Monday, September 30, 2013

Dose of Reality

Usually when I tell someone that I work on a tugboat the standard reaction is, “Wow. I’ve never met anyone that does that. That is so cool.” I then attempt to answer all of the questions they have concerning the maritime industry.
“What do you do at night?”
 “Where do you stay?”
 “What do you do for food?”
 “How long do you work?” Etc. Etc.

Two years ago, our new neighbors moved in across the street. After pleasant introductions, the conversation gravitated towards what everyone did for work. Once again, I prepared myself for the onslaught of the usual questions. 

Imagine my surprise when my new neighbor mentioned that he works for two weeks and then has two weeks off.
Someone works the same type of schedule that I do?

As it turned out, Kevin was a pilot. He flew anti-cocaine drug interdiction missions in South America. For once, I was the one with all of the questions.

For the next two years, Kevin and I worked the exact same schedule. He was home the same days I was and gone for the same ones as well. He missed the same holidays I did. He was around for the same birthday parties as I. We were both around during the day so we could go to the shooting range together. We could ride our quads late in the evening and not worry about having to be at work early the next day. A quick walk across the street to lend a tool or borrow a lawn edger was all it took. It was refreshing to have a friend that understood what it was like to be away from home and your family six months out of the year.
It was also nice to be able to say to your friend, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
And then laugh at all of those people who were stuck in their 9 to 5 jobs.

This last time that I was off from work we moved into our new house. Granted, we only moved 0.68 miles. Essentially, we moved from one side of the main road, across the street, to the other side of the main road. But it meant that Kevin wasn’t going to be my neighbor anymore. It meant I wasn’t going to be able to look out my front door and see Kevin doing something stupid on his ladder as he was trying to hang up his Christmas lights. It meant that when we need more chairs for our “Thanksgiving Three-Peat” I couldn’t just walk across the street to get more. It meant that babysitting services (for both houses) weren’t just a walk across the front lawn. 

Just before I came back to work, Kevin and his family came over to our new house to take the 5-cent tour. As they were leaving, Kevin and I shook hands and he said, “Hey, see you in two weeks.”
“Nope. Three weeks,” was my reply, “We are doing our holiday switch around this time.”
“Well that sucks. That means our schedules are going to flip. With you guys moving and now the schedules changing I’ll never see you guys again.”
“I severely doubt that.”

A few days ago my wife called me and left a message on my cell phone.
Two things were wrong with that. First, my wife never calls my cell phone when I’m off watch. Secondly, she never leaves me a message. Especially one that says, “Hey, give me a call when you can.”

The next day I called my wife back.
The exact details of the call I don’t recall.
But the one line I do remember, “Kevin isn’t coming home.”

Kevin was at work flying a mission. During the flight, his plane suffered some kind of mechanical problem and went down.
Kevin’s co-pilot suffered severe injuries in the crash.
Kevin was killed.

Once again, I’m at work and there is nothing I can do. I can’t be there to comfort his family. I can’t be there to help. I won’t be home to attend his funeral. My only solace is that if there were anyone who would understand that I’m stuck at work and the reasons why I can’t be there, it would be Kevin. And even that doesn’t help.

Kevin leaves behind his wife, two step sons, and his own toddler son. Just last week, my wife told me that Kevin and his wife are expecting another child. 
He was 39.

I miss my friend.

More than words can ever say.