(Please check out comment from my first wife about her former mother-in-law)I know I speak for my siblings when I say that hardly a day goes by without some conscious thought of her. Her profound and positive effect on my life cannot be overestimated. I miss her more than I can say.
A few years ago, I wrote a true story about a memorable day I spent with my mother and uncle aboard the U.S.S. Hoel, DDG-13, in 1967 while I was in the Navy.
Of all the columns I wrote, and all the items in that column that I published, none was the subject of more discussion and long-term recollection of readers than that one.
So in honor of Mother's Day here it is again:
One of the nice things the Navy did during my short service was annually ships would arrange for a "Dependent's Cruise." It was a day where family could join a sailor aboard a ship and steam out to sea for a nice leisurely day of camaraderie and fun. In 1967, we were allowed to invite two people along.
I chose my mother and my uncle, who lived in La Jolla, just a stone's throw from the Naval Base in San Diego. The day was beautiful and we pulled out of San Diego Harbor about 11 a.m. for an afternoon cruise around the islands off the coast of California.
At the time I was a Quartermaster, which meant my duty assignment was the Bridge. My exact assignment was as Helmsman during critical situations. Those situations could be underway replenishment (taking on oil and supplies from a ship sailing just a few dozen feet from our ship) during battle conditions in Vietnam and in and out of port.
My mother and uncle were on the main deck during our departure, but after the daylong cruise they joined me on the crowded Bridge for the trip back into San Diego Harbor.
At some point before heading into the harbor we took our assigned duty stations and I was behind the wheel heading back into port. As always, especially on a nice day like this one was, the harbor was choked with pleasure craft, small sailing boats and motor craft.
My view was limited to the porthole directly in front of me, but really of no concern because I was steering a course dictated by Captain Fontaine (actually a commander, but in the Navy anyone in charge of a vessel is "captain").
My mother was looking out of the various portholes on the bridge and obviously became concerned when she saw all the small boats surrounding and coming at our, in relative terms, huge ship.
At a quiet moment on the Bridge, my mother rather pointedly called out to me: "Don't hit any little boats, Jimmy!"
Now if there had been a hole to crawl in, I would have. But my shipmates, including the captain, got a huge laugh out of her comment. But I was a mortified 19-year-old.
Angrily, I whipped around and told her: "Mother, if the captain wants me to hit a little boat, I hit a little boat." My uncle, a veteran himself, put his arm around my mother and whispered something in her ear and she didn't say anything else for the rest of the cruise.
About four months later, we were heading into Hong Kong Harbor as we prepared for a four-day break from our Vietnam service. As we approached the mouth of the harbor there were, as there always were in Hong Kong, dozens of junks and sailing vessels coming in and out.
Capt. Fontaine, obviously remembering that embarrassing moment for me in San Diego, turned and told me: "Let's not hit any little boats, Jimmy!" I can't tell you the embarrassment I felt.
In later years my mother and I laughed about the incident and I grew to really appreciate the real reason behind her warning. She simply didn't want me to do anything hurtful to myself or others. The fact she didn't understand how it would sound in a military setting was not her fault.
So on this special day, if you are fortunate enough to still have mother to hug, do so and don't ever miss a chance to let her know how much you love and appreciate her. Oh, and don't hit any little boats.