To Everything There is a Season….
there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
The light wind caused the flag to ruffle slightly. The day was bright, and crystal clear, warm and balmy. The kind of day that a sailor longed for, to stand at the bow of his boat and let the wind ruffle his hair, and feel the warmth of the sun beating down on his face. It was an appropriate day to lay a sailor to rest. The group, gathered around the coffin, were solemn-faced; there were tears being shed, not for the sailor, but for themselves. His death would leave a gap in their lives, that no one would be able to fill. No one. All would miss the crystal clear blues eyes, the sharp, pointed questions, the craggy-faced smile, the rich laughter, and the warm resonant voice, filled with warmth, love and a joy in being alive!
Harriman Nelson lay quietly, his arms wrapped around Karen. Their lovemaking had taken on a tenderness that night that was inexplicable, yet seemed so natural that he reveled in the aftermath of it all. The night was quiet; a slight ocean breeze blew through the open windows, ruffling the sheer lace curtains. She shifted slightly, and raised her head upward toward him.
“You know something?” she whispered. “It never ceases to amaze me that you can totally and utterly make me feel like a schoolgirl, every time we make love. I love you, Harriman Nelson.”
He kissed the tip of her nose, and then lightly kissed her lips. “And I love you, Karen Nelson. I guess it took me a while for it to sink in after you first came here, but once I admitted it to myself, I knew I never wanted to let you go.” He held her tighter to him. For some strange reason, he didn’t want to let her go.
She placed a hand on his chest and felt the rise and fall of his chest under it. For all the years that they had been married, she still felt the safest right here, next to him, enveloped in his arms. The mere scent of him, … his touch…his ability to love her… made her feel young again.
His fingers were lightly stroking her arm, and then he turned toward her. Taking her face gently in his hands, he softly told her, “Always remember that I love you, Karen. I love you even more than life itself. You’ve given me so many gifts… ones that I never, ever thought I’d have in my life. You …you gave me yourself… You gave me Caitlin, and… you gave me Sean.”
He was suddenly tired, and he leaned back against the pillows, bringing her closer to him.
Karen snuggled closer to him and her fingers idly stroked his chest.
“And you’ve given me so much, Harry. Love when I never thought I’d know it again… You gave my daughter a father’s love even when she wasn’t your own…and you gave me our son…”
“We’ve been very fortunate, you and I. You know that?” he whispered. He closed his eyes, and saw a pinprick of light in front of him. What is that? Why is it growing?
“I know and I’ll always love you for it,” she agreed. “Now, sshhh. I simply want to go to sleep right here in your arms.”
“You know, suddenly I feel tired. I think you’re right. Maybe sleep is what we both need.” He tightened his grip on her, as the light seemed to grow a bit larger. “Go to sleep, Karen. I’ll hold you ‘til you fall asleep.”
Sleepily, she murmured, “Okay...‘nite, Harriman. I love you.”
Looking down at her, he saw that she had her hand on his chest. Covering it with his own, he whispered, “I love you, Karen. Always remember that …Now and forever.”
Closing his eyes, the light grew larger and finally enveloped him. His breathing slowed and then it was no more…
She had awakened with a start…feeling at once both cold and very lonely. He was still…so very, very still. Looking up slowly, tears now streamed down her cheeks. She knew…even without looking. She knew.
Raising up, she gently took his hand from atop hers and laid it on top of his chest. Slowly, tenderly, she kissed his lips, now quiet and unmoving.
R. C. Crane
Lieutenant Commander Robert Crane sat and stared out the window of the plane. Usually his trips home were something he looked forward to, but this time, it was different. His father’s call in the early morning had shaken him to the very core. He was feeling a mixture of grief and loss that he could barely comprehend, much less explain. He was trying to figure out how he would handle it all, how he would be able to help his friend. He had been in a similar situation, but he didn’t remember any of it, because he had been too young at the time. This was different in a number of ways, especially when it came to the age factor. This time, he was more than old enough to be aware, and to know the deep grief that the news brought. He shook his head, and remembered the call.
