Monday, July 26, 2010

Trying to wrap my mind around it….

I just spent the last couple of hours watching the Deadliest Catch. It was the second to the last Episode for this season and a special show highlighting the life of Phil Harris. Watching TV is not unusual for most people but for me it is. I watch very little TV. An occasional “good” movie or a true story /Discovery channel or Learning channel program is about all I watch. I just can’t sit still that long not doing something…but I did tonight. I had seen an episode or two of the Deadliest Catch a few years back and I really liked it. Then we changed from satellite to cable trying to save some money after I got laid off and we did not seem to have it anymore on. But I did see bits and pieces of information about it on the internet and I had heard about Phil Harris.  He was the captain of the Cornelia Marie, a crab fishing vessel which operated out of the Bering Sea. He died on February 9, 2010 after having a stroke on January 29, 2010.

As I watched it tonight, there were a few things that I had trouble wrapping my mind around…He was born in 1956…I was born in 1955. He was younger than me. He was pretty hard on himself. He smoked a lot…I am so glad I conquered that habit. There was a time when I smoked too much too. Makes me wonder why some people can conquer it and others can not. It sounds like he had a lot of fun when he was young, so did I. One day I woke up and said, “We can’t do this anymore, it is going to kill me!” Well, it killed my first marriage but I got my act together in hopes that it was not too late for me. Why was my brain wire to make that connection? I have lost close friends from that time period who simply never woke up. Makes you wonder how people think and why. Is the brain prewired? Is it in your genes or the way you were raised or the life experiences you have?

I could not help but think of my Mom’s Dad, Andrew Anderson. Grandpa Anderson lost his Mom when he was eight years old too. His Dad, my Great Grandfather, Hans was a Norwegian fisherman who spend 8 months or more at sea. Hans fished the same sea that Captain Phil fished but more than 100 years before him. The ships were different, the tools of the trade were different but the sea was not. The sea was just as furious and deadly 100 years ago for a fisherman. I can not wrap my brain around having to face 30, 40 or 50 foot waves today in large steel highly powered fishing vessels. What must it have been like over 100 years ago?

When my Great Grandmother died Hans remarried soon after her death. I believe that it was very soon after she died. The youngest son, Hoakan was just three when she died. A fisherman can not work, no let’s make this very clear, he can not be a fisherman and take care of a three year old child much less two who are 6 and 8 years old. So he had to find someone who could care for his boys and he had to do it in a hurry. He did just that but for the two older boys, no one could replace their dear Mother. Two or three short years later, Andrew made a life altering decision. He left the relative safety of a warm home with food on the table and a warm bed and a woman who was not his mother and became a deck hand at 11 years old. He passed himself off as much older than he was and took to the ocean. Now imagine, an 11 years old boy working on a ship in the ocean 106 years ago. I simply can not wrap my mind around it!

How does a young boy at age 11 make such a decision?  Or did he make it and find that there was no turning back once he was in the middle of the ocean.  He must have liked it or after his first trip you would think that he would have just gone home.  Was his life so adversely changed with the death of his mother that he was compelled to make this decision?  I wish I could ask him these questions.

 Andrew never returned to his home land once he came to the US.  He had planned to but first it was a matter of money and children, eight of them to be exact.  Then when the children were all grown and gone, there was World War II and Norway was occupied by Germany.  Then shortly after the end of the War, Hans, Andrew's father died at the age of 87.  With the death of his father came the demise of Andrew's desire to retuen to Norway.  When anyone asked him why he never returned his reply was always the same, " Why would I go there, my home is here now."  What gives people the courage to make a life altering decisions like Andrew did?  I may never know....

(An update to the story to preserve it's accuracy.  I have learned through a relative that there are records to indicate that Grandfather did not leave Norway until after his school was completed in 1898.  That would have made hom 15 years old when he left Norwy. He is listed as a family member in the 1900 Census but his home is listed as London. Thanks Inger for the records!)

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