New Year’s Day, we spent time on the Bolivar Peninsula. Looking toward the open sea, I saw a monster vessel coming in through the haze. Heading up the ship channel to one of the ports.
How many times did my father make that passage to Texas City? He worked in the engine room of an oil tanker. Sabine Towing and Transportation. S.S. Guadalupe. Diamond S. He sailed on the S.S. Brazos a time or two. The company was locally operated, though owned by Chromaloy. They took very good care of Daddy when he was sick. They flew him home one time when his bipolar depression got too bad while aboard ship. I remember he had lost his false teeth; and I remember going with Mother to the airport to pick him up.
I also remember the smell of his Old Spice cologne and King Edward cigars. The whiteness of his tee shirt. The tan of his khakis. How his head felt when Mother had freshly cut his hair. Just bare clippers run over his entire scalp. He liked pipes and Louis L’Amour. He preferred a flat bottom aluminum boat and running trot lines. He liked to squirrel hunt rather than deer hunt.
When he was younger and well, he always had a project going. Some scheme with fishing or planting or brewing usually. When he was older and sick, he would again try to work on projects.
He taught me how to fix bicycle tires and to tinker with lawn mowers. He let me paint the clothesline poles. He let me argue with him about current events. I would get so worked up and he would let me go on with my temper flaring. He never told me to be quiet or anything. Mother would finally intervene and hush us up. He didn’t get mad. He just seemed to want me to debate about things and to learn to see both sides of things. To look beyond my own scope of understanding and see something more. And to respect what generations before me had endured.
That ship in the haze certainly was real. And it definitely stirred up a ghost in my memories.