The Goodbye is Chapter one of The Diary of a Partner of a Commercial Fisherman, a limited series written in honor of POCFs preparing to send or have sent off their loved ones for the season. Through 5 stories over 9 weeks, I share my emotional journey of long-distance dating a fisherman in Bristol Bay, Alaska, including the uncertainty, frustration, & joys of a season apart. Inspired by Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife, Tales of Santa Cruz Island by Margaret Eaton. Hope you enjoy.
Chapter 1: The Goodbye
I have a confession.
A few days after Chris and I got married, we slept in separate beds. And I know how that sounds, but the thing is, we kind of enjoyed it. We desperately needed rest due to our *major* house project that we (mainly Chris) have been working on in ninety-degree heat. We figured a night or two apart might do the trick.
But while we renovate our 1912 Victorian bungalow – that hasn’t been touched since the last century – we are staying with my parents. And honestly, thank God! It’s been a dream to spend quality time with Mom, Dad, and Chris and come back to a clean house at the end of the day. Through days of sweaty work, this has kept us sane.
There’s just one thing.
Although their guest room’s four-poster bed is quite beautiful, the fact that we both toss and turn like breaching whales makes for a very wobbly night. I wake him up, he wakes me, and the cycle continues. I may even snore a little.
That’s when the idea of sleeping apart came up. Exhausted yet intrigued, we wondered if it was weird. Then, we thought how weird it would be if we didn’t get good rest. The thought of dumb arguments because we are hangry or tired convinced us, and we agreed to two nights.
I hate to say it, but the first night was a dream! To sleep well, then walk down the hall to wake up Chris with kisses and cuddles seemed like we were on to something “progressive” that worked for us.
Yet night two was different. Reaching across the bed to an empty pillow triggered that familiar longing I get when he leaves for Bristol Bay. It’s as if my heart grows heavy yet hollow simultaneously, and it just seems to float in the middle of the chest, detached.
It dawned on me that in less than two weeks, he’ll be in Alaska, four thousand miles away. I lay awake asking, How many weekends do we have left? What do I need to do to help him pack? I need to make a list of all his favorite treats to send in a care package. How soon should I send it?
A calendar comes to mind, and I say a quick Thank You that Chris will only be gone for six weeks instead of the six months we’ve done before. My eyelids droop as I plan another Fourth of July without him.
The thing is, we’ve done “the dance” of a commercial fishing couple for over five years now, and you think I’d be used to it. But no matter if Chris is gone for one overnight fishing spiny lobster in California or gone months fishing sockeye in Alaska, each goodbye begins the same.
One month till launch, you avoid thinking about it.
Two weeks later, the heaviness creeps in.
It sometimes catches you off-guard when you’re driving with the windows down, blaring a favorite song, then the thought of him fishing in rough waters makes you quiet. You try not to overthink what could go wrong. And at least once a day, you tell him how much he’ll be missed.
To offset the blues, you think of the semi-bachelorette life that awaits when he’s gone. Like long writing sessions, cereal for dinner, and sleeping spread out like a starfish on the bed—the secret silver lining! But that will come later; you’re locked in the beginning stage now. The one that’s a slow drip, paved with uncertainty and worrying for his safety.
Now that there are just nine days until Chris takes off, I’m going to embrace our last nights in a wobbly four-poster bed. I’ll forget about the long, hot days and nights of minimal rest and instead burn into memory how it feels to fall asleep with his hand holding mine.
What part of this story do you most relate to? What comes up? We’d love to know; please share in the comments below!
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Featured image by: Yousef Alfuhigi