Below is a telegram that my father sent to my mother some seventy years ago.
“Dear Toots, just a few lines, but don’t know if it will go ashore or not, as this place is only a port of call. I don’t know where we are going from here, but I don’t think it will be a long trip, so I hope to see you soon.”
~ Simon J. de Jong (Somewhere in England, January 28, 1945)
I, like she, fell in love with a man of the sea. It was through reading his correspondence to her that I have become able to identify the characteristics of these men, and possibly better understand us, the women who love them. His letters to her have shown me that love is eternal and cannot be limited or confined to a specific time in history. This is my story and I believe it was my mother’s also.
There is a wicked attraction to men who make their living on the open waters. Whether these seafarers are fisherman, sailors, or keepers of the boat, they are men’s men and they make sure that we, their women, are completely, and at times painfully, aware of that fact. And, that is precisely what makes them so damned delicious.
To meet a man who earns his keep by having his feet firmly rooted on the planks of a boat is to know that it is on this base, only, that he will ever set anchor. It is to be swept off your feet by the waves he will create in your heart, and your head, and your life. It is to be nearly drowned from its force. One moment you will feel as if you are standing on the bow of the boat with the breeze blowing through your hair and the sun shining on your face. But quickly, and without warning, the skies will darken, your course will change, and you will be alone, feeling as if you have been shipwrecked and are now stranded on a deserted island. These weathered and seasoned men have the ability to send the most stable of women reeling, while they themselves remain sure-footed in their wanderlust. It is their itchy feet that keep them balanced and focused while we, their partners, find that our once steady lives have become unhinged and are now mostly tattered and fragmented.
Men who make their living on the water possess an electricity and confidence that no other men own. They have a rugged, leathery quality that speaks for them when words are absent and not necessary. They are old souls who need no one, but are always in search of the next boat, next port, or next woman.
He is an expert in the art of seduction in his efforts to win your affection. He will beguile you with his charms and mesmerize you with his tales of the sea and faraway places. He will make love to you under the moonlight, but quietly slip away before the sun rises in the eastern sky.
I ask myself, almost daily, what the basis for the attraction to someone such as he is, could be. Why it is that I, or anyone else, would be drawn to that type of man just as a moth is drawn to an open flame? Is it a woman’s desire to be the one who makes the catch or is it a primal magnetism that reminds us of times and places in which we existed before we became civilized and cultured? I come up with no answers, ever, but after my time spent in contemplation, I find myself always with a smile on my face and butterflies in my belly.
The stimulation of both his presence and his absence will fill you with an exhilaration that no one that has not experienced a relationship with a seafarer could imagine. His absence produces conflicting emotions; a bottomless pool of sorrow sprinkled with moments of anticipatory excitement. Ah, and when you and he do connect it is on a soul level where an unequaled magic occurs for both parties. This soul connection is so beautifully deep and painful that it will pull one person in deeper while causing the other to retreat to the security of what they know and what they feel to be safe.
It is for this reason that these men choose professions that take them away for days, weeks or months at a time. They are men who, despite their physical and emotional distance, are often so desperately in search of a commitment to another human being that, out of fear, they sabotage the relationship and drive their partners away. It is safer for them to detach and keep moving than it is to surrender to the intense feelings that they find stirring inside and that they fear will destroy them.
Neither you nor he will be able to erase the other from your hearts, and because of this sad reality, he will continue to run to and from relationships. You will carry with you only a memory of, and longing for, the connection you experienced with him.
Every woman should love a man of the sea, at least once in her lifetime. She should encounter the depth of his being and taste the salt from which he is made. Yes, he will shatter your heart, but not until he has opened it in a way that it has never been opened before, and to an extent you did not know was even possible.
Having met, loved, and lost him, we who are fortunate to have lived this encounter, will be forever changed in the way we measure all men and how we look at love. Even after he is gone, we will—still and again—find ourselves standing on the shore looking out onto the open waters.
We will love his ghost for what will seem an eternity, and his love will remain with us for all our days. He will have become the standard by which we gauge the strength, sincerity, and reality of all future relationships, as we continue on our search for one that will hold the depth we once knew with him.
Despite the heartache you will feel if you fall in love with a mariner, know that he will also share that heartache, because he cannot leave the sea and you will not be able to wait on land forever.
The legacy of pain and confusion this match leaves you with, will also give you a gift that is priceless and ageless. It will have added a new dimension and mystery to your life as well. This new awareness can never be taken away from you because it is timeless and cannot be erased.
It has taken you to another time; one in which love existed with a longing that was as deep as the ocean, yet as distant as the continents. And, so this is how it is to fall in love with a man of the sea.