In March 1997 Ian and I began Advanced Open Water Scuba lessons together. Our instructor was Melissa, who had previously trained and certified Ian in basic Open Water diving. We completed our dives and Melissa certified us on May 31st. I am so thankful that we had this experience together, especially the night dive; it was incredible. It was our first, so we really didn’t know what to expect.
We descended below the surface, settled ourselves on the sandy bottom about thirty feet below, and turned off our flashlights. We were immediately taken aback by how well we could see with only the ambient light from the stars shining through the surface above on this moonless night. We were also amazed at the sudden nocturnal activity of the otherwise reticent creatures rarely seen during the day. Most of all, Ian and I were honored to have our good friend Wendell from Indiana accompany us on the dive—which was also his first dive after dark.
After my parents came down for their visit, it seemed like we had guests every month or so—at least for the first couple of years. One of the cool things about living in the Keys is that it seems like everybody's been here, or at least they know where the Keys are at and they want to visit here. If nothing else the Keys have been well romanticized in too many books and too many movies.
We first became aware of everyone’s apparent familiarity with the Keys right after we moved, and thereafter, any time we traveled. Everywhere we’d go, someone would say, “Where are you from?” We’d say, “The Keys,” to which they’d invariably reply, “Oh, Key West.” “Yeah, R-r-r-right.”
It was not at all uncommon to hear a passenger on Keys Diver some five miles offshore proclaim, “Tomorrow we’re gonna to drive down to The Keys.” Once Ian began to work on the boat, he did his best to educate the uninitiated by enlightening them as to their location, and explaining that there was more to the Keys than our southernmost outpost.
As for our travels, after our long migration, the last thing we wanted to do was drive—anywhere; fortunately most of the time we had the pleasure of flying. In fact, in all the years we've lived in the Keys, we've only driven north any real distance a couple of times.
Our first visit back to Indiana was in May 1997, when we had the pleasure of seeing our dear friends Wendell (the diver) and Lana get married. They’re both great people, and we were so very pleased to be in attendance as they exchanged wedding vows and to see them affirm their lifelong commitment to one another.
Another thing that made it really special for us was that Ian was asked to be one of their ushers.
He took the job very seriously, and as you can see he was on his absolute best behavior.
Just a couple of months later we were once again on a flight to Indiana. This time it was Marcia’s little sister Kelli who was getting married.
After the wedding, the reception gave the eligible young bachelors the chance to step out. Not to be outdone, suave and debonair, Ian always found the pretty girls and danced his way into their hearts.
In spite of the poor quality of this photo and its sordid background, this is one of my favorite pictures of Ian. We had friends in town from Indiana who had relatives in Islamorada and we went down to see them. We walked over to their marina to look at the water pretty much at the time of slack water at the end of an ebbing spring tide. There was virtually no water in the basin and the bottom was absolutely disgusting.
What makes this picture so special is the look on Ian's face. Oblivious to the photographer, and while Mom looks off into never-never land, he's having some truly devilish thought. It may have been something he said; it may have been something she said. Either way, I'll bet Mom would not have liked it.
Unlike seventh grade, eighth grade began with little excitement and even less fanfare. By now Ian was getting pretty well settled into the Keys. He had adjusted well to the change in latitude, lifestyle, and schools, and he had made many new friends, forming enduring bonds with many kids who lived throughout the Upper Keys.
Ian still wasn't crazy about school, but at least attending school in the Keys was way cooler than going to school up north. There was one thing about school that Ian did like—besides his friends—it provided the opportunity to play organized, competitive sports; and for a time he lived for soccer, basketball, and baseball, and they became the mainstay of his education. Practice and games occupied the majority of his extracurricular time—with the occasional respite for time on the water and girls. Oh, there was (at least) one other thing, eighth grade meant a return to Orlando, for an evening of fun at Walt Disney World’s Night of Joy.
Before we knew it, the year came to an end, and it was time for graduation. We were very proud of Ian and what he had accomplished academically and in sports; and although we didn’t yet know it, he was about to close another chapter on his life, not just Junior High, but also Island Christian School. . .