between the wind and the water
I’m going to write about a ship and the sea and the point of no return.
I’ve been holding that image - a ship at sea - in my head a lot lately as a metaphor for my relationship with Mr. Hatton. In the last few weeks I’ve pictured us, at various times, as the Minnow, the Battleship Texas, the Titanic, the Santa Maria, even the Poseidon. It all depends on how things have gone on a particular day.
Using that parallel, I believe Mr. Hatton and I have always had a very seaworthy relationship. We’ve withstood stormy seas, we’ve sailed in uncharted waters, we navigated narrow straits that took all of our effort to avoid running aground. Mainly though, we’ve found safe harbour in each other, for one another, and moored ourselves there and have enjoyed the ebb and flow of life, even the occasional squall, in a relatively tranquil manner.
We’ve been a tried and tested crew and, as such, when this risky venture came up, I never doubted our ability to make a voyage into the far reaches.
And maybe that was the first mistake that I made. When I heard the distress call sent out by my daughter, I immediately readied to set sail, determined to get there to save the day for my granddaughter without a moment’s hesitation. I did so in such a way that it seemed a unilateral decision, telling, not asking, not taking into careful consideration that to send our little vessel out into the deep, while a risk I was willing to take, was also one that would jeopardise Mr. Hatton, and, who by virtue of this partnership, was stuck feeling more a first-mate than a co-captain.
I was in such a state trying to do what I believed was the only right thing that I assumed we were both looking at the same map, determining our bearings with the same compass. I thought we had a common destination in mind, when in reality, only one of us was committed to making the trip. I take responsibility for that dangerous error. I had us heading into unknown waters, far from port, before I learned that Mr. Hatton did not share my conviction that a rescue needed to be made. I did not know that he believed that this voyage was one too dangerous, too costly, for us to undertake. And while I know in my heart that I did not intend to force Mr. Hatton into a course of action that he did not want to take, I realise that I reacted too quickly, as a mother and as a grandmother, and I am the one who set things in motion, pushed away from the dock and pointed us toward the unknown.
There is a military term called Radius of Action. It applies here. It is the maximum distance an aircraft, a vehicle, or a ship can travel from its base before being unable to safely return without refuelling. It is the point of no return.
We crossed that line when I brought my granddaughter into our home. With full legal custody of her now given to me, I am not in a place where I can just return her to CPS and say “Here, you have her, this isn’t working out for me.” With Australian immigration denying our visa application, we can’t keep her here indefinitely. We have exhausted our finances. There are no underwriters for the venture. We are too far from port to turn back and seemingly too far from any known land to make it on what fuel we have left.
We’re far into the there be dragons part of the sea.
And like unlucky Schleprock, a squall always overhead, we’ve also struck some unseen reef, some hidden jutting rock, that neither of us foresaw, and our little vessel has been taking on water. We’re listing and the panic and fear are real, palpable.
This is moment of truth. Of survival.
We’ve both been furiously bailing water out of our little ship. Sometimes we’re working at it alongside one another, working as a team, doing our best to figure out how to repair the breach, to figure out how to fix the boat before she sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Sometimes, one or the other of us works alone while the other runs around in a terrified state, shouting at god, the empty horizon, the other, hurling useless rubbish, pulled from some closet of each of our pasts, toward the leaking hull. We spite one another because we cannot see a way to get through this. We worry about the sky falling, when instead it is the deep swallowing us up from below.
And, as fate would have it, in the rush to respond to the needs of my daughter and granddaughter, I, especially, failed to notice that our little floating tin can only had one lifeboat on board. We all can’t fit in it at once and it won’t make it back after saving one to save the other. Isn’t that always the way it is?
I’ve considered taking it and the grandchild and trying to find my way back to America, a one-way trip to be certain. Mr. Hatton has considered taking it, by himself, and securing his own safety, his own return to dry land. Either way, the use of the lifeboat leaves one or the other of us to drown. The use of it by either of us would be entirely selfish and self-centered and that’s not the people that I have always believed us to be. We cannot both do what we each, singularly, seem to consider doing.
That only leaves one option for us. To fix the ship. To stem the influx of the sea. To jettison what is weighing us down. To weather the storm until we can see our way clear, fix our course, and row, damn it, row this broken tub all the way back to our harbour, if that is what it takes.
By my estimation, we have to get rid of the heavy resentments, the weighty bales of blame. We have to fix our efforts with particular focus on rebuilding what has been broken in the protective hull of what we are together. To neglect to do what is necessary will be fatal for us both. It will undoubtedly mean the loss of what we hold dear.
I do not want that to happen.
I am not naive, however. I know we are both tired. We are both injured. Knocked about by the waves of this circumstance and very far from what has always been our place of safe mooring. What we are being called on to do together will continue to test us both, will continue to require grit and effort and perseverance whether we feel like persevering or not.
There is no other viable option as far as I can tell.
We save ourselves together. If not, we both drown, or one of us takes off and leaves the other behind to perish.
That isn’t really a reality I am willing to inhabit.
I wish we could go back to the day we received the distress call from my daughter. I wish that I could more carefully consider whether to answer the call, whether it would place Mr. Hatton and I in even more danger. But I cannot.
I can only start here, past the point of no return, knee deep in water with my vessel on the tilt. I can only keep bailing out the water, patching the hole, fixing my sight on the guiding north star that is the truth of what Mr. Hatton and I have been together, still can be, and rowing this little bucket home.
If the ship goes down, I will go with it. That’s a risk I’ve already taken.
But it won’t be for lack of having tried to set her right again.