A Comment on “A Goodbye Long Ago”

One of the most special people in my life who remains one of my dearest friends sent me a comment on my post including my retirement speech. She and her husband are at the beach in autumn — i loved the beach or the coast in the autumn winds and frothing seas. i responded to her comment, and when finished decided what i had written to her captured my feelings about my time at sea. Here it is:

i wish i could spend an evening with you two discussing why i chose the sea, or rather how the sea chose me. There are not a hell of lot of things i believe in. The sea can do that to a fellow. But i believe in the sea. She told me to believe in her.

i wish i could go to sea again, not the graceful sea of the sails and gallantry or even the commercial success of bigger and bigger ships carrying bigger and bigger cargo. No, i wish i could go to the sea again in the clanking, wheezing steam and metal digging into her waves with men on the bridge and down in the holes to take my orders for all ahead full and fifteen degrees right rudder and steady on one four five degrees and ring up turns for twenty-two knots and walk to my port wing in the deep dark of the mid-watch with my cup of steaming black coffee in my hand and my cigarette dangling from my lips (yes, back then i didn’t know or didn’t believe it was a curse and i enjoyed them in the dark of the mid-watch with my coffee) and on the port wing looking abeam to check to see if i could determine the horizon in the black lit by millions of stars and a crescent moon, knowing there were no contacts because Combat Information Center had divulged through sound-powered phones their radar repeaters sweeping green across the black screens had shown no blips within their range, and sipping my coffee, drawing on my smoke, and looking, not up at the impressive array of light in the heavens but down, down deep into the dark, dark blue of the sea flecked with white foam of bow waves, and she would talk to me, tell me i was her own, and ask me if i knew her secrets below and of the storms and the doldrums. And in the cold of the wind abetted by twenty-two knots with the collar on my foul weather jacket up, i never knew but could feel her secrets and fall in love all over again with a warmth in my gut from her knowledge that was almost mine.

Enjoy the beach and feel the sea.

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