Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Bittersweet View

Shortly after I started putting up a blog detailing, via letters to my parents, my adventures in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1956, I heard from Con Filardi, a former shipmate aboard the USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14), who I’d not known at the time. He’d stumbled across my blog, and we’ve since established a friendship we never could have had aboard the Ti because he was an officer and I a common seaman, a latter-day Icarus fallen from the skies of the Naval Aviation Cadet program.

While I have some great movies of some of my adventures, I didn’t have a still camera and therefore don’t have all that many still photos of my days aboard the Ti, which were, on reflection, among the most memorable of my life. Con, however, took a great many still shots, which he has been kind enough to share with me. He recently found many more in storage, and sent some to me, including the two accompanying this entry (the first photos I’ve ever attached to Dorien Grey and Me) [I have been unable to find these photos.     —Gary]. I am deeply indebted to him. The instant I saw these two photos, I experienced an amazingly powerful bittersweet mixture of joy, anguish, loss, and longing impossible to put into words indescribable. It was as though some invisible hand had reached through my chest and grabbed my heart.

To know that the instant those photos were taken, I was there, somewhere on that ship—probably in the commissary office with Nick and Coutre and Chief Sewell—going about my business, utterly unaware that photos were being taken that I would be looking at 53 years later made me so acutely aware of wanting to be there, physically, again, a 22 year old kid. Foolish as it may be to hear, or even to say, I miss it so much it hurts.

Primitive tribes believe that a photograph captures the soul of a person being photographed, and that second of time in which it is taken, and holds it forever. The Ti is long and sadly gone, but at the instant shown here, she is alive and vibrant, and I am one of the 3,000 men living within her.

There is much to be said for being a hopeless, irredeemable romantic. But it comes with a high price, and I pay it every time I allow myself to dare to yearn for something or someone from my past. And even now, when I am having a wonderful time I am acutely aware that it will not/cannot last forever, and that it soon will be the past, and that, even before it is gone, I will miss it.

Nostalgia requires distance. The Ti and my Navy days were not nearly so important to me at the time I was experiencing them. While I was actually in the service I hated it and couldn’t wait to get out. The last several months I would wake up every morning and, as soon as my feet hit the deck, say, “I hate the Navy!” I was very young and it never occurred to me that time would change my perspectives. The young, especially, have difficulty in being able to see the forest for the trees. They’re too busy absorbing experiences and are too close to them to be able to get a perspective on them. I know I could not fully appreciate, at the time, just how lucky I was to have been able to see worlds I’d only dreamed and read of. Not that I wasn’t thrilled by the adventure at the time, of course…a kid from Rockford, Illinois finding himself in Paris, Rome, Naples, Cannes, Beirut, Istanbul. But each day required my full attention. It takes time to blend them together and provide an overview. It is only as we climb the hill of time that we are able to look back over where we’ve been and be awed by the view.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com:

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