Every kind you can imagine, we make them. As quickly as we can.
Often, it's the only thing that keeps us stable and able to deal with all the moving, all the unknowns.
Sadly though, it's the connections that matter the most that sometimes, often times, fail.
The connection that brought us to this life.
How can you stay connected when you're so often torn apart?
He calls to tell me that he’s going to head to the Liberty Center to Skype. They’ve been in port for two days and this is the first he’s had time to try. He says he’ll be there in 2 minutes.
I was just stepping into the shower when he called. I say, “Give me 10?”
The skype call goes through and video won’t work. Or, rather, it will only work on one side. He can see us, but we can’t see him. That’s ok, I think. He needs to see us more than we need to see him. If it must be faulty in some way, let it be on our end.
But he’s unsettled and frustrated and sad. Which is how he was feeling before he called really but now it’s found a focal point in the failure of the technology.
We try to trouble shoot it. We try signing up for other accounts on other platforms to make something work, but nothing will.
He reboots his computer, and still it won’t work and now the majority of our call has been dominated by trying to fix a technology glitch.
Finally, he gives up. We give up. Talk to your kids, I say. And he does.
They flit in and out like butterflies and finally they’re done.
It’s our turn to talk.
But then the place where he was sitting ends up being the cell phone vender’s stall and the cell phone vender has arrived and is ready to set up shop.
He finds a new place to sit down and we begin to talk and then the internet connection goes bad. I try to call him back. 1 time, 2 times, 3. Nothing.
He’s given up and gone back to the ship.
A few minutes later the phone rings. He’s calling from one of the ship’s lines. He tries not to do this too often, but when he’s in port, it’s one way to talk.
We try to settle into that call. “How are you?” I say.
“It’s not really something I can talk about here.”
“There’s not really ever a place you can talk about these things, is there?” I say.
And then I burst into tears. “Where will we be when you come home this time? You are going through all you are going through alone. I am going through all I am going through alone. How will we ever fit together when you get back?”
I heave it out fast and furious and end with a sob and then I realize that I don’t hear the sounds of the boat anymore.
The line dropped.
It’s a failed connection in every sense of the word.
We are desperate to connect. Desperate to feel, even for a moment that we are together. We need each other. But that need is frustrated by reality. His body is not there to curl into mine at night. His hand is not there to steady me. I can’t rub his back when he can’t sleep.
We can’t even do life together.
He gets one more call through and we remember to apply what we’ve learned over all these years of unpredictable, long distance phone calls…. To say the important words first.
“I love you. I miss you. It will be ok.”
They are the most important words.
A few seconds later the phone begins to buzz. The line will drop again soon.
The last I love you’s drip through the lines.
The phone is dead again.
How do you do a marriage like this? Two people turned inside out. Longing for one another with everything in them.
And separated by an ocean. In spite of the assurances chirpily given by nearly everyone, “technology today makes it easier than ever to stay in touch,” the reality is often different. Even when the calls go through we can’t communicate, not really. He’s in a room full of people—a work station, a liberty center.
How can you say what matters in those circumstances?
Here is what I know to be true:
The words to say first are the most important. I love you. I miss you. It will be ok.
Calls will drop. We won’t be able to lean into one another even if our voices are able to connect for a few brief seconds.
But we say the important words. I try to hold onto the fact that they were said.
I try to believe that they are enough.