Saturday, May 7, 2016

SKIPPER and MUM: After the divorce

     Together Earle and Akie continued his voyages in the Phoenix.  In 1967 a multi-national crew delivered nearly a ton of medical aid to the Red Cross Society of North Vietnam for civilian victims of the Vietnam war.  
Dad and his new wife, preparing to sail to Vietnam.
     Betty Boardman, one of the crew members on that trip, described Dad as "nervous," "hostile," "impatient," "irritable," "furious," "autocratic." He "screamed," he "stormed."  The divorce wound was raw; Akie was jealous of the "other woman" on the ship and Earle sought to protect his new wife.  Betty writes, "The fact that [Barbara] and I were long time friends and superficially resembled each other probably bothered him."*
     Before the crew sailed for Haiphong, Betty and Mum had silent meditation and then breakfast together and talked about the trip.  Mum never spoke against Earle or Akie; she saw herself as equally to blame.  She said she knew it was hard for the two of them to keep running into her at Quaker meetings and peace conferences.  (Mum made a point of responding to their uneasy avoidance of eye contact with a friendly greeting whenever they ran into each other or had to pass in halls).
     Although I knew Dad to be fully capable of meeting her description of him, Betty may have been just a tad prejudiced when she criticized him so harshly.  In the same book she described Mum: "Barbara glowed with the conviction that there is a light within all, and her joy was contagious.  I loved her, and I found her spirit healed mine."
     The crew spent eight days visiting hospitals in Hanoi and Haiphong and observing the effects of American bombing on outlying villages--and of course the communists made full political capital out of that.  Two other voyages to Vietnam followed.


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