Do you believe in Fate?

I have always believed in fate. What we may think of as a chance happening probably takes place for a reason.

Two years earlier I was serving on the destroyer, HMCS Haida. We sailed all over the Atlantic with visits to the Caribbean each winter. The rest of the year we sailed to Europe visiting England, Norway, Holland, France, Italy, Spain and Gibraltar.

While at sea, the crew members practiced their skills as team members and worked in what are called 1 in 3 watches. The 24-hour day is divided into four-hour shifts. The 4 pm to 8 pm watch was divided into two separate parts. This arrangement resulted in a rotation so that you didn’t work the same time on that watch every day. I belonged to a group classed as seamen. We spent our time as lifeguards, lookouts, and boat crews.

There were more than enough men than were needed so we rotated every hour or so. The rest of the time we worked either painting the ship or chipping the rust off. It was a never-ending task.

At night, those extra hands sat around and listened to the old salts tell tales of ports they visited, storms they experienced and any other subject that came to mind.

One night, the subject was “who would make the best wife.” Naturally a lot of speculation took place. A petty officer by the name of Byrne suggested the best wife should have three qualities:

1.     She must be French. French girls were raised properly learning domestic skills such as cooking and cleaning from their mothers.
The French are noted for these skills.

2.     She must be from a large family as she will know all about caring for others, getting along with them and training them.

3.     She must have been brought up on a farm. She will have the work ethic instilled in her from a young age, will have taken part in the farm chores and will know how to work hard.

The next evening we met up again with the girls. Irma and I talked until midnight. Coincidentally, she was brought up on a farm in New Brunswick. It was a French community and Irma had only learned to speak English a short time ago. She had 11 brothers and sisters in her family.

My thoughts quickly returned to that night on the Haida. Was this fate at work? I believe it was.

Our ship was leaving the next morning for three months of exercises in the Caribbean. I hated to go as I feared not seeing Irma again. With only two dates under our belts we still had to prove to each other that we had something going. We promised to write.

We did write. In my last letter to her I told her I would call and get together with her the Wednesday evening we arrived back in Halifax. Then I received her last letter just before we departed Miami in which she stated they had moved to 58 Queen Street. She didn’t give me the phone number. Now Benny and I had no way to contact them!

To make matters worse, we left Miami early Sunday morning expecting to arrive in Halifax Wednesday evening. The minute we entered the ocean we ran into a huge storm. Our ship was subjected to gales and high seas. The storm blew hard for 3 days. On Wednesday, we had to pull into port for more supplies. We were in Norfolk, Virginia, a long way from home.

My heart was broken. Surely Irma would think that since I didn’t call on Wednesday, and since I didn’t have her number to call on Saturday (our new expected arrival date) she would give up on me.

Back at sea, Benny and I decided to scan the Halifax phone book for the address. That’s all we had. We tossed a coin to decide where to start. I won and beginning at the first name, Aarron, I searched for 58 Queen Street. The phone book was almost three inches thick. Fortunately, it took less than one hour to find. The building owner’s name was Beaton.

We arrived Saturday evening, made contact and the rest is history.

Benny was soon out of the picture. Anna met a very nice fellow named Harold Babin. Over the course of the next year the four of us became inseparable. Harold and Anna stood for us at our wedding a year later. They married a little more than a year after we did. We lived a two-hour drive from each other for many years and visited often. We still remain best friends although the traveling distance is much greater now.

So what does it take to make a marriage last a lifetime?

When we were young and preparing for our marriage I don’t believe there was ever any doubt that our marriage would last forever. Neither Irma nor I ever gave it a thought. During the marriage ceremony, we were being joined together by the words of the priest. It wouldn’t have made any difference what religious denomination we were practicing. We simply stood before our family, friends, and others and swore before all who would hear that we would stay together through sickness and in health, for better or worse, until death would part us. There was a little more to it but that in a nutshell was basically it. There wasn’t an opting out clause. No second chance paragraph. I don’t remember the priest saying anything regarding calling it off if we found someone we liked better, or who drank less, or who wasn’t sick or crippled. We took a solemn oath to hang in there no matter what would happen. That is what we did that day, April 7, 1958 in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Looking back, I would have to say that the most important attribute a man must have is integrity.

The dictionary describes integrity this way, “the steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.” That’s pretty potent stuff. The keyword here is steadfast. Stick to it. Do not waver from the straight line. If you decide to take the responsibility for your actions, don’t go halfway.

When I decided to go straight.

We often hear the convicts deciding to go straight. But you too must decide to go straight. We all have a choice to make in that regard.

I remember when I made the decision. I was in the middle of our 20 week boot camp training in the navy. Our barracks had hardwood floors. Every Friday evening we had to wash and wax those floors to perfection. I didn’t realize it at the time but I, like most of the other recruits, would only do what was necessary to get by. It was the natural thing to do. This particular evening I was to polish the floor under the bunks by hand with a woolen rag. The floor was already shining so I lay under the bunk, cloth in hand, almost asleep. Suddenly, from my hidden vantage point, I could see a pair of shoes enter our dormitory area. Shoes were only allowed to be worn by officers. I immediately began to work the cloth like there was no tomorrow. The shoes approached my bunk. The officer in the shoes bent down to discover the identity of the person doing such a great job with the cloth. He then ordered the rest of the recruits to come and see the great job Mac Millan was doing. I was embarrassed. I had been almost in dreamland a moment before. I decided then and there that from then on I would give 110% to whatever job was assigned to me. No more goofing off for me. I decided to enjoy everything about the navy. That attitude created a dilemma as you will read later on.

It doesn’t matter what task you undertake, give it your best shot, and then some. This is especially true of your marriage. Dr. Phil McGraw states, “Marriage isn’t a 50%/50% deal. It’s 100%/100%.” You must put everything possible into it to make it work.

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