Friday, June 27, 2008

BMTTS.....shore life

One of the things I learned very fast, was not to weep, wail or gnash my teeth when Geoff went back to sea. I think I was right, or perhaps, maybe I was wrong. Whatever. It worked for me. I would tell the children Daddy had to go to work, and now why don't we go and paint some pictures etc etc etc. If I had given into the wailing bit, we would have spent the greater part of our lives weeping and being mournful. And it would not have made the slightest bit of difference. Daddy went to sea. We stayed home.

Initially, Geoff used to bring home presents for the children when he came home, but I soon noticed that the babes would charge past their Dad and reach for the gifts, so we stopped that one. I wanted them to be happy to see their Dad, not the presents. He still bought things, but we kept them for later or for birthdays. We made banners and posters for when he arrived home, and it was an eagerly anticipated event.

At various times, we had maps with markers of where the ship was and counted days, but largely, we just got on with our ordinary everyday lives. The house was always filled with children and Mums, and we certainly did not lead a lonely life. I don't think I have ever been bored in my life, and I have always been creative, read voraciously, and played sport. I think the kids learnt by that example, in retrospect. They are similar, in their own unique ways. And all of them are very stoical people too.

When there were father's days at pre-primary, we found someone to go in Geoff's place. Father's day gifts were stored for his homecoming, as were birthday and Christmas presents. One year we made him an advent calendar of little notes, gifts etc and put it in a shoe box for him to open each day. As I have mentioned before, he recorded (on an old tape recorder!) stories for them to listen to at night now and then.

As a family, we were included in everything our friends did, and as a woman, my friends made sure I was invited to dinner parties etc too. And if there was an evening function at school, they would park at my home, which was near the school, and we would all walk round together. I was incredibly blessed.

Our normal life was when Geoff was away. The abnormal part came when he arrived home. We had an agreement that he would watch/observe for the first few days and slot in with the routine, rather than throw the whole thing out and disrupt everything. It took a lot of adjusting, believe me. There were all the extra-mural timetables to learn too.

I was so used to being responsible for everything from opening all the post and dealing with it all, to paying bills, the budget, cars, shopping, discipline, childcare etc. It was difficult to include him, or to hand things over. So working as a team was very challenging. This will be difficult for anyone who has not been in similar circumstances to understand. We would just get things running smoothly and he would be off again! Things like problems could not be shared. They had to be dealt with alone. So if there was an issue at school, I could not wait for him to come home to sort it out. It had to be taken care of.

We still travelled when we could, and did some deep sea trips as a family if they coincided with school holidays, and also plenty of coastal trips. The children were as at home on the ships as they were ashore. And none of them ever got seasick, thank heavens.

When I was expecting David, as Christmas neared, a giant tug, towing some tankers to the breakers yards in the Far East ran into a bad storm off the Cape, and the tankers were adrift near the coast. The scrap metal worth even then was astounding, and understandably, no-one wanted hulking metal wrecks to be decorating the stunning beaches, so a salvage attempt was made. Geoff was on leave at the time, and the company asked him to go out to the sinking tanker, with other engineers, and try to stop it from sinking. (I told you he was good at his job. Very good.)Hmmmm. Just what a woman needs to hear when she is 6 months pregnant.

He, of course, said YES!

Nothing like a challenge, not to mention the extra danger money. Danger money???? As I said, just what a wife needs to hear. So he and his colleagues were dropped on to the tanker by helicopter. And there he stayed for a few weeks. Including Christmas day. We, on the other hand, could get in the car and go to the beach and say...oooh look! See that ship leaning a bit over there??? Daddy is on that. Well......not quite. "Daddy is working on that ship out there" was about as close as it got. We did not mention the leaning bit. And no mobile phones, remember!

On Christmas day, however, he and his friends launched the gemini craft (inflatable powerboat thingy) and came ashore onto the beach for an hour or 2. There we all were...the 3 wives and assorted children, waiting on the beach. The kids could show him what Father Christmas had brought them, and he could open his presents too. Though he chose not to take them back with him. In case the ship sank.

