Monday, August 29, 2011


Dearest Friends,

It was mid-June when John came home next, and Paula and Tim had already packed up their house and moved into a hotel.  We had them, and Nellie and Dave, over for one last dinner party.  The next day John spent the whole afternoon printing up some photos he had taken of them, then we went to their hotel to give them the photos and say our goodbyes.  We found them completely discombobulated, for they had received a surprising call from one of the B&R VP's, who just happened to be the brother-in-law of one of Tim's best buddies.   I'm going to let Paula tell you about that in her own words:

"The night we were to fly home, all of our things were already headed to the states on a ship.  Tim got a call from Tony, his friend that was a vp in the marine division.  He said there was a job in Labuan, an island off the coast of Singapore, where Tim would be the safety guy and I would be the teacher for all of the grades. When we asked if we could stop by there on the way home we were told no. Then when we met with the guy that was in Singapore, he was a total ass.  It was hard to wrap your mind around going home and then change overnight and not be sure where you would work or who with, and I knew I could not teach the high school kids!  So we thought and thought, and decided to not take it. Now, if we had been able to go visit and had loved it, our whole lives might have been different !!!!"

All I can say is, I'm awfully glad they didn't, for their own lives weren't the only ones that could have been drastically different.  If not for them being in Houston with us when I had my third miscarriage in a row, and knowing someone who knew someone who'd gone through something similar and found this certain doctor who had figured out what was going on, John and I might still be childless!

Anyhoo, they ended up catching their plane to Houston,  John caught his boat for what would turn out to be his longest stretch ever offshore, and I geared up for my final week of working at Beaute'.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


This close, I tell you!
Dearest Friends,

I'm not sure if my hubby realizes this, but we once came this close to missing out on the friendship of a lifetime!  It was towards the end of our time in Bahrain, when everyone's careers were up in the air, and we were all feeling more than a bit frazzled.

John had left to go back offshore a few days before, and I had driven out to the compound to visit with Paula and Nellie while they both dyed their hair.  Nellie ended up inviting me to stay for dinner, and afterwards, Paula and Tim came back over for dessert and after dinner drinks.

When everyone, except Miss Becky of course, had several drinks under their belts, the subject of the Sheik's private parties came up.  They were all bemoaning the fact that they would have to leave Bahrain without ever having experienced one, when I piped up with "S and BD got invited to one not long ago, and the Sheikh gave them each a fancy gold watch as a party favor!"  Tim came back with something like "That's no party favor.  That's a reward for services rendered.", and that's when the shit hit the fan.  I knew he was half drunk, and should have just laughed it off, but noooooooo.  Miss Becky had to defend her friend's honor and make him eat those words!  She was not successful.  Instead he just laughed at my haughty righteousness and continued to egg me on.  I got so pissed that I grabbed my purse and stomped out, swearing I would never speak to "that damn Toad" again, for the rest of my live long days! (Yes, I really was that big of a prude when I was young.)

Tim probably didn't even remember that conversation the next morning, but fortunately for us all, Paula must have.  The next day he went out of his way to seek me out and apologize for being an ass, and to tell me it was just the booze talking and he we sure BD would never do anything such as he had implied.  And we've all been best friends ever since!

Monday, August 22, 2011


Dearest Friends,

It took a while to sink in, but finally it hit us -- we only had three months left in Bahrain.  Three months in which to spend as much time as possible with these people we had grown so close to; to wrap up loose ends at work; to organize and clean and make repairs at home; to figure out what was going home with us, and what needed to be sold, given away or disposed of; to see all the things in Bahrain we hadn't got around to visiting yet, and return to the places we most enjoyed.  The list went on and on.  I must have felt quite overwhelmed at the thought of it all, for a couple of weeks later, I gave my boss one month's notice.

Another quandary was, what few mementos did we most want to take home with us?  It didn't take my hubby long to figure out what he wanted.  He headed straight down to Gold Street and the antique brass markets.  He bought a couple of nice things for us, but most was given away as gifts.  (How often does a Bohemian-hippie-gypsy-cowgirl have occasion to wear a fancy gold Egyptian collar?)  Too bad.  Perhaps we could have used some of that gold to bolster up our tanking retirement funds, with the way the economy is going these days!

