Thursday, December 2, 2010
Lost at Sea: Saint Bryan II September 1969
In late September, 1969, Dad learned that his brother Saint was missing from a catamaran he and a friend had been sailing off the coast of Maui. He and Aunt Joan flew out to Honolulu to do what they could. Notes from those frantic days include lists of people to contact.
The Coast Guard, Boat Yard, Newspapers, Radio & TV, Wailuku Police, Friends.
But there was no hope. Dad always said he lost not just an older brother that day but his best friend.
Among the letters of condolence Dad received is this one from family friend Finis Farr.
8 November 1969
It must have been an ordeal for you and Joan, going to Hawaii. I have thought of you often since I got the news about Saint. Losing a brother or sister must give one an especially desolate feeling, all the more poignant, I should suppose, when the one who died was still young. Saint was someone I always held in particularly high affection, because he was himself, gentle, responsive and bright.
It occurs to me now that he was ahead of his times--one of the first do-your-own thing people, and as such not fully understood by many But I think I had an inkling of what he was getting at. Perhaps I am patting myself on the back; if so, I should add that I spent one of the saddest afternoons I can recall a few weeks ago when I walked over to the post office around noon and picked up your father's note telling me that Saint and been lost and there was no more hope.
I telephoned your mother and father right away, and they were,of course, so brave and "good" about it that I found it heartbreaking, I say to you in confidence. The telephone to the voice is like the camera to the face, is it not?
Since then, in thinking of Saint, it occured to me that you'd told me, not long ago, that he was happy in Hawaii. So that part is all right. I just wish he could have gone on being happy in Hawaii.
Another thing--there's no doubt Saint had talent and I wonder if he was writing, and if you found material of interest among his papers. You understand I didn't think he was obliged to write or had to write, but I remember seeing some stories he wrote at college and they were good,
I do hope your work is shaping up as you want it, and that all goes well with you and yours
Yrs as ever,
When Dad called to tell us what happened (Lansing and I were both under 5 years old) he said Uncle Saint had dived off the boat to save a drowning friend but that the sea pulled both of them under. Recently, I was told the friend had suffered from "The Bends". He may have been partially paralyzed.
In The Great Dethriffe, Dad's second novel published in 1972, he writes that his brother had found happiness in Hawaii.
And I loved him because I knew for generations and generations back in all our other lives we had always been brothers, as we would be brothers in future lives as well...
"You know, pal" he said..."All these years I've been the older brother. I've always led and you've always followed. Well, I've just been thinking that I'd like to follow you for a while. You're my best friend and I want to be your best friend. I'd like you to lead."
"I know," I said, "but I like following you. I like you to lead. It's okay. And besides, farther on where the path gets wider, we can walk side by side."
"I'd really like that." he said.
Uncle Saint and Dad, 1938.