We have special places that we call our own. Some may have gone to that place to escape the harsh realities of life to find clarity. Either way, you look at it, it’s a place of sanctuary and nobody can take that away from you. Mine are both physical and mental places that I visit often.
When I was a kid, my “Pop” and I would make frequent trips to the marina, a boat basin have you. I would always scurry down with my flip flops and be amazed that I was walking on water (sort of). The pier was a place where we would park (moor) our little boat before heading out to sea for a couple of hours of fishing. A lot of smiles and laughter came from those floating pieces of wood, but I didn’t know how much they would play a part in my life.
Fast forward to when I was an innocent 18 years old at my first duty station in Alaska. I was a crew member aboard a 225′ ship that managed waterway discrepancies. The work was rough and I mean rough. After weeks out at sea and traveling the waterways, I couldn’t wait to get back to shore to just eat and sleep. The ship would maneuver its way snuggly to the pier. I felt alone as I watched the crew run to their loved ones but I would smile too because some day, I’d have someone wait for me.
Skip a few years to when I was an invincible 22 years old. Second assignment but this time law enforcement. If I wasn’t running around in full gear, you would find me sleeping or playing video games. I had to escape my reality, the work was worse than the ship! But, as always, I’d make my way to the pier where our boats sat ready for the next security patrol. There were two occasions that I thought I’d never see the pier again. I didn’t care anymore that I didn’t have anyone waiting for me this time, I was just happy to make it back (tired and beaten up but still happy).
The mid part of my twenties is when I thought I could finally say “Good Bye” to that pier. My son was born and I didn’t want to continue the legacy my family is known for and carry on in the military. He’s not old enough to understand just yet, that I left that life for him. I dedicated myself to others and I didn’t want to put my son second to anyone. I vowed I’d end my military bloodline to do something my Grandfather and Pop didn’t do, and that was raise a son. Eventually, it caught up to me.
When my PTSD kicked in, that pier would constantly reappear in my mind. Yes, I messed up in my life.(See past entries for some details.) Despite those I helped, the ones that died still haunted me. Even though I was nowhere close to it, the mental image was at a pier with them struggling to breathe or laying there lifeless…the same when it happened. It broke me and all I had to do was just walk off the edge. In a stroke of luck though, my dumbass trips over my own feet before making it to the end. I just laid there, on my mental pier, and tried to sort life out. Finally, I made things make sense and I feel at peace.
I still find myself walking those platforms, unsteady yet firm, to the edge… both physically and mentally. I hated it for not having anyone wait for me. I thanked it for always being there to greet me from a long day. I cried with it at the lives that were loss. I know that when it comes to “Casting off the lines”, one last time…that I’ll be saying goodbye forever.