STEPPING STONES…This is the primary title of the column I write. Typically, a stepping stone is something to help you get from one place to another or from one phase in life to another as well. We have all utilized them. Sometimes, they are very obvious to us; very evident. Other times, we just happen to stumble upon them. They can be subtle or they can be earth shattering. One thing is for sure: We use them from the day we are born until the time we die.
Some of the people who create these pathways leave lasting impressions on us. They can be teachers, parents, supervisors, spouses and friends. I’m sure everyone reading this can easily think of several individuals who have had a profound impact on life’s decisions, on helping to form the people we are today. For me, there was one individual who was always there whether I needed her or not. That being said this tribute goes out to Emily, my mom.
In 1981, my mom approached my brother, sister and me to let us know she was retiring. This was not a big surprise since she was coming up on her 60th birthday. However, when she said she was moving to Florida within two months of her last work day, our jaws collectively hit the floor.
You see, my sister lived in the Venice area of Florida for a few years, and mom visited her several times. When my mom saw her first dolphin at the Venice jetty, she was hooked. She could not wait to see them all of the time. She was becoming the ultimate dolphin lover. She was true to her word and stayed on schedule with the move from Maryland to Florida.
Emily was the person who provided stepping stones throughout my life. Her kind nature and patiencedirected me through my early years, gently nudging me to make correct decisions. When I was grown, she provided subtle hints that she was around if needed. Always the positive person, she had a smile for anyone who glanced in her direction.
I helped her make that move to Florida 30+ years ago, and, very honestly, I made the move myself within six months. We spent many, many evenings walking the beaches of Casey Key, and she never tired of seeing dolphins. Each time that dorsal fin would rise above the water, it was like the first time she had seen it. She was like a young child opening gifts on Christmas morning.
Time has passed too quickly, and Emily is now 92. Although her memory is not what it used to be, she still can see the dolphins, and when she does, that kind, gentle smile is still there. The loving look in her eyes, for anyone, provides stepping stones for all who can recognize them.
I don’t think that my passion for studying dolphins is by accident. My mom is responsible, no doubt. I don’t know how she did it, but she has guided me to a place in life in which I can make others smile just by sharing her happiness.
With her health failing, she has one major stepping stone left. When her life is complete, there is no question in my mind that there to greet her will be her dolphin friends.
She has provided pathways for everyone who entered her life. She is, indeed, a stepping stone herself. Thank you to the ultimate dolphin lover. Thank you, my dear mom.
Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and is a naturalist on board The Dolphin Explorer. He is a member of Florida SEE ( Society for Ethical Ecotourism). Bob loves his wife (and his mom) very much!