Josh and I have celebrated our fair share of homecomings during his time in the Navy. During the vast majority of them, no cameras were allowed so all those memories are stored in my wonky brain. (Scary!) Hopefully committing those memories here will preserve them forever.
I mentioned this yesterday, but let me just say it again … in my experience submarine homecomings aren’t anything like what you see in the movies. No hoopla, no snazzy dress uniforms, no pomp and circumstance. These days we don’t even meet the boat at the pier. Something about national security … blah blah blah … not important to this post …
But a million years ago, when we were stationed in sunny, sunny Georgia, we almost always had pier side homecomings. I didn’t appreciate it back then, but it was kind of awesome. Blue skies and sunshine steaming down! Excited wives and giggly kids nervously waiting as a that big black submarine pulled in! Anxiously searching for a glimpse of MY sailor striding across the pier! The whole experience is one I’ll never forget …
But the thing is … when a submarine pulls in, the crew doesn’t de-board like an airplane. There’s still work to be done so instead coming off in a steady stream, it’s more like a maddening trickle. It often takes hours.
But if you are patient (and what choice do you have really?), you will be rewarded with your sailor! YAY!
I do remember one time though that the maddening trickle ended without my sailor walking off the boat. I knew he wasn’t on duty, and I knew he should be coming home. But I also knew that as the hours passed, I was slowly becoming the last wife on the pier.
Other wives squealed and ran to their men.
Other sailors hugged their babies.
Other families held hands and walked to their cars.
The crowd dwindled until I stood alone.
You cannot imagine the crazy thoughts and fears that will race through your head when you’ve been waiting in the hot Georgia sun for three or four hours … waiting for someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in months … someone with an element of danger in the very nature of his workplace … someone who might have changed … someone who’s had time to think about life …
Did something happen to him? Is he okay? Did he change his mind about me? Doesn’t he WANT to see me? Doesn’t he want to come HOME with me tonight? WHY ISN’T HE COMING OFF THAT DAMN BOAT?!?
(It’s times like these than an overactive imagination is NOT your friend.)
I waited five and half hours that day. In the last hour, an ARC was set, and security “asked” me to exit the pier. I waited in my car. I wasn’t about to leave that parking lot without my man.
He finally did come off to meet me, and I have never been so happy to see my sailor. Fears gone. Insecurities banished. My sailor. My kisses. My hugs.
“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR HOURS!!!”
Turns out he was just working. He had a few things left to do, odds and ends to wrap up, and instead of leaving them for the next day or someone else, he wanted to get them done before he left the boat.
Damn it. It’s hard to be mad and proud at the same time.
The shiny side of homecoming is seeing your sailor. The anticipation, the excitement, and then the reward. The reality though is that that’s only half the story. On a submarine there is always work to be done, and someone has to do it. Some come off sooner; some come off later. Some don’t even come off that day at all.
But, if you are patient (and what choice do you have really?), your sailor will come off the boat. After months without seeing or talking or touching, he will be in your arms.
Don’t be angry at him for doing his job, and don’t be angry at the boat or the Navy for making you wait. Just be glad that your wait is over, and your sailor is in your arms once again.
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I really hate to end a happy memory on a sad note, but if you are interested in supporting military spouses whose wait doesn’t end so happily, this is a good place to start. “Gold Star Wives of America, Incorporated is an organization of widows and widowers whose spouses died while on active duty in the military services or as the result of a military service connected cause.”