It was nearly 0800 and he was just getting into his shower, when the phone rang. He reached for it, and had dropped the receiver. “Damn!” pulling it from the floor, and holding it to his ear, he about shouted into the phone.
“Yes, dammit! Casey, if you’re calling me this early to tell me about the paperwork for the EM finder, I’m going to, quite simply, kill you! It isn’t due for another week yet, and the follow-up report on the tests are just about done. Now, just leave me alone until I get to the office, will you?”
The person on the other end of the phone was absolutely quiet. Finally a familiar voice asked him, “Are you finished with that dressing down, Commander?”
“Dad!” The pleasure of hearing his father’s voice was suddenly clearly evident in R.C.’s. “Dad, I didn’t expect you to call. What’s up? How are things on the beautiful West Coast?”
With an unusually quiet voice, Lee Crane said to his son, “Robert, are you sitting down? I've got some news I have to share with you.”
The tone of his father’s voice told him volumes, and he said with surprising calm, “What’s wrong, Dad? What’s happened? Is everyone alright?”
“Robert, there’s no easy way to put this. Admiral Nelson passed away this morning. I’ve just left the house and Caitlin is staying with Karen. I came over to our house, because I needed the quiet to make these calls. I felt of all of our children, except Sean, who we're trying to get the word to, you should be the first to know.”
He stood frozen and then slowly sat down in a nearby chair. Robert was saddened, but, in a way, not totally surprised at the news. The Admiral was older and his health had been slowly failing. There was an enormous sense of loss and grief that swept over him. He had been very close to the Admiral from his youngest days. In fact, there didn’t seem to be a time without Admiral Harriman Nelson in his life. He didn’t remember his mother, except from pictures and the memories of the rest of the family and friends. His father had been away a lot of his life on missions for the NIMR and he had found himself spending a great deal of time in the Admiral’s company.
Harriman Nelson was first and foremost a teacher. When Robert had approached him for help with a science project, Nelson had jumped at the opportunity, and he and Robert had forged a relationship built on respect, and shared interest. Robert had grown to love the older man, in the context of a good friend, and mentor. Nelson had always been there when Robert had needed him, or sought him out. And now he was gone….
Ensign Katherine Morton stood at attention at her CO’s desk. Kit, as she was called, was at the Electronic Officers Maintenance School in Norfolk, Virginia. Her first posting from the Academy, she was in classes to find where her interest and training would place her service. Electronics had been a favorite of hers since she was very young, and it was her choice of career in the service. She had done well at the Academy, graduated in the top of her class. She was doing well, here at Norfolk. So this summons to the CO’s office, in the middle of the day, was causing her some mild consternation.
Commander Horatio Dickerson looked at the young officer standing before him. She reminded him of her father, who Dickerson had known in the Pentagon, very briefly. Morton had been very good at what he did there. Shuffling paper took an artist to do it correctly. And Morton had done that, until Nelson had stolen him to shepherd his ‘Folly’ to fruition. He’d done an amazing job, and the Institute and its’ environs was the plum that every Navy and ex-Navy dreamed of. Dickerson sighed. He was near retirement, and way too old to uproot himself and his family to try and get a place in Santa Barbara.
Too bad - a tough bit of news for this kid.
He cleared his throat. “Ensign, at ease.”
Katherine stood at ease, “Sir, yes, sir!”
is a personal moment, you can relax. I have some news for you. Unfortunately,
not good news.”
Her eyes darted to meet his. ”My family, sir?”
“Ensign, your father called here, followed by a call from Admiral Jiggs Starke, and then Admiral Troy of the Joint Chiefs. I regret to inform you that Admiral Harriman Nelson died early this morning. Apparently, peacefully in his sleep.” He took papers off his desk, “Here are your orders to San Diego, after which, you will proceed to Santa Barbara. You have two weeks emergency family leave, and your ride will be picking you up at the BOQ in an hour. I understand that there's to be a transport leaving there for Santa Barbara at 1500. You will be on it.”
Kit tried to keep her emotions under control, the sadness at Nelson’s passing wanting to overwhelm her. Her hand shook slightly as she took the papers from her CO.
“Are you all right, Ensign?”