Happily, it did not.

Mind you, he had done a survival at sea training week. They dump you in the ocean and you have to swim about a bit and then get hoisted into helicopters. This is the man, who before he married me, had been at sea for 15 years, and could not swim. His view, along with many other sailors was that if the ship sank, he would rather go down immediately. The options of swimming for days and getting nowhere or being eaten did not appeal.

However, with swimming pools in our gardens, he had to learn. And he did indeed. The sinking tanker was near the shore, maybe a mile or 2 out, so he would have known which direction to head.

And he was home for David's birth.


Jo said...

I can identify with the single/not parenting. My first husband was in the military and life was pretty much like yours, just not quite as many periods in those years for me that I was alone raising my family as I might as well have been.

It wasn't easy for me, and I am sure it wasn't easy for you either. It helps a person learn how to be independent though. I know quite a few women who's husbands have always been by their side and when they find themselves suddenly alone they are lost because the husband always handled everything.

Pam said...

I am loving these posts, Linds.

All you are describing is exactly what I observed the wives around me doing when we lived in a Navy town here in the States for several years. The mamas that walked around moping about their husbands being gone just didn't survive and became part of the statistics of broken marriages in many cases.

Those who handled their husbands being going the way you did transitioned smoothly and their healthy families were a fantastic testimony to a well-adjusted and capable mama, as I am sure was yours. Kudos to you, dear Linds.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

This is all very interesting. It strikes me how well you achieved a balance in your unusual life together...his just hanging in for a few days observing before putting in his oar, etc. It also strikes me how easy it might be for you to think of him as being perpetually "at sea" now. Thank you for sharing your story, Linds. You share it so very well.

Becky said...

I have so much enjoyed reading these last two posts. What a fascinating story you have!!

Britt-Arnhild said...

Hi Linds.
I have just read your last few posts.
Your writing is very good, and once I started I couldn't stop reading. Have you considered writing a book about your life?

I hope your knee heals fast!

Susie said...

Hi Linds,
How's the knee doing? I'm enjoying reading your stories. Your certainly had to become very self sufficient from day one of your marriage.
Sounds like your husband had no fear of dangerous situations..

Judith said...

Linds, I just tried leaving a comment, but I either messed it up, or cyberspace ate it.

Do you realize when you finish "Being Married to The Sea", you may have a finished book to submit to a publisher.

I am following it carefully, and I see your heart all over it.

Hope that knee is better.

Mary said...

I was about to say exactly what Judith said, honestly!

I think you and Geoff showed a lot of marriage maturity and respect to your family by giving Geoff a few days observation time when home. I'll be honest, I would have found it really hard to let go and not be a territorial monster (not something I would have been proud of).

Needled Mom said...

You write so beautifully, Linds. I am enjoying catching up a bit on your writings.

Geoff sounds as though he was a most wonderful man. I know you must miss his companionship tremendously.

I can understand the dynamics of role reversal as my father was gone much of the time on business. It took such adjustments when he came home to get the family in sync once again. I can understand it even more as an adult.

Hope you are feeling somewhat better and healing quickly.

Angie said...

Oh Linds, I have not stopped by in awhile and I am so sorry to hear about your knee! I hope it is healing nicely. But if spending days on the couch means getting to read your stories then I hope you don't have to get up any time soon. I am loving them. You are such a gifted writer.

Even though my husband hasn't travelled a lot I totally understand about how hard it is for him to fit back in. It sounds like you found a very healthy way to be a family and your children have had such rich experiences.

Keep writing!

Dawn said...

I am really loving this series - I hope it goes on for awhile. And am so glad that you have time to write it as you are on the couch - much better than daytime t.v.! But then I know you've been watching tennis!

I had a wonderful last day at work, and the family party in the evening was delightful. I'll sahre a bit tomorrow. Thanks for your thoughts. I could believe it when Diane V and Judith both called me at work. What a pleasant surprise.

Have a wonderful week-end!