Sunday, March 23, 2014

An Old Timer

Yak Yak.
No, I'm not making animal sounds. That is actually a guys name.
Yak Yak.
It does have a singsongy kind of cadence to it, don't you think?

His real name was Paul. I met Paul 3 months after I started sailing on oil tankers in 1973. I was 18, Paul was 38.  I was a green horn "wiper" working in the engine room. Paul was a 20 year seasoned seaman. He was the bosun on the ship. He ran the deck. Loud and in your face. They all were back than. I'm reminded of a line in the movie "Rocky," spoken by the trainer "....your gonna crap thunder and spit lightning."
That was Yak Yak. Over the top. Tough as nails.

My wife met Yak Yak when she boarded that same oil tanker 7 years later in 1980 as the new deck hand.
I was working on oil tankers before women were "allowed" to work on ships. I was working with Yak Yak when my company first hired women. Yak Yak hated the thought of working with women. Just hated it. I had to listen to him rant for months prior to the first hiring. They were going to be the ruin of us all !!!!!

I believe my wife was the one who changed Yak Yak's mind. She outworked most of the deckhands on the ship. She was in heaven, working outside in the sun, as the ship cruised the West Coast between Alaska and Panama. She didn't know enough to complain. All she did was whatever the bosun wanted her to do and then some. She won Yak Yak over and the rest is history.

Yak Yak was so won over, he kept in contact with my wife over the next 35 years or so.  It started with the yearly Christmas cards then became more frequent, a surprise card in the mail for no reason, a card with a picture of his beloved dogs one time, another time a necklace.
Yak Yak never married, his dogs and cats and birds and rabbits were his family from what we can tell. He played his cards close to the vest. Didn't let many people in. Mary Ellen got in the furthest.
Every time  she got a card or received a phone call from Yak, we would always joke that this was the tough bosun who hated women on ships. Now look at him.

My wife tried many times over the years to set up a lunch date with him. He seemed all for it every time, and every time he would find an excuse to cancel. Over the last year or so their phone calls were more frequent, maybe once a month of so. I talked to him once, and upon hearing his voice for the first time in 30 years, was instantly transported back in time to the galley of the ship, where he held court everyday. He hadn't changed a bit, same old Yak with an opinion on everything. They didn't call him Yak Yak for nothing. And loud?

He had health issues over the years, melanoma being one of his challenges. The price he paid for 35 years in the sun on hot steel decks of oil tankers. As his health faltered my wife assisted him, over the phone, in getting in contact with people who could help him, I.E. a driver to take him to the doctor, someone to watch his animals, etc. He would never let her come to his house, but he wanted her friendship. It didn't make sense to us, but his reasoning must have made sense to him.

He passed away this past Friday.

I could write a book on the ranting he used to do in the galley when he had about 15 people sitting around, mesmerized.
Yak Yak was one of a kind, as unique as his name.
He was quite the character.


Joey said...

Good post. So sorry about Yak Yak. Mary Ellen is an angel. What a unique friendship. It was all he could handle but it sounds like it was enough.

Karen said...

What Joey said, exactly!

Wayne (Woody), whatever said...

I think it's great that she was able to show him that change can be good; I'm proud of him for getting 'outside the box'. We should all be this lucky in life.

Denise at Autumn Sky said...

It seems she was a very special person in his life. One of those friendships that lasts through the years.