Like us, they come in all sizes and shapes, and like us they must be a little 'off the wall' also. I mean, why else would they put up with boat sailors for 20, 30, 40 or more years. Are they a little nuts too, to take under their wings men that will never quite be considered normal by most of the rest of the world? I don't understand it either but I am glad they do. They listen to our old sea stories for the thousandth time, laugh, smile or wish we wouldn't use quite such foul words in public, but never really say, "Shut up, idiot". Of course, some of us have wives or girlfriends in our past that do those things, but that is probably why they are past tense.
Think of what they have put up with in the past... Long separations, lousy pay to do a sometime thankless job, poor living conditions and watching their high school friend's mates make more money and get ahead. While their husbands mark time financially, boring holes in God knows what cold ocean for a strategy that wasn't always clear.
My bride Flo realized early on that things were no longer the same as the civilian world. After about a month of bliss it was time for sailorman to go to sea once more. The evening before my departure into the briny deep, I asked Flo, who was in the kitchen,
"Honey did you wash my fart sacks?"
(Louder) "Did you wash my fart sacks?"
(Even louder) "DID YOU WASH MY FART SACKS?"
(Jesus, I married a deaf woman.)
But as she stuck her head out of the kitchen with a very strange look on her face, and said,
I realized that my 19-year-old small town bride might not be up on smokeboat slang quite yet.
"Uh, mattress covers, did you wash them?"
"Oh those, yes."
She was a fast learner, 'Douche kit' didn't throw her nearly as far!
Submarine wives fall into two main categories... Those that married us while we were on active duty and those that came after. I learned the big difference between the two at a Sub Vets, Inc convention in Norfolk a few years back. At the banquet, Flo and I sat at a table with three ex-smoke boat sailors, two with the new-type wives. These guys had obviously done pretty well... Gone to college and were in some big corporation, doing something, not sure what. Well, the third guy goes on all through dinner about the stuff that the 3 of them used to get into. It was nothing spectacular, just typical bubblehead stuff, racing to NY for a weekend, drinking, dancing on tables with or without their pants and getting back to the boat one step ahead of the shore patrol. As the dinner progressed, it became noticeable that these wives were not in the loop during the old days, but they said nothing. As we left, I held the door for them and heard one of the wives say,
"Well, I don't believe what he said about you."
I was just high enough to blurt out,
"Lady, you don't know the fucking half of it."
While the wives gave me a shocked look, the two husbands roared with laughter and said,
My wife just grinned as we walked away.
I am forever grateful that Flo shared three of those years with me. Getting to know some of the best shipmates a guy could ever have. Getting to know some of the best wives in the world, that stuck by their men through thick and thin and there was a lot of thin sometimes.
Today at reunions, I see in the wives that instant friendship that we have when we meet a crewmember that served before or after us. Kindred spirits, otherwise how could they live with us.
They all waited for men that were doing something for their country that needed doing. Helping us win the wars hot and cold for the last 100 years. Today they are still there, while their men, different than most, go to sea in submarines.
This ladies, is my love note and thank you for doing something that few recognize. Your men get parades and a day in their honor, while you get little credit.
Thanks, we couldn't have done it without you.