“Yes, sir. It’s just...a surprise, sir. I knew that the Admiral was having some health issues, but I just didn’t expect…I guess you never expect… I don’t know what to say, sir.” She wavered.
Dickerson came round the desk, and took her by the arm, and led her to a chair. He returned to his desk, poured a glass of water for her, and returned to her, offering it to her.
She gratefully accepted it, and took what was for her, a rather large swallow. Holding the glass in both hands on her lap, she focused on the CO, who was looking at her with concern deeply etched on his face.
sir. I’m sorry, sir. I just didn’t expect this kind of news, but then again,
maybe I should have… I don’t know…” Kit took a deep breath… “I’m all right,
He patted her shoulder in a fatherly fashion. “Ensign, no matter how much we expect older family to pass on, it's always hard when they do. The loss, depending on the people involved, is even harder to accept for us because we're the ones left behind. Trust me in this - Admiral Nelson had a long, full, productive life, and he was the best of men, surrounded by people who loved and respected him. No one could ask for more than that. I know that you and your family were close to the Admiral, but you will have to begin to deal with this.”
Kit rose, smoothing her khaki slacks, and handing the glass back to Dickerson. “Thank you,
sir. I appreciate your consideration.” She started to the door, and then halted.
She turned and stood at attention, “I’m sorry, sir. Permission to be dismissed,
Dickerson smiled, a rare occurrence around Junior officers. “Don’t think anything of it, Ensign. And you're dismissed. Have a safe trip home. And offer the Institute my condolences. He will be missed.”
“Thank you, Commander. I know your respects will be appreciated.”
Kit Morton left the office and walked slowly down the hall to the lobby. She had to walk across the base to get to the BOQ. As she walked, she reflected on the loss of the man that she thought of as a grandfather. Her mother had no family, and she knew Joe and Clarry Morton, albeit for a short time, before they both had passed away, but Nelson, well, Harriman Nelson was always there, in his offices, on the old boat, or at home. He was, at least toward her, kindly and caring. He was always interested in her projects at school, always offered her guidance, and suggestions to help. She sighed, as she walked up the steps to her quarters, looking at her watch, and forcing herself to walk faster, so she could throw some things into her duffel, and leave. Her dress uniform was at the cleaners, but she kept one at the Institute, and was grateful for the forethought. She grabbed what she thought she would need, and tossed them into her bag, snatched her laptop, and headed to the front of the building to wait for transport.
2nd Lt. Alexandra Morton moved quickly across the flight deck of the USS Stennis. She was the second officer of the ship, and had mountains of paperwork to catch up on, because of the Stennis’ recent deployment. She sighed, tired from the work rotation that caught her on the deck for the last week for nearly 18 hours a day. The sudden deployment of the ship to the far Pacific, near the northern reaches of the Marianas Trench struck the young officer as a bit strange, but she had no reason to question. All she needed to do was her work, and then hit the rack.
‘All work and no play makes Alex a very unhappy girl!’ she thought to herself, then she sighed. ‘Not that there is anyone here I’d want to play with!! She climbed the outer gangway to the Bridge. She entered, took a fast look around, and saw the Captain gesture to her to approach.
Captain Hemmings hated giving news like this. Yet, it was a part of his job, and, unfortunately, a fairly frequent one. He liked Morton. She was a good officer. Calm under stress, absolutely efficient, yet with a sense and awareness that most young officers didn’t possess. He wondered how this news would impact her. She always maintained an ‘in control’ façade, cool and emotionless, in spite of what was going on around her. He wondered if this would change with this news.
She stood in front of him, at rest.
“I have some news, Lt. I’ve just received word that Admiral Nelson passed away this morning. I’m sorry. I know you were close to him.”
She swayed slightly, but kept her cool face. “Yes, sir. It would have been hard not to be close to him, given the circumstances of growing up.”
goes further. You are granted two weeks Family Leave, beginning now. Get your
gear, and be on the flight deck ASAP. A transport is going to take you to San
Diego. From there, I’m told transport to the Institute is waiting.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll need some time, to get my paperwork to Edmunds. I assume he’ll be covering for me?”
