Today I returned from a weekend at Samsing Cove to drop off my sister-in-law, Jen, and my good friends Laura and Jason. We pulled in to Crescent Harbor here in Sitka, Alaska, and offloaded their stuff. It wasn’t a ton of stuff, but there was time taken to coordinate the Bridgett drop off – that pooch is a senior citizen now, and it was necessary to make nearly all the trips before I let her on the pier. So I sat there on the boat.
And then my dad called.
My dad calling is almost never good news. That seems sad, but it doesn’t have to be. I love talking to my dad, but lately, due to the busyness of life and the ease of text messaging, calls are usually reserved for “oh no!” situations. It’s neither unfortunate or a blessing, it is just life how it is.
Today he called to let me know that my mom would not be making the trip up tomorrow for my retirement from the United States Coast Guard. I’m taking this as should be expected from a 20 year vet of the armed services – I can hardly breathe from the overwhelming emotion, and I want to curl up in the corner and just cancel the whole thing.
But I’m not going to, because that’s not what she’d do. (Plus, there’s this cool thing called Periscope where you can just live broadcast your life for the universe. She can still “be there” even though she’s not there.)
Let me tell you why my retirement is her fault. This is in no particular order, nor is it meant to read like she’s dead. She’s totally alive and a complete badass; the past tense is just a convenience for me:
Determination. My mom never let things sink her. She would take a December job at Toys R’ Us before giving her kids a weak Christmas lineup. She became a nurse by taking the long way around, fighting through four kids and work, work, work. Sometimes goals were missed, but it was never through lack of effort.
I sometimes felt my career collapsing around me, and all I could think about was just keeping the walls up a little longer until help arrived. And it always, eventually did. Or sometimes I just maintained the standard until I transferred. But people were fed, and no one got sick, and we made it home. I never quit.
Oh crap. I quit once. That was when I was temporary on the Naushon and we were just running from one hunting/fishing spot to the other and we lost steering in 12’ seas. I quit then, after all of lunch slid off the griddle onto the deck and I puked in the trash can. But mostly, I never quit.
Empathy. This is my greatest strength and my soul-crushing weakness. I don’t know if my mom has the same feelz as I do, but I have all of them. I blame her because I know that she would suck up everyone else’s pain if she had the tolerance, just to lighten their load. It doesn’t really work that way, but god damnit if I don’t try. This is such a great tool if you want to be someone’s forever friend. It makes me a great listener, and has well suited me for what I do best: take care of crewmembers or bartend (or both). I stumbled into my job as a Food Service Specialist/Culinary Specialist, but there could be no other fit.
Acceptance. I don’t even know where to begin with this. We are all crippled in this department. We have so much that we bring to the table. I used to think that the only acceptable vegetable to put in sheppard’s pie was yellow corn. It turns out that I prefer green peas. Also, fresh green beans are FREAKING AMAZING in there. But F you if you tried to tell me that before I tasted it. AND I HATE CORN.
Just give it a shot though. And maybe try it with people. Give them a shot. A lot of them – errrrr ALL of them – are going to disappoint you. Most of them are going to deliver your favorite moments as a human being. The beauty, the belly laughs, the tears, the depths of feeling, the tremendous sorrow on departure – all of the things come from them. And if you don’t let them in, you will miss all of it.
I’m friends with some weird mofos you guys. I love them and all their awkwardness. I can’t imagine a world where I didn’t give them the time of day. My mom is crippled just like me. But she works through it; she learns and adjusts and accepts and I love her for it.
Service. Take anything off of anyone’s plate, ever. Do it. They feel good. I feel good. #Mom.
I don’t know where else to go with this tonight. I can’t see through my tears anymore. (see #2) Mom, I wish you were up here. Mom, I know exactly why you’re not, and OF COURSE I wouldn’t be if I were in your shoes. Everyone I hold dear shares the immense qualities you bring to the table, in one way or another. I never would have made it here without you. I love you. 😀 see you soon!