This blog was to be as much about my life in the Navy and what it's meant to my family as it was about living on a sailboat. This entry is geared toward the Navy, and one of the great people I met along my Navy journey.
Today I learned of the passing of Elwood "Ellie" Eldridge. I met Ellie while I was dating his son, shortly after my commissioning in the Navy. While in ROTC I had met many veterans and was frequently confronted with older men that kind of told me they didn't think I should be in the Navy. "This is a hard life, honey...a hard job." "Have you thought about nursing? I bet you'd make a nice nurse." "Ships? Are you sure?" Though disappointed by their comments, I accepted them as part of our generational differences. Then I met Elwood, a WW II veteran. He didn't say anything like that. He listened as I told him about the path I was taking in the Navy. He excitedly pulled out a photo from Fleet Week in New York, describing all the ships on the Hudson and pointing out where he was. He told me about how great it was to be out in the city, and sounded so proud of his service and excited about the experiences he had had. And he shared it all with the underlying tone of "you, too, will have a great time." I loved that.
The entire time I lived near Ellie and his wife they were wonderful to me. I felt like family with them all...cared for...and while I didn't entirely realize how important that was early in my career, I now greatly value the handful of friends I have scattered about the country who do genuinely care about me. Even as the relationship that introduced me to them changed, the Eldridges remained a part of my life. We exchanged letters and emails, and they even welcomed me to their home with my husband and infant daughter years after I'd last seen them.
I don't think he ever knew how his tiny gesture of sharing his story with me impacted me, and I'm saddened that I didn't tell him so. I don't want to make that mistake again. I hope the rest of the family knows that they were and are still part of my world and that I grew through my experiences with them. And they are at the front of my thoughts tonight.