In a softer, more friendly tone, Hemmings answered, “Alex, don’t worry about the paperwork. It will get done. Just pack your things. The transport will be ready in about 20 minutes. Go and get your things, and collect your thoughts.” He paused. “He was a great man who did great things, and you are fortunate to have known him the way you did. Please relay my condolences, and those of everyone on this ship to Mrs. Nelson and the family.” He smiled, “Now, go, Lieutenant. That’s an order.”
“Yes, sir,” ahe replied quietly. “Thank you, sir.” She turned, and headed for the interior gangway from the bridge to the Officers’ Quarters of the ship. She shared a cabin with another Lieutenant, who ran the flight deck. Thankfully, she was on duty right now. Alex Morton sank to her rack, allowing the grief she felt at the words of the Captain to rush to the surface. She literally collapsed in tears, and lay there, crying for several minutes. She was sadder than even she could have imagined at the news.
The Admiral was dead! Poor Sean and Aunt Karen! What would they do with out him in their lives? What would any of them do without him?
Harriman Nelson had always been part of her life, of all of their lives, at least as far as the younger generation was concerned. Yes, he had lived a rich and full life, and yes, he had created a legacy that would endure for generations. He had a son, there would be grandchildren and great grandchildren… and that was wonderful. But the emptiness that the loss would create was also enormous. It was, truly, one that could never be filled. And funny, that even though Karen Nelson was ‘Aunt Karen’, the Admiral was always the Admiral, not Uncle Harry. Always, ‘sir’. Alex and RC had known him even longer than his own son. She had always thought of him in the role of older, kind Uncle, even though she and no one used that title.
Her thoughts went to her parents, and the Cranes. Poor Caitlin, and yes, poor Uncle Lee. In so many ways, they were his children as much as Sean. Uncle Lee had known the Admiral as long as her father had, since they were Middies. More than a lifetime. Her father had been there, from the beginnings of the Institute, when it was only Quonset huts and Navy temporary buildings on the cliff, and the boat, the ‘Lady’ of the Institute had been nothing more than ‘Nelson’s Folly’, a dream on paper, that would slowly begin to be realized. And look where they were today. She knew if it hadn’t been for the Admiral’s rescue of her father from the monotony of a job at the Pentagon, Chip Morton would never have met Matty Weaver, and neither she, Drew or Kit would be here. If it hadn’t been for the Admiral’s way of getting his own way, the Seaview, the Institute, even the FBME wouldn’t exist. The world, which the boat had saved, at high personal cost over the years, wouldn’t’ be the place it was today. The reality of it was, that if Harriman Nelson hadn’t been who and what he was, things would be very different.
Yes, she would miss him, they all would. But at least he shared their lives, and helped them all become who and what they were.
She sat up, washed her face, and began to pack her duffel. She looked at her watch. She had ten minutes until her transport was ready, and she would begin this long trip home.
Lt. (jg) Drew Morton looked around his quarters and sank into the one comfortable chair. He was tired, bone tired. He had just come in from a training mission that had been highly successful, and highly tiring. His training at demolitions had gone well, He’d learned quite a lot, and he thought it would hold him in good stead when he made the break from the service and went to work for the CIA. Michael Briggs had told him when he recruited him that demolitions experts were, in fact, a rarity. At least, as far as the CIA was concerned right now. So when Drew finished his enlistment, he was not going to re-up. Instead he was going to move to the one area of government service that all of the men and women in his life hated. He was going to move into the ‘shades of gray.’ He honestly felt that that was where he could do the most good. Gray got more accomplished than black and white. Much more. And he felt he could do the most good in the grey. He shrugged. He was sure he and his father were going to butt heads about it, but well, then they would butt heads. His father was always tough on him, tougher than the girls. Oh, well…
There was a
knock on his door, and a yeoman stood at attention. “Message for you, sir. The
CO said to see that you got it, and to tell you that your orders are cut and
your transport arrives in fifteen minutes. He said he would see you when you
returned.” He handed the
papers to Drew, and added, “He also said to give you his condolences.”
At that last word, Drew's eyebrow shot up. Condolences? What the hell?
With that the yeoman left, and Drew looked at the papers in his hand. Scanning them quickly, “Damn!”
