My name was RRRREEERRROOOO, but people now know me as Roger. Since being reunited with my birth family two years ago, life has gotten very interesting, but if I’m being honest, it has always been interesting. Apparently I am quite intelligent but did not know this for the first eleven years of my life. At fifteen I supposedly know better, but in my mind that is still up for debate. My “adopted” mother who found me almost fifteen years ago always made me feel special, but the rest of the pod treated me differently; respectfully, nicely, just differently. Pod. I learned that word later in life, but knew its meaning prior to ever hearing it in English. Allow me to explain.
A little more than fifteen years ago my birth parents decided to circumnavigate the earth on their 46-foot sailboat aptly named Globe Dancer. My mother was seven months pregnant carrying me so I obviously remember none of this. We departed out of Boston Harbor and sailed south along the coast, visiting many locations along the way. We made a stop in Costa Rica and I was born on the sailboat as we were anchored just off shore from Limón. We stuck around there for a little over a month while my parents explored inland before setting back to sea.
After passing through the Panama Canal we headed north. I was almost six months old when we were sailing along the waters near Baja. That’s when I fell overboard and my parents never found me.
I don’t remember when my adoptive mother discovered me. She told me I was floating on my back in the midst of the ocean and she popped to the surface to see who this creature was that was casting a small shadow on the surface. She tells the story of lifting her left eye above the waves and how I turned my head to look at her and smiled. She’d seen that smile in the past from people on ships and boats, but not my size. It was at that moment she decided to take care of me and raise me as her own. She’d also had trouble in the past having a calf of her own and she had natural maternal instincts just waiting to be used.
I didn’t know any language at the time, so picking up Humpback-speak came easily for me. The human body adapts quite well to almost any situation and I learned the art of holding my breath for long periods of time and swimming with my mother and the rest of the pod. The deeper waters were problematic, but there were always several of my friends, and later on my brothers, who were willing to stick with me when the pod decided to feed at deeper parts of the sea.
Their diet was mainly crustaceans, which I also enjoyed, but I discovered that I was able to eat other sorts of food including small fish and kelp. My mother nursed me for a long time and the water in humpback milk provided adequately for my thirst.
As the years passed I enjoyed seeing the births of my two brothers. They were all so very nice to me and treated me as their own. I asked my mother if I was born that way, she said that my birth was different.
My life took a sharp turn around my ninth year of existence. My questions were becoming more difficult for my mother, brothers, and friends to handle and my mother decided that she needed to have “a talk” with me. Translating from Humpback to English is difficult, but I’ll try to give you the gist of what was said.
Mother said to me, “Son, I’ve been avoiding this conversation for some time, but it needs to happen right now.”
“What is it, mother?”
“You’re not a Humpback whale, you’re a human being.” (I knew what humans were from seeing them on boats.)
I was dumfounded. “Is that why all of you are huge and I’m tiny?” I asked.
“Yes,” replied mother, “among other things.”
“I just thought I’d grow up later, get fins, and a blow-hole on my back like you and the others.” (“the others” is translated from RRROOOEEEEOOOLLAAAA which literally means “those who swim and frolic and sing and jump and slap the water with our tails and fins who also play forms of sea checkers.”)
Mother said, “Sadly, I know you’ve been wanting to grow big like the rest of us, which is why I needed to tell you sooner rather than later.”
“You’re not my mother?” I asked.
“I have always felt like I am your mother and will always be no matter what happens to you. You’ve always felt my love, haven’t you?”
“Yes, mother.” (I then gave her a hug. Well, I spread what I thought were my fins and pressed up under her fins. Up until that point it never occurred to me that she always could have crushed me like a puffer fish if she squeezed me in the least bit.)
“What do I do now?” I asked her a few moments later.
Mother said, “At some point, in the time of your choosing, you will probably want to try to find your human family. It will be an adventure of substantial risk and, possibly, reward. I believe you need to make this journey. You are free whenever you’d like.” There seemed to be a sadness in her song at this point.
“I don’t know what to do, mother.” I replied.
She said, “This is a decision you need not make today. But it is one I strongly encourage you to make in the future. The sorrow I will feel at your departure will be something I don’t want to think about right now, but I know this will be the best for you.”
I looked into the deep blue of the sea, I saw a school of tuna moving past on my right. Down beneath I saw coral barely visible, yet with colors too vivid to describe. This was my home.
“Are you sure I’m a human?” I asked.
