The Last Days in Kalohori


It's noon as I am leaving the house when the girls come home from breakfast or some last minute shopping. The Flying Dolphin that will take most of our gang away will be arriving at around two o'clock. Elaine asks me to take one of her bags to the dock. When I get there The Octopus family is waddling over to Crysanthos' boat. I think maybe they are going for a cruise but when I walk over I realize that they are buying an enormous grouper that Crysanthos had caught this morning. It weighs about five kilo. Tied to the boat are three more, one of them even bigger, perhaps twenty pounds and almost three feet long. A woman tugs at my arm. "Did you see? Did you see what your friend Mister Crysanthos has done?" I wish Elaine was here. The final proof that he is the man she had been looking for. On top of all his attributes he is also the best fisherman in Kalohori.

I return to the house to hurry them so Elaine can catch a glimpse of the fish before they disappear into the Octopus families soup and bellies. The girls are on their way out the door so I carry Elaine's heavy bag and ask Andrea to bring my camera so I can photograph my future step-father-in-law with his big fish. But, when we get to the dock he is nowhere in sight. The fish are still tied to his boat and still breathing so I show Andrea. She is impressed but says it's merely the second biggest fish she has seen here this summer.

We go for our final meal together at Katina's. All I want is a salad and sadziki. I'm feeling kind of anxious and I don't know if it's because I'm sad Elaine will be gone in less than two hours or because I had used three tablespoons of Nescafe in my coffee this morning. One thing I do realize is that I am under the watchful eyes and ears of my brother and his girlfriend who are waiting for our arguing to begin. Knowing that they are listening makes me more anxious and everything anybody says I take it the wrong way and get angry. Then, in the middle of a conversation about Andrea's cousin Kim getting together with Panayotis, the kefalo fisherman, on his cruise ship in the Caribbean, Elaine interrupts me to say, "You know you can have that tooth filed down." She is talking about one of my front teeth that is bigger than the other, and has been for the thirty years I have known her. I thank her for pointing out my flaws to me and she responds that it is not a flaw if something can be done to fix it. Nothing a little minor surgery won't cure. She says she is pointing it out to be helpful. I thank her. By then James and Joan have left. They'd heard enough. I'd had enough too. I go to spend the last two hours of Elaine's month with us reading by myself.

When I eventually get to the bar to say my farewells, everyone is exchanging information. My brother James has a coveted Flying Dolphin schedule that he is unwilling to part with so Andrea is furiously copying timetables for our trip to the island of Kea. Amarandi is happily eating strawberry ice-cream and playing with Joan who she has suddenly become very close to. A few minutes before the dolphin comes, Epatia, the woman who had befriended Elaine hands her a gift and a letter. Elaine is so choked up I don't have the heart to remind her that very morning she had called the woman a leech and a parasite, with such force that Amarandi had marched around the house singing both words. "Now she'll hate the woman even more because she has to carry that box all the way back to Athens," Andrea whispers.

At last the Flying Dolphin comes to spirit them all away. Elaine goes to give my brother James a big hug goodbye. "Hey, don't hug me. I'm leaving with you on the same boat," he says while backing away. We all say our farewells and magically they are gone. We wave until the hydrofoil is out of sight and then we comment on the silence. It's a profound deep silence. I also realize that Andrea has relaxed and so have I. We both love our families but we are glad to see them go. The girls and I go for a swim together for the first time in a month.

So, with Elaine out of our lives for the time being, we have to re-adjust. When Amarandi is impossible we can no longer pass her off to her grandmother and go about our business. Our first taste of this is at Katina's when there are no kids around and she goes into one of her cranky spells. While talking to our friends we have to comfort her. Usually if she is acting like this it's because she is either hungry or tired and there is a simple cure for each. Sometimes though, the reason is less obvious and the cure not so simple. These are the times we get frustrated and sometimes there is a total breakdown in the child-parent relationship and we end up screaming at her. That's only happened to me once, but it happens more often with Andrea. She just kind of loses it and with no Elaine to come to the rescue I've inherited the job.

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