The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the day “January 5, 2020”

The Merchant Marine

Originally posted 4/24/14

merchant marine poster

 Roah

I was 26 when my mother died. I felt at once bereft because there was nobody left in the world who really loved me. Yet at the same time, I felt liberated. I was no longer responsible for anyone’s needs or expectations. I was free to go anywhere, do anything without worrying that I would be a disappointment to the one person who counted on me.

I became a merchant mariner and got a job on a freighter that traveled between the Gulf of Oman and Marseilles.

Sometimes, I’d meet a woman in a port bar – either a prostitute or a lonely, desperate, over-the-hill drunk who just wanted to be held and made to feel desired for a few hours.

I never saw any of them again and that suited me fine. No bonds, no expectations, no one to answer to or disappoint. I was truly free.

It wasn’t until I retired at age 53, that I began to notice my loneliness. It wasn’t too easy for a grizzled old man like me to attract a decent woman. I had no idea how to be with a female more than a few hours at a time. I didn’t understand how their brains functioned; what made them tick. They confused and frightened me, these alien creatures. I kept my distance. And soon, I, too, became a pathetic, lonely old drunk whose entire social life was passed in the pub down the road from my tiny flat.

I’d watch the games on TV with the rest of the drunks. Some were married but came down to escape their wives and screaming kids for a few hours. There were a few widow and widowers, who missed the familiar companionship of their spouses and sought a cheap substitute in virtual strangers. There were quite a few divorced men. It was hard to know if they were divorced because they drank or if they drank because they were divorced.

The women tended to wear their desperation more openly, and I, for one, didn’t want to drown in their messy emotional vichyssoise. I preferred to pay a pro and have it be neat and uncomplicated. Better than having some drunken old broad clinging to me as she cried in her beer.

When I was 61, I started to lose my memory. At first, it was only small things, which I told myself was just normal forgetfulness for a man my age. Soon, however, it became obvious even to the others that something was seriously wrong, although I lived in denial for a long time. Of course, as my dementia progressed, it was nearly impossible for me to see for myself how bad it was. I was often confused.  Usually, after a night of drinking, one of the other men walked me home because I tended to get lost, even in the familiar streets I should have known so well.

One night, in the dead of winter, in the middle of the night, I went out for a walk in my underwear. I froze to death along the river in the spot where my mother had taken me on a picnic when I was seven years old.

—-

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

A New Year’s Resolution Suggestion?

There For Each Other…Again

First published June 14, 2016

 

Where: Somewhere along the beach in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. When: August 2012. What: Three young men enjoying the sunset together. Camera info: Contax G1, 28mm Biogon, Kodak Portra 400.

 

 Maj

I was born into a family who lived on the outside.  We were not part of the main culture.  We did not follow their customs or traditions. We did not celebrate their holidays.  What was perfectly normal for us was an oddity to our neighbors.  Our family tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.  We made a special effort to be friendly, polite, law-abiding.  My brother and I were encouraged, cajoled, pressured,  to do well in school.   We did not know too many others like us except for extended family,  and they did not live very close.

I was the only one like me in my class throughout my lower school years but late into secondary school,  I met a few other boys about my age. Had we met in a place where everyone was like us,  we probably wouldn’t have chosen each other.  Personality-wise,  we were nothing alike,  but by this shared odd circumstance,  being three of a kind in a sea of others, we became bonded.

These boys remained my dear friends all through my life,  even after we discovered larger communities of our people, and tapped into its business network.  Ever after we didn’t need each other anymore.  Despite our differences,  we remained close.

We forgave each other sins that would rend other relationships asunder.  We trusted each other with secrets nobody else in the world knew, not even our wives.  We were brothers.  It was understood that if something should happen to one of us, the others would take care of his family.   We were responsible for and to each other.  We shared a storied history.

We didn’t discuss or analyze the nature of our friendship.  We all understood it the same way.  There was nothing to discuss. We knew what had to be done.  We knew what had to be said.  And we knew when to do and say nothing.

I sometimes I forgot how much they meant to me.  Sometimes,  I took them for  granted.  Sometimes I needed time away from one or the other one  because he exasperated me so.   Sometimes,  there was anger, and it seemed as if the friendship might be over, but none of us felt quite whole without the others, and so somebody would apologize. They would make the effort to reconcile.  They would recognize their own fault in it. They would take responsibility for it.  And in this way,  we grew as men.

It was only after they were both gone that I truly understood how important they’d been to  my life.  I didn’t survive them by very long.  We were all old men when we died. But that short while of living without them was spent in the contemplation of their friendship, and its importance to all of us.   How blessed I felt to have known these simple men.

Now we are together again and always will be, in some form or another.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

 

photo credit: Simon Garnier    http://www.simongarnier.org/three-friends/

 

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