The Bow Ramp

Sunday, May 08, 2005

My Worst Nightmare

This is a sort of backhanded Mother's Day post. Not about my own mother--she is a wonderful lady and I will be calling her later in the day. This is about my wife. She's down at the shop now: won't be back for another hour or two. So I was doing the dishes and something came to mind that I haven't thought about in years.

Back in the late '70s I was stationed aboard a fleet tug. This was a small, mostly defenseless ship, with a crew of about 70. When we deployed overseas, we would usually spend a great deal of time cruising around in the back-end of nowhere. That’s where I would have my nightmare. Not while I was asleep, mind you. No, my nightmare occurred while I was awake and could fully appreciate the horror of it. Remember, I was a child of the Cold War. I would practice "duck and cover" in elementary school. I was 16 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For as long as I could remember, the possibility of an all-out nuclear war hung over everyone's head like the Sword of Damocles. That was one reason I joined the service. I wanted to place myself between my loved ones and such a fate. My nightmare was that my ship was so far into the boondocks, and so insignificant as a target, that if there were a war, I might survive, but my wife and daughter back in San Diego were at ground zero. This, of course, was on top of the usual feeling of helplessness that happened every time I went to sea. When you are five thousand miles away, there is not much you can do to protect your loved ones from fires, flooding and other accidents. No, this was an especially troubling scenario because I was in no position to do what I had dedicated my life to doing. It was certainly an irrational fear. Consciously, I knew it for what it was, but that irrational fear would hitchhike in the back of my mind for days. This was something that I never communicated to my wife. Oh, she knew about the normal worries I had about their welfare, but this one I kept to myself. I would not have felt that way if I hadn't been so absolutely and irrevocably in love with that wonderful lady and our perfect little daughter. She put up with so much during my years in the Navy (and with me) that if I were granted a whole additional lifetime with her, I couldn't possibly make it up to her.