I always wanted to see the world. When I was young, there was something inside me that loved adventure. I read Rudyard Kipling’s books from cover to cover and marveled at the mysteries of faraway places. Surely there had to be more to the world than my dingy old home town. I say dingy because at the time, McKeesport was still a very busy mill town surrounded by other mill towns that spewed smoke and ashes into the night sky with a brilliant orange glow. When it snowed, you had to get out early to ride the sled since often times the snow would become tinted grey from the ashes.
Because of my DNA, I had bright blue eyes. Some even said they were piercing. I think that is because of the intensity that I had as a younger man. There were very few things that were done with half measures (except studying and playing most sports… both were not my purposes at the time or my interest).
So it was at 17 that I convinced Mom and Dad to let me join the Navy and go and find my own path. It was delayed by a few months but off I went. My Mom’s blue eyes were leaking quite a bit as I went up the ramp to the jet that took me to Boot Camp. In Chicago, I met a room full of other adventurers who ended up on busses to Boot Camp. The adventure part was dashed a bit by the confinement of the next few months but my need for new horizons was only just beginning to develop.
I keep a log book of my travels.
I taped a fortune cookie fortune in the front. It says “You will travel to many places”. From 1972 to present, I recorded nearly every city I have visited, all of the countries I have traveled through and mountains I have seen. The list is quite extensive and details the changes of the world as I have seen it. When I started, there was something called the Soviet Union. Along the way, it disintegrated and morphed into something else. In 1991, I wrote that “We’re running out of enemies (I Hope)”
Ten years later on September 11, 2001, I wrote “Spoke too soon. God Protect us”. I wonder what this September will bring?
When I look in the mirror now, the eyes aren’t quite as blue as they once were. Age and a number of infirmities have all played a part in dulling them. But oh, all the places I have seen along the way. And the people I have met.
The ones that made the biggest impact were my submarine brothers. I did not serve when the Navy included women on board boats so I can’t claim any sisters. But the brothers I had still remain a key part of my life. Like all brothers, we have our differences, but the shared experience of diving deep below the ocean’s surface bonds us together. Even though we may have served on different boats at different times, it is something that we share that most can never really understand. Our adventures took us to places that many can never grasp. It is why we suddenly become young men again when we are around each other. The years melt away and memories come flooding back.
I hope to be able to have another gathering of the Saints before my adventure comes to an end. But if that is not possible, I look forward to seeing you all once more on the other side. My doctor is very insistent that I get the vaccination today. We have been discussing it for months. After a lot of praying, I am going through with his request. I’ll let you know how it goes.