merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

February 13, 2013

stranger danger

          February 14th, 2013 

This just in!  Guess I'll definitely have to hug him this time home...  

Merchant Mariner Wife--Stranger Danger 
Secret Mariner Admirer from the Pacific
This romantic gesture will probably make 
the following cringeworthy.  Sorry

     Yup, it's that time again!  Beady will be home within the week and I find myself prepping for the same rituals; shaving about three months worth of hair from my armpits and legs (Cookie Monster hair, but not blue), bathing the dogs and brushing their teeth, brushing my teeth, and stocking the fridge with food instead of baking soda and vodka.  I also put into effect my No-Fail 7-Day System for deep cleaning the house; a sweet spreadsheet, along with post-its and highlighted notes, dividing the rooms up so they'll be cleaned on certain days instead of trying to get it done all at once.  It's a great plan, worthy of a small business start-up, but I never finish it, I'm only mentally ambitious.  Yet for some strange reason this time, I'm feeling like I'll make it to day four...
        Admittedly, it's an odd time for me when he comes home.  I know, I know, you'd think I'd be elated because Beady's Law will let up on me for a little while.  You're right, I am, I'm definitely excited about that aspect of his return, as well as getting my best friend back, but it's always a little weird when he first arrives.
        I've seen so many movies over the years, read so many books about lovers separated for various reasons--wars, kidnappings, jobs, and most of the time, just plain bad communication.  When they come back together, whether running through a field or stepping off a train, they always fall into each others arms and start making out as if no time had passed.  Let me tell you, that's the last thing on my mind when I see Beady at the three month marker.  It just doesn't work out that way-I can't even give him a hug.  I know, bad wife.
Hudson      Photographer Jennifer Beadnell
        I generally pick him up at the bus station when he comes home and take one of the dogs with me to greet him...there's three reasons for bringing a pup.  One, the dog always greets Beady the way I can't bring myself to, with real, over-the-top, bursting excitement.  Second, I know the dog will sense if Beady isn't Beady when he gets into the Jeep, just in case he's been replaced by a body snatcher or something more sinister while out to sea. Dogs are incredibly perceptive, you know. And three, the dog sets up a physical barrier, ensuring no contact will take place until I'm good and ready.  Beady has gotten so used to it over the last 10 years, he usually gets in the car and says, "Your stranger's home!"  If he's feeling especially mischievous, he fakes a lunge at me just to see the look of terror on my face as I scramble to get out of the car.
The Chief Mate
     Home is much the same, some strange man drinking out of my wine glasses, using my bathroom, taking his shoes off and stretching out on my couch.  Canines turn traitor and jump all over him, then finally come to a rest on various parts of his body, smug in the bliss of their master's return...but that can't be, who is this man? He seems to know where the silverware is kept, how I fold the towels, the correct amount of milk to put in my coffee, but I just can't adjust.  Logically, I know he's my husband, but that doesn't settle me down when we eventually share the bed, my bed, and I lay awake, eyes wide open wondering who is this stranger beside me sleeping and why is he breathing so loudly?
    Beady and I were dating for about two months when he first went back to sea.  At that point, I was head over heels and really quite devastated that he was leaving.  However, I put on my Big Girl Panties, as they would say, and carried on as usual for the next four months, after all I knew he was coming back and we would pick right up where we left off.  We wrote regularly to each other, some really lovely sentiments, and the time finally came for his arrival; I was like a kid at the circus, minus the clowns please.  I couldn't wait to pick him up, there was so much to do, so much to say to each other, and our first Christmas together was right around the corner.  I didn't sleep the night before, was up at 4am, even though he wasn't arriving until 1pm, and went rigorously through my toilette as if I were meeting Ben Affleck for our date...
at the Oscars...
where we would be married...
Jolie would be my maid of honor...
she would look hideous.
     I must have prepared for 3 hours, anxious, giddy, excited just doesn't cover the range of emotions I went through that morning, but eventually I managed to get in the car, and nervously headed over to pick him up.
       It was a disaster, to say the least, as I instantly panicked upon seeing him for the first time.  He got into the car, all smiles, I clammed up and drove dangerously fast back to his place so I could get him out of the car and drive off.  For the entirety of the ride I could only think, 'Who the hell is this guy?  This can't be the same person who left four months ago.  What was I thinking?'  No...he hadn't changed a bit; he wasn't taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, or balder, however he did smell like he'd been dipped in a barrel full of oil.  (A common occurrence for mariners after a long trip, "easily" remedied with a Silkwood shower.)  Despite his relative simularity in manner and appearance as when he left for work, by the time I brought the car to a stop, 'YOU'VE MADE A CRITICAL ERROR!' was screaming through my brain.  I looked helplessly at him, he smiled again, but sheepishly this time, and I sensed I was putting off that 'wide-eyed feral cat trapped in a corner by beastly, pint-sized, English schoolboys brandishing firecrackers' vibe.  However, I snapped on Auto-Pilot, who, by the way, is so much better at the whole decent human being thing than I am, and followed Beady into the house instead of fleeing the scene.  Auto-Pilot felt it was the right thing to do
      Inside the house the saga continued, me feeling extremely agitated with this "stranger" and Beady picking up on my discomfort.  A microscopic part of me felt bad for him, maybe that was Auto-Pilot, but this monstrous, deafening voice inside of my head was trying to figure out how to get my things, break up with him in a nice way, and hightail it out of there, all the while making polite conversation with him.  
      Well, as you may have guessed, I didn't leave.  He eventually hit me over the head with a shovel, medicated me, and I've been with him ever since, but such is love...  
      Actually, later on that very day, I suddenly realized, remembered to be more accurate, how very much in love I had been before he left and spent the next two weeks reminding myself of that fact and trusting my judgement from months back.  Ever patient, Beady never abandoned me, gave me time to adjust, and that's just one of the many reasons why I love him so much.   
       He continues to be patient with me when he returns, and after ten years, I've finally managed to whittle it down to about three days for really "recognizing" him and reconciling the man in front of me with the man I am in love with.  There's definitely a piece of me, miniscule but loud, that ALWAYS sees this as an epic failure in the wife department, but there's a steadier, more rational voice who wins out in the end by seeing this adjustment as an okay place to be given the circumstances of an unconventional lifestyle.  As my wise and all-knowing mother has frequently noted, "'s not something you can simply switch on when he returns, nor is it something you can turn off when he leaves...ease up on yourself, would you?" Yes, mother
         So the giddiness begins, and the drive to the bus stop will be endured once again.  But this time?  In the spirit of growth, I'm going to try something a little different; I'll be leaving the dogs behind and I plan on getting out of the car when I see him.  I'm also going to try really hard not to run down the street screaming, but instead, give him a big welcome home hug in that parking lot for the very first time everI promise to let you know how it goes.  
Feral Cat vs Auto Pilot 
(insert John Williams compostion here)

