|Organization:||Senior Citizens of Kodiak|
|Program Area:||Human Services \ Senior services|
Living longer with independence, honor and dignity
Senior Citizens of Kodiak
To provide support services to those people 60 and over on Kodiak Island so that they might live longer with independence, honor and dignity.
We left the harbor on a sunny April morning and went
down the east side of the island, the mountains white
against a blue sky. We anchored up in a quiet bay as evening fell around us. The light was going and it was hard to see. "What's that- off to the right?" I pointed.
"A house," said Bobby. "Kaiugnak village. Before the tidal wave, people lived here, like Chenega."
He lit a cigarette and looked at me.
"You know, young man, what you see ain't off to the right. It's off to starboard. You're on a boat. Try to remember that."
One afternoon I was taking pictures as we passed by Two-Headed Island. There was an old wreck there, the white hull like a seashell on the black beach. "They caught on fire a few years ago," said Bobby. "Some of them didn't make it." When I wondered if maybe we could go ashore sometime to look over the wreck, Bobby took a drag on his cigarette. "Young man, maybe you should put that camera away and go chop some bait. If you're lucky, this is as close as you ever get to a wreck like that."
In later years, I used to see Bobby sometimes, sitting by the door of the old City Market, waiting for his ride back down to the Senior Center. His hair was white. He had a cane; diabetes had messed up his legs. They wouldn't let him smoke anymore. He had taken to carving delicately beautiful two-foot versions of the Aluutiq kayaks his grandfather had once built in Chenega. He sold the models for folding money.
Once, when my daughter was small, we ran into Bobby at the market. She stared at the thing in his old brown hands. "That's a baidarka," he said. (He pronounced it "baDARkey.") "That's how my people used to get around in the old days."
My daughter is eighteen now. Last spring we found ourselves in the "Looking Both Ways" Aluutiq cultural exhibit at the Smithsonian, in Washington. On a wall, in twelve inch letters, was this: "'I remember the ladies sitting in the houses, laughing and sewing. You know, everybody helped everybody,' – Bobby Stamp." A little further on there were pictures of old Chenega, and Kaiugnak before the tidal wave. I could hear Bobby's voice in the soft light of an evening thirty years ago- "Young man, you need to pay more attention. You could learn if you just open your eyes."