He turned and,
without thinking, hit the wall with his fist. “Damn! Damn! Damn! Why? Why
now? Why the hell did this have to happen now?” Through eyes beginning to fill
with tears at the news in the papers, “Why now? Admiral, I could have used your
support in this. And I know you might have disagreed with me, but that you
would've supported me because it’s my decision. I’m gonna miss you, Admiral. I’m
really gonna miss you.”
He wiped at the tears flowing freely as he packed his bag, and pulled his tropical whites from his locker, and slowly dressed. Grabbing the bag, his orders and his cover, he ran down the steps of the BOQ to get his transport.
Sean Pearce Nelson
The radio man slowly walked to the Skipper of the Wyoming, Captain Benton Ames, and handed him a sheet of paper. The older man glanced down at the paper, then looked at it a second time. He looked back at the radio man who answered without being asked.
“It’s been verified, sir. Three other messages followed. COMSUBPAC, the Pentagon, and the White House. I know, it's unprecedented but those are the orders. And your orders are there as well.”
“All right, Sparks. Thanks.” He picked up the mike. “XO, Chief of the Boat, all officers and Chiefs, Officer’s wardroom. Emergency briefing in ten. Mr. Nelson, to the Captain’s cabin, ASAP.” He turned to the officer next to him, “Mr. Hollingsworth, you have the Con. You'll be brought up to speed after the meeting.”
He moved from the Control Room aft to his cabin, carefully reading and re-reading the messages in his hand. He sat on his rack, waiting for Nelson’s arrival, weighing carefully how he was going to break this news to the young officer. He didn’t have long to think about it, as Sean Nelson appeared at his open door.
man popped his head through the doorway... “Lt. Nelson, reporting as ordered, sir.”
The older man waved him in. “Come on in, Sean, sit down.” He motioned to the chair next to the small desk in the cabin. He leaned against the rack, the papers still.in his hand. “Look, I've got some news for you, and I wanted to tell you in private.” He paused, carefully choosing the next words, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your father passed away this morning.”
Sean sat, stock still, taking in the word of his CO. He looked at the man, seeing in his face the truth of the statement. "This morning, sir? How? When? My mother…I … I need to get to her… I ..”
The Wyoming’s Captain laid a hand on Sean’s shoulder. “I know. We've, ah, also received orders to turn about and head back to San Diego at flank speed. That should put us in port in about 32 hours. A transport transfer's out right now because of topside weather, so it was decided that it'd be quicker for us to head in. So, as of right now, you’re off duty until we reach port. Go pack your things and be ready to leave the boat as soon as we touch dock. There'll be transport waiting to take you to Santa Barbara. You have a month’s leave – Family Emergency and death in the family. There has been a helluva bunch of messages, for me and for you. ‘Sparks’ will bring'em down to you in a bit. I can only offer you my condolences and that of the entire crew. Your father was an amazing man. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times, even before you reported for duty here. I know for a fact that he was proud of you.”
“I am…very proud of him, too, sir. And if it's just the same to you, sir, I’d like to keep my turn on the duty roster. I don’t want to lie in my bunk for the next 32. That wouldn't do any good anyway. I’d rather be doing my job. Besides, I know that my dad would expect me to do my duty first and foremost, sir.”
“I'm sure he would, but with all due respect to your father, I'm the captain of this boat, and I think he'd understand. Let’s have you take some time right now, to collect your thoughts. And if you need more time, let me know. Otherwise, fine, you’ll take your time on the roster, as it stands. You can forgo the meeting in the wardroom. You know what it's going to be about. Go to your quarters and collect yourself.” He lifted his hand from Sean’s shoulder. “Take your time, I’ll see your station's covered until you return to it.” He saw the sag in the shoulders of the younger man, as the reality of words just spoken began to sink in. “Sean, I’m very sorry. If there's anything that I or the men here can do…”
Sean slowly stood. “Thank you, sir. I don’t think there’s anything. I loved my dad, but he hadn’t been in the best of health in the last few months. Nothing major wrong, but he was starting to have some small problems. And he was in his eighties, sir.”
