Written while Drunk on Thoughts

5 Apr 2014

Life of a sailor's wife

Two months ago, I took a trip to the northernmost city in the world - Reykjavik, Iceland. That trip changed my life in many different ways - metaphorically and literally. It changes my perspectives and upon return to London, I discovered I lost someone important in my life. I wasn't happy about the lost but in retrospect, I saw that coming.

I was inspired by the life of a sailor's wife. I visited the Icelandic Maritime Museum and spent some time reading stories and interviews from all those sailors and fishermen's family.

It is a long distance relationship in its glory. 

These fishermen were away months even years at a time. This was during the 40s or 50s but these wives are as modern as you and I. They would find ways to keep the household afloat when their husbands are away. To some of the kids, their fathers are like Santa Claus - bearing gifts every year when he visited. The upbringing and character-shaping are entirely up to the wives. What's more heartbreaking, some of them started their married life apart and ended it that way.

As a kid, I had a taste of what its like to have an absent parent. No, my parents aren't divorce. My dad was required to work in another city in the country. He constantly travels to work and will only be back on the weekends. It lasted for about 2 years cumulatively. It was a time where the internet is not fast enough to be able to have a conversation via Skype or Facetime, heck my dad doesn't even own a mobile phone back then. Our only means of communication is that 15 minutes window where my dad would call home and all of us would gather around the phone, taking turns to talk to him.

I remembered every Sunday night I would stand by his car and say goodbye, wishing he doesn't have to go. I was about 12 / 13 years old. He always said goodbye to all of us and gave a kiss on the cheek but he always add an extra sentence after he gave me a kiss - "take care of mum." But I always know that come next Friday he would be back. I count my blessings that I will always see him by the end of the week. I can't even start to imagine how difficult it is if he were to leave for months and months.

Fast forward 5 / 6 years, it was my turn to leave. This time it was for months. I attended university in England, a country so far away that I can't travel back home every weekend. I could never understand how hard it is for my parents to see me go. Now I could. It wasn't that much different from how I was feeling when I wave goodbye to my dad a decade ago.

Long distance relationships. I was in a few. Everyone is. My father was in a long distance relationship with his family for 2 years. I am currently having one with my family. I was in one with 2 former boyfriends for a better half of our courtship. I am now having long distance relationships with 2 of my dearest friends. In this time and day, if you have friends from a different country or had moved to another country, you are in a long distance relationship.

I tried putting myself in the wives' shoes, I can't. Its not that I can't do it, I can't even imagine me doing it. I talked to my father on the reason why he quit being in the air force ( a career he was pursuing since he was 17), he told me he couldn't put his wife and his kids through what a lot of soldiers put their family through.

Long distance relationship brings patience and compromise to a whole new level. It is a short-cut way of knowing what the other person means to you. This is precisely why it is one of the toughest tests on a relationship.

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