March 14th, 2013

Way overdue, I know...but I did it.  I left the dogs at home, got out of the Jeep, and hugged my mariner.  I had to catch him first though as he couldn't understand what I was doing!  

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  1. I think how you feel is totally normal. It's a huge change to go back and forth between being together and having such long periods of time apart.

    1. Thank you, Shell! It's funny, but after reading your comment I kind of blew out a big breath. It's such a relief to hear someone who doesn't know me say that the way I deal with it seems totally normal. I really appreciate that, it makes me feel much less of a monster, not too bad of a wife! Thank you...

  2. I just found your blog today and I love it!!! I gotta tell you, after 12 years of marriage to this lifestyle I STILL feel this "stranger" thing too. I have always felt this way and I'm guessing I always will. It's nice to know someone else "gets it"..thank you. It takes me a week or two to fall back into the "he's home" routine but eventually the urge to smack his hand when he starts rummaging through the kitchen drawers or doesn't put things back the way they were subsides.He's an awesome man,father and Chief so keeping that in mind helps me reel myself back in from the brink of insanity when he's arriving or departing.

    1. Sonja, you made my night! Thank you so much for admitting that, too! I struggle with being a "bad" wife sometimes, and this is one of the events that makes me feel that way, so to hear someone else has the same reaction I do is wonderful. Thank you soooooooo much and thanks for reading!

  3. I promise I will stop all my comments soon. But my fiance/2nd engineer just left this morning and I just discovered your blog so I am pouring through it. This entry definitely hits home, I know how you feel with your husbands homecomings. The airport is an hour and a half from us, and my fiance always asks why I don't talk on the lengthy drive home. SO glad to know that other people are feeling it too.

    1. Shana...1. Don't you dare stop commenting! I love it! 2. Eventually, it'll get easier and you might utter whole paragraphs in the car ride home. 3. It's perfectly normal to react that way, you can't just turn your feelings back on when he gets off the plane, right? ;)