Thursday, July 6, 2017

On Turning From Darkness...

Three days after having my hopes and dreams crushed I'm still trying to deal with the fact that I won't be able to get home for the August 21 Total Solar Eclipse.  On that date, when millions of my fellow amateur astronomers are experiencing Totality within that narrow line of darkness stretching from the Pacific Northwest to coastal South Carolina, I'll be aboard the Tanker in mid-ocean, thousands of miles away.

I had it all planned.  Gathering friends and family at a lovely B&B near Georgetown, S.C., arriving early to avoid the traffic jams that are sure to ensue as last-minute travelers rush toward that twilight zone.  I made the reservations over two years back, began planning nearly a decade ago for this combination reunion and star party.  I've waited forty years for those few minutes of Totality...and it would all have been worth it to have been there, with Lucy, Cynthia, Tara and Alexis, Carla and Larry, Zora, Peter and maybe even Lilian and Alex, watching the moon slowly block out our view of the photosphere.

Well worth it.

Now, my heart aches in my chest, my gut roils as I read again the email from headquarters;  my leave request has been denied.  The reason given is that there are several Operations Chiefs in the Pool back in Norfolk waiting for assignment; if I want to fly home I'll need to accept relief by one of them.  Essentially, I'll need to sacrifice my position here to make this happen.

But I won't do that--I can't.  If I accept relief I'll enjoy the eclipse but after reporting off-leave I'll be at the mercy of the Pool itself. And there I will sit, waiting for a ship...long months of purgatory as I abide until some other Ops Chief decides to go home (and don't forget that I would be waiting at the end of the line with who-knows-how-many before me?).  The last time I left a ship for personal reasons I spent over a year there on reduced pay while Lucy and I watched our savings suffer slow hemorrhage and struggled to make ends meet.

I can't put my family through that again.  I can't justify such a selfish and irresponsible act.

So I stay aboard the Tanker as she cruises distant waters while Luna's shadow blankets the South Carolina coast.  I'll watch the once-in-a-lifetime event that I've dreamed of for most of my life on CNN or perhaps Fox.  I'll wish all my astronomical friends "clear skies" and honestly hope for success in their observations. I'll encourage shipmates to make sure their family members back home prepare to safely observe the coming of shadows.

Oh, and I'll die a little inside.

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