Me, I headed down to the fabric stalls, to gather up a few of the more exotic offerings, then splurged and let one of the local tailors whip up some custom-designed pieces, since I couldn't sew much of anything without a pattern.

Guess I should have held onto more of those as well.  They could have filled a fantastic dress-up trunk for the kids and grandkids!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Dearest Friends,

In early May John sent me a letter, containing a handwritten copy of the resignation letter he had composed.  He wasn't certain yet, what he was going to do, but he asked me to type it up for him, just in case.

He'd only been gone about 16 days this time, when I got word that he might be in on the next boat.  Woohoo!  Early for once!  Too bad he would barely miss the last of Nellie's Mexican pot lucks.  I'd had it with that stupid "ski diet", so I threw caution to the wind, whipped up some Mexican rice and flour tortillas, and hitched a ride to the party with S & BD.  According to my diary, "I had a great time, and really gorged myself!"

The next day I got up early, changed linens and spiffed up the house, then drove out to the office to see when John's boat was expected in.  Afterwards I finished sewing the caftan I was making for him, and wrapped it all up, along with a few other anniversary gifts I had found for him.  We'd have to celebrate a few weeks early this year, before he went back offshore. 

He was supposed to get in by 8:00, but didn't show up until after midnight.  We stayed up talking most of the night, trying to figure out what we needed to do.  Finally, we came to a decision.  I dragged myself to work, and John went to the office -- to hand that resignation letter to his boss. Then we both prayed that we had made the right choice, cuz there was no going back now!

Yeah, I'm running out of pictures from Bahrain.  The top one is supposed to be John all happy to be getting home early, and this one is us, all pensive about the tough choice we needed to make.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Dearest Friends,

As it turns out, Paula's and Nellie's husbands had both fallen victim to a Reduction in Forces, or R.I.F.  The platform that John and Tim had been assigned to was complete and ready for start up.  It had been turned over to the crew that would be operating it, and the construction barge our hubbies had been living on was being sent elsewhere.  The only reason B&R still wanted John out there is that Aramco (the owners of the platform) had suddenly decided there must be a small crew on stand-by throughout the start up process, just in case something went wrong.  Since B&R's team didn't actually have jobs to do, however, they just sat in their quarters all day, everyday.  Talk about boring!  This start-up just happened to coincide with our scheduled home leave, which is why it got cancelled.

Such is life with an engineer, and the one thing about our marriage that I never really came to grips with.  It always seemed like every time we'd try and plan a vacation, or do something special for our anniversary, I'd get a sheepish call from my poor hubby at the last minute, saying "Um, Beck?  I don't know how to tell you this, but..."  Fifteen years later, when we returned to Indonesia with our kids, I finally got fed up with the situation, and summoned up the courage to take a stand!  But that's a story for another day.

Of course, at this point I was still pretty clueless about what all was going on.  All I knew was that S&BD were leaving for sure in mid-May,  my other two best friends might not be far behind them, I hardly ever got to see my husband, and our only option if we wanted to go home was to just quit this job, without having anything else already lined up and waiting.  Well, that would be really difficult, because that was something we had both been taught growing up, that you just...don'!

Soooo, that's when I started to get stressed, and as I mentioned before, when Miss Becky gets stressed, shit happens.  According to my diary, on April 27th there was a "little accident with a car in the souk", then on the 30th, I stopped by the office to check for mail, where I found two letters from John and a lovely linen tablecloth sent from one of our Irish boys who had returned home, as a thank you for all the home-cooked meals at our place.  From there I went straight to the grocery store, but instead of following my automatic routine of shutting off the car, putting the keys in my purse, etc., I paused for a moment to rip open and read the letters from John, then proceeded to lock my keys in the car.  Of course, I couldn't call my hubby to bring me a spare, could I?  And, since this was one of the first new cars not to have a knob thingy that a coat hangar could grab onto, we ended up having to bust out a window.  On May 1st I wrote that "I almost got arrested with Beth", on May 5th I "got really pissed off with my boss" and then I came down sick.  What the heck was going on here?  This was so not the usual Miss Becky.  For one thing, I almost never get sick!  Could this really be a result of simple stress, or could it have something to with that stupid "Ski Team Diet" I had been going on each time John went offshore.  Or, maybe I'd just fried my brain, with all the sunbathing we did over there!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Looking back from this distance, I can see the beginnings of a pattern that was to stick with me for the rest of my married life -- the habit of "divorcing" myself from a place and everything in it.  When I first arrive somewhere new, I always put on my rose-colored glasses.  I am determined to see only what is good about it, in order to convince myself that we will be happy there. 

