing arguments at the Supreme Court. As Dad, I’m as much an observer as participant. Close to the action, but not exactly part of it. It’s an intimate view into a son’s life.

There’s parental pride here on the seas. These are great young men my son calls friends — altruists and creators. Sitting on the foredeck yesterday, watching them row to shore, I was moved to spontaneous prayer, “God, I have been so fortunate all these 30 years. Thank you for such deep blessings.”

It’s been 30 years. Tuesday marked my 30th wedding anniversary with Carrie. Might as well be 30 light years, so much has changed. Carrie was all of 19 when we married, and only 273 days older when Jonathan was born.

I had a $6.25 per hour job and we both were attending CSUN, living in a $230 per month apartment off Reseda Boulevard. Humble beginnings by two kids too young to know the perils of setting sail into life’s headwinds so inexperienced.

I’ve always been a bit of a hard nut. Growing up in a broken family jaded me from the get-go.

Just “making your way” seemed to be our family’s overarching goal. Mom said “adios” to a tumultuous marriage when I was 11, and at least peace returned to our four walls. Prior to that, part of being a kid was knowing how and when to stay away from the nearly constant parental fights.

When Carrie and I married, I wanted to get away from all that. “Let’s do it together, and let’s get it done right.” I was a control freak for a rational home.

Carrie had motivations, too — not least, she was born to raise wonderful kids and I must have seemed like at least satisfactory genetic material with which to bond.

And so we married at the Santa Monica LDS temple, 30 years and one day from today’s date. Like all candid couples would admit, it’s not always been bliss. But mostly bliss — and most of the time when not, I can find fault with that hard nut personality I mentioned.

Thirty years on, and that hard nut part of me is softer now.

I’ve learned to open up, learned to love, learned to give and even learned to take. For 30 years, Carrie’s greatest achievement, greater perhaps than raising three wonderful kids, has been patiently growing my and our family’s capacity to love. Thirty years in, and “mission accomplished.” I get it now. We all get it.

Out on these empty islands, wind and waves conjure memories serving as companions as much as our shipmates.

One memory is how our whole family has long loved the movie “Moulin Rouge.” Indeed, the boat we’re sailing is christened after Nicole Kidman’s character, “The Sparkling Diamond.”

The movie is about love.

Before I met Carrie I would have tossed the movie aside as “so much fluff.” Now after 30 years with Valencia’s kindest woman, I’ve watched it a dozen times, always captivated by its passionate love and impressionistic art.

Thank Carrie for my understanding of impressionism, too. My happiest days returning from work are when I open the door and beautiful Carrie is at the piano playing Debussy.

But be it Debussy, Mozart or any of the classical music Carrie infused into our family, among my favorite music remains the simple, haunting tune “Nature Boy,” which winds its way throughout “Moulin Rouge” and includes the verse that opens this column.

It’s deeply sound advice for all of us to remember. Amid life’s stormy and sun-filled days, it is gracious love that anchors us to purpose and meaning and soul.

Carrie, thank you for sharing your life with me these fantastic and wonderful 30 years. Above all, thank you for teaching me, and all of us, to love.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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