Smooth Seas

The counseling service was a good idea. But Georgia had decided not to become involved; there was nothing wrong with our marriage that couldn’t get fixed by a baby and returning home to live in Maine. And that’s why I was at counseling by myself.
It was easy to blame my father-in-law. The Cap’n ruled his family like the ship’s master he had once been, and Georgia was his daughter. Not only did she follow Daddy’s orders explicitly. But it was clear that she had learned her argumentive techniques from the master. There was no final settlement to any argument; agendas were merely tabled for later discussion. Things like my returning to grad school, I thought long-settled were hashed over time and again over dinner.
One bit of advice I had picked up in counseling I finally put into use. It was one word – No. Just say no and allow no further discussion. This left my in-laws aghast, and effectively without a response.
I found this to be an effective, if a blunt, tool against my wife and her family.

Taking your coffee to the cove and watching the mist recede in the morning could set up your entire day for success. With the spruce trees hugging the shore, the Gut looked pristine, as if never touched by man. Working on the boat, sailing, and even boatyard work were vastly satisfying. But in those days, I was a man on a mission.

I was almost amused when I realized that I was coming to love the things surrounding the marriage more than the marriage. So leaving would be more than just sacrificing the marriage to Georgia. I felt guilty. But I went anyway.
There was a brief attempt at reconciliation that fall. Georgia came all the way down to Philly to talk with me. Things seemed to be moving along until she said, “Wouldn’t you be happier if you just came home?” Well, in a way, I admitted that I might – and I might in a year or two, but not now. Not as long as everything I thought or did was subject to dictation by the family council. Then the flood of recurrent arguments just poured forth a final time, and we both understood that it was over.
It was a fast no-fault divorce. We both moved on.

It was many years before I returned to that part of the Coast. Then, I was teaching nautical carving. One morning, I walked to the shop, grabbed a coffee, and sat on the shore, and watched the mist recede. Watching the boats swing on their moorings was relaxing.
I had been in my twenties when all that I related happened. My former wife and I were now married to spouses that better matched our personalities. But the years with the Cap’n and family had left influences that followed me through the decades. During that time, I had developed as an anthropologist, a sailor, and a nautical carver. In addition, my native affection for the Coast and the sea had developed under the Cap’ns tutelage.
But I had to admit to one darker aspect. I had become a difficult person to engage in an argument. I attacked viciously to perceived threats and avoided situations that might put me under another’s control, even in a minor way. I had early tuition in this from my father, another man who liked to have his way. The later experiences had only served to enhance my earlier experiences.

All this flooded in one morning, drinking coffee while watching the boats swing at their moorings. They swung at theirs, and I swung at mine. I was moored as tightly to the weight below the mooring as they were. If I was bound to another destination I needed to be able to free myself from that mooring.
That was about twenty years ago. I now work to understand what holds me to that mooring and how I might slip free of its control. And I remember an old quote that was a favorite of both the Cap’n and my father ” Smooth seas never a good sailor made.”

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