The Family

The Family

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pier Dates

As my husband and I sat in the car on the pier having lunch one day this week, he made the comment that my next blog should be about pier dates. For those of you who have never been associated with the Navy you are thinking what in the world is a pier date?  Those associated with the Navy are saying, "I know exactly what she is talking about!"

After I left him on the pier to board that submarine and take her out of the harbor, I began to think of the role the pier has played in my life.  For twenty five years I have had a love hate relationship with the pier, for you see the pier symbolizes either homecoming or departure, and back in the day duty days.  The pier is either taking your husband away or returning him to you, in the case of duty days lending him to you for a moment,

Homecomings have the piers decked out in bands, decorations, festivities, news crews, and smiling families all waiting to welcome the vessel and crew back home.  Departures bring tears and the complete void of any festivities or hoopla. However, both bring a sense of anticipation.  Departures for the submarine and her crew bring about the anticipation of finally getting to get out to sea and do what they do, for the families (or at least myself) it brings about the anticipation of the good bye being over so that I can look forward to the homecoming. Homecoming brings the obvious anticipation of returning home. 

I have also spent countless hours waiting on the pier, because the reality of homecoming on a sub is that no one is going home right away.  There are things we don't talk about that need to be taken care of, trash that needs to be offloaded, mail that needs to be taken off the boat and more that needs to be brought on, telephone lines that need to be connected, the mooring lines that need to be secured, and power that needs to be connected.  This means that the families have several choices.  In Hawaii when the kids were younger I would let them stay on the pier for a short time after the boat returned and then I would take then back to the car, give them a snack and pop a movie in while we waited.  In Guam the kids rarely go to the pier with me so I either stick around and chit chat or go home, because the house is literally three minutes away.

And then there are the actual dates you have on the pier.  My husband has not stood duty on a submarine in probably 6 years, but back in the day when he did I would pack all the kids in the car and take dad dinner on the pier.  Back then there wasn't a lot of conversation going on other than, "Joshua get away from the edge, Zachary don't climb on that, Brittany leave your sister alone, Becca don't touch that."  Now however, when they are preparing to leave on mission I leave work, go buy us lunch, and drive down the pier to have lunch with my husband.  Sometimes it’s raining, sometimes it’s hotter than hades, but we still in the car on the pier and have our last meal together before he leaves.  We talk about our plans for the underway, the things that matter to us, and make peace with the departure.  

My husband constantly reminds me that the civilian world really has no concept of the life we lead, and he's not talking about the sacrifices we make but the difference that something like a pier makes in our life, when in theirs in plays no part and probably never crosses their minds.  In contrast the pier plays a major role in our lives, the huge chunk of cement is the center of our world.  My time with the pier is coming to an end and as we approach then end of our last sea tour I am having a hard time picturing my life without it.  While we look forward to our retirement from the Navy, we also realize that we will be leaving behind a lifestyle that very few have experienced and will understand.