“Son,” mother relied, “look at the ends of your top fins. Those little digits are human fingers. You’ve got a set of what is called opposable thumbs. I’d love to have that. You’ve got a face, a head, a belly button. Humpbacks don’t have these like you have them. You will be able to walk on your bottom fins on those things called feet. You’ve seen the humans on the boats. You’ll be able to do that. And, when it comes time for you to find a mate, believe me, you’ll not be a proper match for a female Humpback. Oh dear, I can’t even ponder that! And, I really hate to say this, you’re not getting any better as a swimmer. RREEERRROOOO and RRAAARRRIIII (my two brothers) never have let on to this for fear of hurting your feelings, but I need to speak honestly with you.”
This was a shock to me. “Really?” I sputtered. “I’m not that good of a swimmer?”
She made a motion Humpbacks make akin to a human shaking their heads.
This was all so very difficult to digest. This was the only life I’d known and it would soon change. “Can I wait and be with you for a while before I leave?” I asked.
“Son,” she said gently, “you may take as long as you like.”
I waited, of course, for another three years.
When it came time for me to depart our entire pod swam with me as closely to land as possible to send me off into the next, very much unknown, chapter of life. I hugged my mother for a long time before slowly turning inland. I could hear all my friends and family singing their goodbyes and I knew I had tears coming from my eyes even though you can’t really see them in the ocean. I was leaving for good.
I saw the sea floor gradually meeting the surface and then the waves changed to surf. My head broke through and I crawled up onto the shore. Walking took some time to master, but my legs were strong and I learned quickly.
I know now that I was just outside of the city of San Clemente, California, and as I walked into an area where people lived I soon discovered that it would be a good idea to find some clothing, pants at the very least. People are uncomfortable with nudity. Fortunately I stumbled into the yard of an elderly couple named John and Carolyn LeMaster, childless their entire marriage, who took me into their care. John was a retired engineer and Carolyn a retired schoolteacher. Over the next year they taught me all I needed to know in order to live as a human. And during that time John did extensive research as to missing children during the year that he figured to be my birth year.
At age eleven I enrolled in school and because of Carolyn’s excellent tutoring I was able to jump right in where I needed to be. It was fun learning all the things I was learning. It was so enjoyable, and each detail I learned was like another adventure. I loved the playground so much as well. When playing I just couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, jumping. It reminded me of those wonderful years frolicking with my pod, swimming as fast as we could and flinging our bodies out of the water.
Some time later John made an enquiry into the story he’d read on a sailing website about the people that we found out later were my parents. Their names are Kevin and Skylar Bentley and they lived near us just north of San Diego in the city of La Jolla. When I was able to call them and talk to them, I believe that my mother, birth mother, fainted and dad had to revive her.
John and Carolyn, who had become my second family, helped me pack up my things and drove me down to meet my birth parents for the first time in my memory. It was quite emotional for all of us. My parents were a jumble of many emotions including the guilt they felt for losing me. Can you imagine what that must have been like for them?
They told me that after I went missing they had contacted the Coast Guard who had helped them search for a week. After the Coast Guard left my parents remained in that same spot for a month just circling before they had to give up. They then ceased their journey around the world, sold their home in Boston, and moved to the west coast just wanting to be near where I was lost. The guilt they felt kept them from ever having another child. And they never sailed after that.
Getting to know them was another adventure for me. Adventure. I love that word. I don’t know where I learned how to see almost everything as an adventure. I felt this spirit from my Humpback mother and the other Humpback so much and maybe that was the influence. My parents kind of have that spirit, but I know very few others that feel anything like this. In fact, most people are unaware of the excitement that is always around us all the time. Incredible. Remarkable.
I suppose that life, for many, just seems to be a series of unremarkable days, one after another. I hope I never get that way.
I remember once asking my Humpback mother, “Why do we leap out of the water into the air and splash so much?”
She replied, “Because we can, son, because we can. Why wouldn’t we do this?”
I had no answer. Even though I was not as good at it, I loved it. I did it for the pure joy. Have you ever seen a Humpback smile? I have. And it is a smile of joy resonating from deep within.
I will look for the remarkable in this life because it is there, day after amazing day…even though I am a human.
I still keep in touch with my other “families,” regularly visiting John and Carolyn on many occasions. My parents also bought a new sailboat and we often head out to where I know my old set of family and friends swim. I dive overboard and we catch up with each other’s lives and play a lot. I taught my parents some Humpback-speak and they are able to communicate a little, though their accents are awful.