Bahrain, when we first arrived.
As soon as I start getting vibes that we are to move again, however, the glasses come off, and I begin to focus on what I don't like about it.  I guess it makes it easier for me to say goodbye.

Bahrain, 18 months later.
In early April I noted in my diary that John had sent me a telex saying I was to go in and talk to a guy about our house on the company compound, but then I never mention anything else about it.  I'm thinking that perhaps, when I told Paula and Nellie the good news, they must have hinted that, if I was moving out to the compound just to be near them, I might want to reconsider.  Between that news, our cancelled home-leave, and John's dissatisfaction with being stuck offshore, well, suddenly I'm wondering how I ever could have liked such a desolate place!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Dearest Friends,

One Saturday I found Paula on my doorstep when I got home from work.  I fixed us both some lunch, and as we ate, she let it spill that her period was overdue and she was worried sick.  As there was no such thing as a home test in those days -- at least, not in Bahrain -- and since I figured it was better to know for sure than to continue fretting, I took her to the hospital for a pregnancy test.

It was the first time either of us had stepped foot in the place, and we were not impressed!  They kept us waiting an eternity on rickety metal chairs out in the hallway, then finally sent Paula off to the restroom with her little cup -- a restroom which was nothing more than a hole in the floor for you to squat over.  You should have seen her face when she came out!  The only good part was that we could come back a few hours later to find out the results.  In the meantime, I did my best to distract Paula by taking her to the grocery store with me, then stopping by the boutique where I worked to show her the cute swimsuits that had come in.  We bought matching suits in different colors, a positive affirmation that she would still be able to wear it that summer.

We were over-the-moon happy when her test came back negative, because we were both bound and determined not to give birth in such a primitive hospital, with no Lamaze classes, and no family support.  If, however, we could have peered into a crystal ball just then, and seen what the future had in store for us...if we'd had any clue that it would take almost six years -- six years of miscarriages, surgeries, cancer, fertility specialists and daily temp-taking -- before we would finally hold these precious imps in our arms, well, I wonder if we might have felt differently?

Monday, August 8, 2011


Dearest Friends,

What I discovered after John's first shore-leave was that, no matter how many great friends I now had, nothing could make up for having to put John back on that boat after so few days at home (especially knowing how unhappy it made him), and nothing could make me panic like going too many days without a letter from him.  One time I went a whole week without a letter, and was just about convinced there'd been some terrible accident offshore, when finally a pile of letters showed up all at once.  Whew!

On April 14th,  I got word that John would be home on the next boat, putting him in right on time.  Woohoo!  The next morning, however, it was still dark when I woke up, which was weird.  Then I realized it kinda hurt just to breathe.  What the...?!  Turned out we were having a doozy of a dust storm.  Luckily it was a Friday, so I didn't have to go to work in it.  Instead I settled in for a bit of sewing, to pass the time until John arrived.  When he still hadn't shown up by 4:00, I decided to go call the office.  They told me the boat was here, but it couldn't pull alongside to unload due to the bad weather.  I sat around feeling sorry for myself (and for John!) the rest of the evening.  At least I had t.v.  There was absolutely nothing to do on those boats.  I'm not sure if they even had beds for everyone!

