Switching over

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Here we sit, blue notepads poised and blood pressure beginning to boil, ready for furious notes and lists. Another season change is upon us. In a little over 2 weeks, Chris will step onto the deck of his temporary home and do what he does best….. land a whole bunch of fish. White Sea Bass season is about to happen. Though the official start hasn’t started, and even though we are now just fine tuning lists and ordering parts and not yet in the real thick of the switch over, I feel the stress and tensions rising. The whole family does.

This coming up season is a mixture of both super ultra excitement and LOTS of stress. Our financial success (or failure) for our business, our family, our crew and their family for the entire year rests completely on the first 4 weeks of White Sea Bass season and then on the first 8 weeks or so of Swordfish season. These 2 tiny parts of the year make or break us. No pressure there. Nope.  But, when he starts catching and our dry as the Sahara checking account starts to be sprinkled with life affirming droplets, dear Lord what a relief. We are all dancing and whooping it up like we’ve never had a bad fishing day, ever. My goodness. What a life we’ve chosen. If only we could be sure of the outcome, of the catch rate and of the weather. If only.

I feel for Chris during this time. Actually, I feel for all of us. But him, more than us.  He’s already been fishing crab for months (which is physically exhausting) and now he walks right into 24 hour days of WSBass fishing with tons of pressure to make a lot happen in a very short time, with of course zero actual control over how it plays out. The whole family is upended with the schedule change and having Daddy gone at night (and most days). During this time of year, he usually unloads here locally ~ but we will only *see* him for minutes at a time, most often while one of us is yelling directions or questions at the other from atop the unload pier down to the deck of the boat, trying to be heard over the diesel engine and the hydraulics. This is all happening with a large crowd gathered around watching the loads of fish being lifted off and the guys are documenting (more shouting) weights. It’s total chaos. The kids and I chip in where we can, but usually end up in the way. Then, we get a quick hug from a tired, smelly Dad. We hand off clean laundry and provisions and take away dirty laundry and bags of trash. We pray and wish them all a great trip and back out they go…..hoping against hope that the boat stays together, the weather cooperates and the fish are abundant. Hoping and praying.

I’m never sure when I will get the call. It can be anywhere between 4 am and 11 am. But everyday he calls. It’s quick and scratchy. He’s usually breathless from the hard work on deck. But the minute he can, he phones in a very brief update on how they are doing, in numbers. He will tell me how far into the gear they are (2 down 3 to go) and then the amount they’ve got so far, of course the bigger that number the better. Sometimes he’ll mention a price change, if there is one (meaning the price per lb we will be paid from our buyer ~ this number can totally make or break the whole load of fish. Yet, another thing we have zero control over) Sometimes he will toss in a food item request or an order for a part that needs replacing and end with what time we should meet him at the dock. Then, he’s off. The kids can tell right away how it’s going. I always, always, always say ‘He’s doing fine ~ everything’s OK’ but they can read me like a book. I try to practice ‘being grateful always’…. but it seems I always need more practice at that one. The kids and I pray a lot while he’s gone.

But, this week. This is when I get myself ready for the switch over. I will go back over the numbers from previous years to remind myself right there in black and white that yes…. no matter how it feels or seems, somehow God gives my husband the strength and courage and stamina he needs. And, somehow He sees us through and what is necessary comes in and we are covered. I don’t need to carry that. I remind myself and then need to be reminded again and again. Then, I start to perform my little ritualistic habits of OCD list making, and super crazy cleaning and organizing. Somehow these things make me feel better about the whole thing. The kids and I ‘talk up’ what we will do when Dad’s gone. We always do some little special thing the first few nights he’s away. Maybe grab burgers and watch the sunset at the beach or plan a visit from a grandparent or gather the library books and pile into the big bed with snacks for a read-a-thon. Something to make the not-so-great feel like it’s washed in fun while we settle into this season.

Compounding my stress this year, Chris has mentioned taking Max as a 3rd man on deck. He’s nearly 15 years old. This is NOT wayyyyy offshore fishing like during Sword season. He’s an experienced kid who knows his way around that deck.  He really wants a chance to make some money. There isn’t a reason in the world he shouldn’t go with his Dad. Except that I have a gigantic list of reasons why that precious child should be right here with me. I know he will end up going. I know it and I’ve known it for the past few years as I’ve seen him shoot up like an arrow and as I’ve replaced pair after pair of XtraTuffs with the next size up.  I’ve noticed Chris asking me to drop him off at the dock to help unload or change gear or clean up more and more. I’ve seen this coming. So I’m not shocked completely. Even with irrational thoughts of my boy’s safety shoved deeply aside, I’m just not sure how I’m going to feel about having more space in the big bed during read-a-thons or how I am ever supposed to carry all of those bags of groceries in without my awesome helper or who will get up early with me to pour over the weather reports when Dad is gone. Plus, is poor Tippy going to walk her own little doggie self?  If I thought making a list of all the reasons he shouldn’t go would change things even one bit, I would do it. But, like I said, I know he will end up on that boat no matter what my list says. Instead, I will obsessively clean and organize his room. That should keep me occupied for pretty much the entire season.

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