Year 11: 1994
The year started out very cold. It was down to 5 degrees in Southern VA and I remember our downstairs toilet water line freezing as it ran up the outside wall. The house was pretty cold for a while.
As our second child grew in Lisa's belly, I could tell we were enjoying being home owners. I made a big deal about being able to do whatever I wanted to my house and yard as it was OURs. I planted three trees in the back yard and had a small garden.
As I continued my training, I attended my longest school. Luckily it was in Portsmouth so I wasn't away from the girls. The class was two months long and we had a good group of students. We had a little cookout at the house and hosted those who were away from home for an extended time. It was a good group of people. I remember competing with another soon to be ETC to be #1 in the class. I'm pretty sure I won.
I reported aboard the Northland in the middle of May as a Frocked ETC. That meant I wore the anchor, but didn't get the pay just yet. I started getting the pay 21 days later, so all was good.
So Lisa was due sometime around the beginning of August and I went on my first patrol in the end of June with a return to home port of about July 24th. We had some issues with our gun, so we actually arrived home on the 22nd. I had to stand duty on the 23rd and when I arrived home on the morning of the 24th, Lisa was already in labor. It had started about 4 am that morning. This was a littler quicker than the first one and Brandi Marie Harold was born at 1708 (5:09pm) on July 24th, 1994. She weighted 7 lbs 7 oz and was 20 and 1/4 inches long. We cut it pretty close, but I was able to be there for the birth.
Brandi had been born on my Father's birthday. They still blow out the candles together if we happen to be together when the day arrives.
As always, life continued. The ship's schedule basically had me going away for six weeks, then returning home and staying in port for six weeks. Repeat about 13 times.
I know Lisa had it harder than me when I was away. With a four year old and a new born, things had to be hectic at times. I am reading some of her letters to me that she sent when I was underway. Not easy. I'm also pretty sure I would disrupt her routine by coming home, but I sure liked coming home and seeing and being with my girls.
Year 12: 1995
This year consisted of me getting underway every three months for six weeks at a time and Lisa taking care of and raising our two daughters.
Shauni was riding a bike with training wheels and she may have said the word fuck at some time. Lisa wasn't sure and I'm sure her reaction made Shauni clam up. I have no idea where she got that from. Maybe from a movie... Brandi was starting to sit up all by herself when Lisa wasn't looking.
We had a new dog Dusti. We had gotten her over in Portsmouth at the SPCA. Supposedly her mother had been hit by a car and Dusti and a couple other brothers and sisters were all together walking around in their own shit. We had decided to get her for Shauni's forth birthday, but conventional wisdom says don't present the actual dog at the party as that is just too much attention and stress for a little puppy. So we had Shauni unwrap a dog dish and leash and treats and she didn't know what the hell we were trying to say. The look of confusion on her face was priceless until we explained what it meant.
Dusti got her name by climbing under the back deck and getting all, well, dusty. Her name had to end in an i just like all my daughter's names.
Brandi was already well on her way to being a geek at 9 months old. We had a simple computer game that would make sounds and show pictures or something when she would hit a key and she would play it all the time, and would get excited when Lisa put her in front of the computer and get ready to play.
Shauni was taking dance classes and going to pre-school. Brandi was learning to walk. I missed a lot being underway and I would keep a list of the things that happened while I was gone. It was hard, but we knew it when we signed up.
I had a little thing with Shauni where I said that if you are ever missing me when I'm away all you have to do is look at the moon. I will look at the moon all the time too and then we will be together in our minds. We still talk about that.
I was initiated into the Chief's Corps in March of this year after working as a chief for over nine months. It's called indoctrination now, but back then it was still initiation.
These rememberings are mostly based on Lisa's letters to me while I was underway. So they are mostly what was happening at home. It seemed like we pulled into GTMO a lot that year. I would hang out a lot with the first classes down at Cable Beach. I guess the Chiefs didn't want to come down there as much. I got along good with all the first classes, so that is where I hung out.
There was a lot of Alien Migration Interdiction that year so we did a lot of back and forth between GTMO and Port Au Prince, Haiti. Other ports of call were Key West, Nassau, Ocho Rios, Jamaica Cartagena, Columbia, Grand Cayman and Trinidad.
In June, Lisa took the girls to the beach and on the way back it was raining and everyone stopped and she slid into the car in front of her. No one got hurt and Brandi slept through the whole thing.
In December I was allowed to leave the ship before the end of a patrol and return home so I could get a vasectomy. I also got my ear pierced when I got back. I was a real sailor now.
My first Christmas on the ship we were underway, this year we were in port and I was able to spend the holiday with my family.
Year 13: 1996
This year started out with the ship doing a patrol in the Gulf of Mexico and thereabouts. I remember writing a story for Shauni that paralleled my patrol, except we were going to Mars on a spaceship and not to New Orleans for a mid patrol break during Mardi Gras. I actually had duty on Fat Tuesday and didn't mind at all. One walk through Bourbon St was enough for that trip. I remember coming out on the flight deck to relieve the watch on a cold morning and see a lone couple copulating in the middle of the field. We had a good laugh at that. They either didn't care that we were there or were oblivious. It was very cold while we were there. I think it got down to 19 degrees one night. Not common for Louisiana.
