A Personal Review Unlike Any Other

Mr. Schussler,

I imagine that when you dreamed up The Boathouse, you desired your concept to be a tangible and beautiful aesthetic for all who would behold her. And while your restaurant has proven to be pleasing to both the eye and palate, I needed you to know that it also reaches the heart.

March of last year, I honestly didn’t even know amphicars existed. I was in bed, waiting to be taken into the OR for the third time within 5 months. It was a relief to know that while the first procedure was the only one I had planned, that God had another direction for my life…one that required a lot of healing (on the inside as well as out,) and a lot of trusting.

April was a happy time. It was our 5-year wedding anniversary. It was our first trip to Disney with the babies. It was the first time I had ever laid eyes on your project and pride. And it was a meal I would never forget. There I was, seated with our parents, healthy and amazed that a place like yours could exist. I looked around me and let the moment sink in. It felt like a dream.

August came. And with it, so did illness. But this time it was different. This time, things happened so quickly. I remember I was told I might never leave only 10 minutes after he and the little ones headed home for lunch. I prayed and told God that He could have His way…that I was tired of trying to fight through life and that His will was all I wanted…whether that meant going to a familiar home or a new one.

It is hard to take your days for granted when everyone tells you they’re numbered and done. But once again, my Father had another plan. I was sent home and the sepsis cleared up. I was able to have my PICC line removed. I got to hold our babies again. I had more time with the love of my life. I was given another chance. And I don’t think anything feels better than second and third and twelve chances…be it with forgiveness, or just with life.

September 2018 led us back to Orlando. Friends were visiting from out of state and Danny knew it would be good to meet up and to celebrate life. We didn’t have reservations, but I knew where I hoped we would end up. The gentle voice on the other end of the line assured me that while they did have “that boat” up front to dine in, that it wasn’t available, at least not for this day. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled. All that mattered to me was that everyone agreed….we could go. On to The Boathouse…

I tried to smile at the folks dining in the car, but was met with what appeared to be the entire staff at the hostess stand. I walked around. Curiously, people were smiling and chatter ensued among the waiters. But was that table empty on a Saturday? I was stumped. “Must be waiting on the next party, huh?” I cheerfully chuckled to the sea of people before me. “Yes, Ma’am. That’s because it’s for you.” I couldn’t help but sob as we were escorted onto the vessel. No one could understand why it meant so much to me. I leaned onto my husband’s arms. This really was my happy place.

It’s 2019, now. March. And we make the two-hour drive to stay with friends. These are the friends that visited me in the ICU. The same ones who prayed for me, rallied with me, and uplifted me. These were the ones who wanted to treat us to an afternoon making memories at Disney Springs. And on this cloudy afternoon, Paddlefish had just closed its dining deck. “I really wanted seafood and outdoor dining,” she mutters disappointedly. “I know a place!” I beam with excitement.

I see the faces I hoped I would see the last time around. Those diners were having such an enjoyable time. I glance at them fondly. “You know, we actually dined there…a month after the hospital, Sara!” I thank the hostess on behalf of the restaurant for what was an unforgettable experience as I tell her of my love for your establishment. They exchange glances and a nod. And we are led outside.

You can imagine my shock and amazement when we are seated on an actual boat, remarkably-crafted and sparing no details. I had no words. How could this happen to a girl like me? And on the year anniversary of having overcome a major trial in my life. Needless to say, it was special, but there was still one thing still missing…something you couldn’t have possibly provided for me. Something I received just last weekend.

My life is not like many others’, I imagine. I spent the first year of my life living on the floor of a church in Cuba. We came to this country with nothing but one manila folder and the clothes on our backs. My father toiled to gain his license to practice medicine again, and he did. The Lord showed us favor in so much. By high school, my father had grown to become successful in his profession and even purchased a boat to mark a great milestone. We spent many days on her. It was something the four of us enjoyed very much…my sister, our parents, and I.

If there is one thing I have been praying for having survived much…it has been restoration of my family. My only sister and I have had a strained relationship as a result of my parent’s separation. Even on what I was told would be my deathbed last August, I recorded a goodbye message to my family with my husband, our two children, and my sister in mind, among others. I prayed that if Yeshua spared my life, that I could grow close to my sister once more.

“Father’s Day weekend,” stumbles out of her mouth in nervous excitement. “I’m booking a stay for my fiancé and the baby to stay at a resort in Orlando and I would like it if you and Danny could come.” This was it. I knew that this was my moment to bond with her and to show her my love and desire to be close. I make the call. Her name is Heather, and she is the manager. She is eager to work with me to make this particular day one my sister will cherish forever. And despite other bookings, a tricky forecast, and a busy holiday weekend, she remained in close contact with me, assuring me that she would do her best to see it all through.

If you could see my sister’s face when she walked up to The Venezia, it was one of complete disbelief. It was the culmination of everything I had felt with each visit to your restaurant, all rolled into one moment. She held back her tears as she entered the water taxi, continuing to ask herself audibly if this was real. She told me that never had she had a server like Taylor, whose humor and personable demeanor was unparalleled. I even got to meet Heather who remarked that she remembered the lady who cried with such joy to dine in the front car.

If there is one thing I could tell you, it’s that I know that my life was saved for a purpose. Today, my purpose was in reaching out to you and sharing this story with you, in hopes that it would bless you. I imagine there have been some pretty important gatherings at TB, including big parties, birthdays, and engagements. You even have people who visit, well, just because they are thankful to be alive. And that sounds like a wonderful place to have made. Thank you, Mr. Schussler. God is using you in big ways, even if you never get to hear of them. Hopefully you get to hear of mine, of the people who have strived to bring your vision to life, and of a life that has been impacted by just one location.

With great respect and gratitude,

Janette Rizzo