The next day, after worrying about him all night long, I got word that they weren't sure if he was even on that boat or not!  Sure enough, his boat was still out at the construction barge, unable to leave because of the storm.  He finally made it in late on the 18th, two days before the grand opening of my boss' new shop, which meant I got to work overtime the whole time he was there.  He'd only been home four and a half days when we got word that his boat was leaving the next morning.  Talk about depressed!  Fortunately for us, the weather turned bad again, and this time it worked in our favor.  He got one more day at home.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Dearest Friends,

One thing you learn when you move around as much as we have, is that it sucks being the one left behind.  It's hard enough saying good-bye to those who are close to you, if you are the one heading off on an exciting new adventure.  So much harder when you are the one that everyone seems to be leaving.  Sometimes though, it forces you to reach out of your comfort zone and make some new connections.

BD & S, flanked by Nellie and Dave, at one of the many going-away parties we hosted.
JH and his wife V. were just the first of our circle to be feted with going-away parties.  Many more were to follow.  The next would be S. and BD, my best girlfriend since I had first arrived in Bahrain.  Paula and I were friends at that point, but we each had another best friend that we had met earlier.  Mine was BD, and her's was LF.  LF was the gorgeous Irish (or was it Scottish?) beauty -- the former stewardess who frequented the sheik's parties, and who was now executive assistant to B&R's top guy in Bahrain.  She and her American hubby, who worked offshore with Tim, both looked like fashion models and loved spending money and living the fast life.  I called them The High-Rollers.  Anyhoo, I think Paula and I both found out we were losing our best friends right around the same time, and that became the first of many lasso-loops that would draw us closer and closer together in the years to come.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Dearest Friends,

I like having a routine, and I always have.  Even as a young teen, I would make out weekly schedules for myself, as to when to do homework, give myself facials and manicures and such.  It's probably because I have such a terrible memory, and this is the only way I could ensure that everything important got done.  Actually, that's the true reason I started keeping these little agendas in the first place.  Once I reached my early teens, it was the only way I could think of to keep track of my babysitting jobs and schoolwork!  I just had to laugh, though, as I read ahead through the next few months of my 1977 agenda.  Every few pages, it seemed, I wrote that I had "made out a new schedule!"  Obviously, I was having a bit of trouble keeping things under control, and if you know me at all, you know what that means.  When Miss Becky has too much on her plate, Miss Becky gets stressed, and when Miss Becky gets stressed, there's just no telling what will happen!  I hadn't actually reached the dithering stage just yet, though.  For now, I was merely a wee bit discombobulated.

Some of John's photo-goofiness -- The Three Faces of Becky.  The one on the right is the face he saw when he stepped off the boat.  The one in the middle is probably the face he saw when he told me it was time to leave again!
By late March I was busy getting my boss ready for another buying trip to Paris, to stock up the new shop we'd be moving into.  A full year after applying, we were still on the stupid waiting list for a telephone, which could be kind of scary at times, especially with John offshore.  One time Paula and I were supposed to meet up to go shopping at the souk and have dinner afterwards, but she never showed up.  I had to wait until I got to work the next morning, to call and find out if she was ok!  The postal situation wasn't much better either, than it had been in Indonesia.  A birthday package that should have arrived in October, finally showed up on March 17.  Christmas packages came straggling in mid-April.  At least here though, they usually showed up without anything having been filched from them.  I was most ecstatic about a bunch of dressmaking patterns that Mom had sent, which set off a sewing frenzy!  I had also started work on a queen-sized flower garden quilt that I took with me to the handicrafts group meetings each week.  The needles were a-flyin'! 

John made it home for his first shore-leave on March 21st, only two days late.  He did go into the office while he was home, but usually just during the mornings, when I had to be at work myself, so that wasn't too bad.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of meeting up with friends or having people over almost every day that he was home, which made the week fly by so quickly, it was over in the blink of an eye!  I got sooooo depressed when I found out his boat would be leaving the next day - especially when he told me his other bits of news.  Well, one bit was kind of good.  There was a chance we could still get a house out on the company compound where Paula and Nellie lived.  The other news however, made us unsure whether to accept it or not.  John's boss had informed him that they just couldn't do without him right now, so we wouldn't be able to take our home-leave and Greek vacation in June as we add planned.  In fact, they weren't really sure when they would be able to give him any time off.  Could this have been the beginning of the end?