On the way down to the gulf, the ship pulled in for an overnight on Super Bowl Sunday. My Steelers had finally made it back to the big game after 16 years or so and they lost. It had to happen some time. Oh well. I remember going to a party on Duval St where you pay one price and drink all night. The hangover the next day was compounded by the loss.
I made a batch of Cyser from the apples of my tree at home and some local honey. It came out rather well and was a good 15% alcohol.
Lisa and I went to see Crosby, Stills and Nash and Chicago. It was a cool concert. Sitting on the grass and just listening to good tunes with my bride.
Shauni started kindergarten this year. She had to take a bus and everything. It was kind of weird, since we never had buses when I was growing up walking up hill both ways in the snow with no shoes.
At the end of our last patrol of the year, we went up to Baltimore and had about four days there at the Inner Harbor giving tours. I couple of us rented a car and drove home for a couple days. I was able to take Shauni to the bus stop while I was home. I had to get back by that Sunday to stand duty. It was worth it to see my girls.
This year I was underway for Thanksgiving and the wardroom served the crew dinner. Not as good as being with the family, but it was good seeing the officers work.
Brandi continued to grow. Her binky was her best friend. She was doing things like moving her little chair next to the snack shelf, climbing up and yelling that she wants something. Shauni played soccer this year. I didn't get to see too much, but five-year-olds all play the same way. Brandi's video obsession was Winnie The Pooh. She would watch the same shows over and over.
Brandi has now learned to look at the moon when I'm away and say "Hi Dada". I love my girls.
Year 14: 1997
This year was another transition year. I did about two more patrols, stayed on board one extra month (and got a little extra pay for it) and then it was time to go again. We had some stress with selling the house, but in the end we found a buyer. It was hard since I was underway a lot, but Lisa did great. I remember calling from I think Tortola and Lisa saying that someone had made an offer. I said take it and we had us a deal.
The orders I received were for Engineering Logistics Center in Baltimore. At first I wasn't sure of the place, but after talking to some people, I found out it wasn't so bad there. Actually described it as a diamond in the rough. We packed up and moved out in June and headed up to our temporary lodgings in Philly. Lisa and I went down for some house hunting in Baltimore. We didn't want to buy again because we thought we would only be in the area for four years max, and we didn't want the stress of having to sell again. (This would turn out to be a huge mistake, but you learn from those, right?). We found a place near the end of June, but couldn't move in until August.
So in July we went to Cape May, then I checked in and later that month we went to Conneaut for another vacation. I stayed in the barracks until we got our house, while Lisa stayed in Philly with the girls.
Brandi was three and Shauni started first grade. The school was only about a block and a half away. Our rental house was nice, it was a rancher with three bed rooms and a basement. The yard was a good enough size for us and the street was a quiet cul-de-sac. The owners had moved to Hawaii. We didn't know how long they would be there, but we were happy renting.
I settled into my new job and life on shore continued on.
Year 15: 1998
Early in the year I moved from the Platform division down to the Network division. Now I was working with computers and networks. I really liked working down there. The group of people were very nice and the work was interesting. I built the first live website for the unit.
This year, Brandi took the train down to Florida with Esther and we had a little excitement getting them on the train. We didn't realize how fast they load and take off, so when we took the luggage on board for them we all got stuck on the train and were headed to Washington, DC. Shauni got a little anxious, but it wasn't a big deal to get a voucher for our mistake and just take a train back north to our car. Brandi and Esther had and interesting trip. I think the train hit someone on the way back or something. Lisa's Grandmother passed away while they were down there.
This year marked our tenth anniversary and Lisa and I went on a cruise down to the Western Caribbean. Esther stayed with the girls and we had a wonderful time. They put us at a table with a group of younger people and we got along pretty good. We had a lot of silly fun at the dinners and the other tables thought we were a little childish. Just like we wanted to be. We even had a toga party the last night and came to dinner dressed in sheets. We did some snorkeling and even a nice 40 foot scuba dive. When we were in Jamaica, we got revisit some of the places I had gone to when I was on the ship. One awesome place was Dunn's Rivver Falls where you walk up the falls in the water. Very refreshing.
We had a very nice anniversary party at dinner and the whole cruise was a great time.
I was playing with model rockets this year. We would shoot them off in the field by the school. I wanted the girls to enjoy them like I did a a kid. Some of them went up pretty far.
We discovered that wallyball was fun and not some crazy game that mocked volleyball. We started playing at the gym on base and before long we were playing at Severna Park. We still play to this day.
After a week up Conneaut, we went over to Hershey to see Hanson. I enjoyed it and I'm not afraid to admit it. We camped out somewhere nearby some train tracks and it was a very good time, except for all the trains that came by during the night.
Shauni started second grade and Brandi started doing Pre-school. I was taking CLEP tests, trying to get some college credit together.