Sunday, September 5, 2010

At home and Abroad (Part one)

I'm gonna do something iffy, open up a little more than usual, and maybe foment discussion. I really would like to learn about how mariners deal with the home and sea life, finding their balance.

If you're a traveler or a mariner, pretty prease, leave an email at my personal address here, an anecdote in the comments, whatever, and talk about how you try to balance your home life and your personal life. I'm sort of struggling with mine, sitting here on the cusp of doing the Big Things that a marriage needs- building a home, forming long-term plans, and learning how to disagree. So, if you've ever enjoyed reading the stream of BS and occasional truth that comes out of my mind, please drop me an email as you read the next few entries.

Part one.

So, I'm running consistently into the same stumbling block here at home: Specifically I'm not having the fun I need to balance my weeks at work with the more meaningful pleasures to be found at home. The art and science of being a good mariner and a good husband are at war, and it's not a war of attrition or any sort of slugfest- I think I'm simply doing a bad job of keeping everything in balance.
I've been trying to make long-term plans with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife for our future, and we're hitting disagreements on almost every level, which is frustrating for both of us; one of my greatest fears is that I'll start to look to work as a rest period from the more challenging aspects of my life, namely my home life, and this most recent time off has been stress-filled to the point where, yes, the stress of work is easier to handle by comparison. I guess that I feel that in acknowledging this and making plans to shake things up, it's a reasonable start to putting the fun back in my fundament.

The first time my wife ever met my folks, back when we were dating and her English left her unable to yell at me meaningfully (sigh... those were the days), I was ambivalent about the situation. I was by no means sure that I was going to stay involved with her, beautiful as she was, but sort of pro forma, I spoke to my mom about putting in the good word about how it was fun and easy to date a merchant mariner who worked 4 months away from home at a time. After all, I was following in my dad's footsteps, and the 12+ month voyages he used to do were a hell of a lot longer than my 120-day voyages... besides which, I only made one full trip a year, my lobstering schedule being more important to me at the time.
So, when I put in the word, I says "Ma," I says, "Put in a good word for me about the sailing. This one seems nice."

My mother, you have to understand, has nothing but fierce allegiance to her family. She, of anyone, would put in a good word for her youngest boy, the one who had trouble meeting nice women.
Well, my then-girlfriend and my mom hit it off. My mother, being somewhat deaf, but too vain to wear a hearing aid, likes when people speak slow and carefully, and my wife, being unfamiliar with English, spoke slowly and carefully. My ma did the same.
So, with a behind the girlfriend's back, bulging eyes-and-waving gesture, I remind my mom to put in a good word. As if on cue, my wife-to-be asks my mother "end iss okay liffi'ng with hees chob and da' lon' timey away?"
My mom, ever the bastion of family loyalty, picks this moment to drop a bombshell that no one, especially my dad and me, expected out of her. "Oh, no, dear, it's a terrible burden, waiting and making a life and a home, and then he comes home and screws it all up for months."
As tactfully as possible, I say to my dad "Jesus Christ." Imagine, torpedoed by your mom.
Luckily, my mom's outburst being unexpected by everyone, including her, I guess, she blurted the words out fast and hurried... and my wife is nodding and smiling, saying yes. Dodged a bullet there. She didn't understand, but was too embarassed to ask my mom to slow down.
...and then, seeing my mom's look of query, she does what she has never done before or since... she asks someone to repeat themselves.
After, I'm thinking "Shit, she was hot, too."
What happens truly amazes me. My girlfriend and my mom are laughing, hard, apparently at the 'oh shit' face I'm making. Being mature and poised, I let out a whiny "Maaaaaa!...." My mom briefly puts an arm around my girlfriend and gives her a squeeze before turning to my dad and letting her go.
I guess I noticed this, but it didn't register at the time. Other girlfriends had approached meeting my parents as running a gauntlet, and maybe my folks did the same. This was easy. Not fun, per se, but funny.

So, that was how my wife met my parents. My dad is getting really sick now. The guy who wasn't expected to live to see 1990 is finally running down, a victim of simple anno domani. My mom is keeping everyone together, and doing what she does, watching over my dad, and us. The place my parents met my wife-t0-be was a beautiful if smallish Italian cucina, a marble-and-tiled homey kitchen, perhaps the last beautiful vision brought to fruition by one of my brothers, since, unhappily, laid low by a broken back and unable to take a person's vision and transform it into their home. While I thrive, much of my family struggles, now, and that's a story with no happy endings, but many happy moments, and one that weighs in on my conscience, if not on my plate. While familyhood continues, and I struggle under a deadline to be a good dad with the time I have, and a good managerial employee, and a good person, we live our lives.

TO be continued.


Anonymous said...

your family sounds pretty cool.
i think the more time your wife spends with your parents the better she'll understand you and the choices you make.

also your comment about hearing the halloween music while watching the christian vid had me cracking up.
that dudes puppets are way scarier than michael myers.

my best to your dad, dude.

Kansas Scout said...

You would have to expect a number of challenges which you have identified. You don't really address the cultural challenge which is considerable and possibly at the root of your disagreements on your plans.
I once had a brief thing with a woman from Guatemala who was very pretty, nuts, and half Italian. Once we actually started to get to know each other it fell apart fast.
In your case, I suggest you must be ready for significant compromise.
Frankly, I don't know how you can stay gone for so long. I understand the reason's for having this career but you will pay a price. Someone's gonna try to steal it and you know it.

Paul, Dammit! said...

KC, the Mrs. and I do that all the time as a gut check, and to avoid conflict. Sometimes it works. I occasionally lecture at conferences for one group to help researchers recognize and work around cultural bias in comparative sociological studies. Recognizing issues as they pop up isn't too hard... creating work-arounds, however, is challenging.
As to the job, it's not something that can be easily justified. Some people can find happiness in their personal lives sufficient to face a job where they receive no satisfaction. Myself, I am the man my wife loves because of the impact of the feedback from the job on my identity as a person. Makes me selfish, I guess, but a man born to drown will never hang. This is what I'm on earth to do.

Kansas Scout said...

I understand. I have had to travel some and hated it. Personally, your career is interesting. That's why I read your blog.
Your clearly a good man and your wife is lucky to have you.
I had a friend who had to work in denver for a year and made it home once a month. When he got back they nearly split up cause she was used to doing it her way all the time. They made it tho.
Good Luck. You have a good head on your shoulders and I am betting on your success.