Saturday, February 5, 2011


As Doctor Steven Maturin said to Captain Jack Aubry more than once in the Master and Commander books (20 something novels covering 20-something years, and well worth the reading, I might add), We must all acquiesce to the demands of Anno Domani.

On waking up this morning, subject to the rare treat of the prospect of a watch that is free from bunker duties, I stumbled around the bunkroom a few minutes getting dressed, and shaking off the weird dreams that plagued me all night- I blame the cheese I ate before bed, btb.
One of my dreams, however, bubbled to the surface of my mind's eye, backburnering the others in the process- a crystal clear recollection of a childhood moment that I hadn't thought of in perhaps 25 years.
My father and I were down at the beach on our street, watching one of the locally built LNG tankers leave the shipyard for sea trials. In particular, I was looking at the odd bubble-shaped tanks bulging out of the deck- my father, who spent his career in the engine rooms of ships, was more interested in the high number of ship-assist tugs that were escorting the big ship through the miserable twists and turns that make up the channel of Quincy bay.

My dad had a deep, strong voice when I was a kid- as age and disease weakened him over the next 30 years, his voice receded along with his height and mass. I hadn't thought of the way he used to sound when I was a kid- when I think of him now, it's of a gray senior citizen with a raspy quiet voice and a mellow mood- not the booming voice of a fit man with the ability to be heard across an engine room. At this point in time, my dad's career had already ended- he had been forced into retirement when chronic back pain brought about by scoliosis couldn't be managed through any means- being unable to walk more than a few steps in a day killed his shoreside post-shipping career.
My father simply said to me at that moment that if he had to do it all over again, he would have focused on becoming the engineer on a tugboat, rather than working his way through the engine room of ships. I wasn't much interested in that- the idea of the scale and scope of the independent and lonely life of a ship was too interesting to me to be bothered with the obsequious tugboats around our area.
Now, fast forward 30 years, to this morning, and my epiphany (occurring whilst putting schmear on a bagel, of all the times) before breakfast.

I can see where my transition from shipping into tugs and barges was so pleasing to my dad now. I spent 36 years living adventures at sea through his eyes. Robbed of health and the ability to scratch the itchy feet that we both shared, I never realized that my dad was living through my stories at the end. Maybe they weren't so dramatic, and not so hilarious, but they were sea stories, and before the end of his life, I made the jump that he wasn't able to. It didn't occur to me until this morning that we had switched roles. I hope that I was able to do a fair job in telling mine.


Anonymous said...

"I hope that I was able to do a fair job in telling mine."

Better than a fair job Hawsepiper.
And like you and your Dad, I appreciate the detail of the details of engineering and pipes and pumps and tanks. Mixing in encounters with the crews of ships and your activities all make for good story telling.

bigsoxfan said...

Mighty glad I had acess to the exercises that arrested my scolisis. Thanks to your dad for passing his lessons along and to your ability to do same.