"Maybe so, but no matter when it happens, it hurts. I know...I've been there." Ames turned around and looked away. "You're dismissed, Mr. Nelson."
"Yes, sir," and Sean quietly went through the door to the companionway, and took a small turn to ‘Officer’s Country.’ With no one around, he leaned against the bulkhead, sliding down to the deck.
dead! Oh, God, I didn’t know he was that sick! I didn’t say goodbye to him, like
I would have if I’d known… but you don’t know… most of the time… Dad!” He rested
his head in his hands, letting the enormity of the situation wash over him. What
was he going to do… what was any of them going to do… How could they go on, the
Institute, without Harriman Nelson?
Sean knew… he knew that his father had prepared well for this day. There were sound plans, all in place, to take care of everything and everyone that his father loved and cared for. Ironically, they had talked about it not long after he'd found out about his posting aboard the Wyoming. “Dad, you better be able to hear me. I love you, Dad. I love you, and I promise you that I'll take care of Mom the best that I can. I hope that I made you proud of me, I know that I was always, and will always be, proud to call you my father.”
He pushed himself up, and stood, wiping the errant tears that had fallen from his face. He made his way to his quarters, took a clean shirt from his locker, changed it, and reached for the mike.
“Captain Ames, Nelson here. I’m ready to resume my station, sir.”
“Very well, Mr. Nelson. I’ll notify the OOW. You may resume at your convenience.”
“Aye, sir… and thank you, sir.”
Thirty hours later, as soon as his feet hit solid earth, Sean Nelson headed for a vehicle that was waiting at the pier. His mood was somber and dark. The last hours had been filled with so many memories and sadness since his CO had informed him of his father’s death. He threw his duffle back into the back of the Jeep and looked at the seaman at the wheel. The man nodded and headed out.
“Where are we headed?” Sean asked as the man wheeled the vehicle toward the main road near the sub pens.
“I was told that there’s a private chopper waiting at the airfield for you, sir. That’s all I know.”
“You got a cell phone on you?”
“Yes, sir...” and he handed him the one next to the seat.
Sean nodded his thanks and quickly dialed a number. Moments later, a woman’s voice answered. “Nelson residence.”
“Maria…this is Sean. Is Mom there?”
“Seńor Sean. No…she is not. She has gone to the Admiral’s office with Admiral Crane and Seńor Rennalt. However, Seńora Caitlin is here…” the housekeeper answered and then handed the phone to Caitlin Crane.
“Where are you?” Caitlin asked, fatigue and sadness evident in her voice.
“We just docked. I’m headed for the airfield. I’ve been told there’s a chopper waiting…”
“Lee had Gil get somebody down there for you. Sean…”
“I know…they told me… Caitlin…how’s Mom doing? I mean, is she…okay? What happened? I didn’t know he was sick. I mean, I knew he’d had some bouts and Frank had been giving him a hard time…but I didn’t know he was that sick…”
“Mom’s…okay. As well as can be expected right now. At least, from what I can see, she is. As for what happened…all I know is that Frank said it was a massive heart attack and that he went quietly and quickly. Mom said they went to sleep and he never woke up. She said that…” and there was strain in her voice as she struggled to talk… “He thanked her for all that she’d given to him. You, me…herself… And then they went to sleep. She woke up and found him. It happened about 0300.”
“Maria said she’d gone with Lee to his office…”
“Yeah…the Institute’s attorney called them both over. It has something to do with the will and the running of NIMR. I think Mom also wanted to get some things from his office to…take to the funeral director this afternoon."
“Sis…look, I’ll be there in a couple of hours. I…just can’t believe…he’s gone.”
“None of us can, Sean. Mom’s holding up pretty well, but she can’t do it forever. You know how she is. She'll hold it in as long as she can and then she'll let go, most likely when none of us are around. I know she did it yesterday afternoon, upstairs in their bedroom. She's been dreading this day...he, ah, hasn't been that well the last few months."
"He didn't look well the last time I saw him...just before I shipped out on the Wyoming."
"I know...Mom said the same thing. She was getting concerned, but you know how he was. He hated MedBay with a passion. He was more concerned about everybody else than he was himself."
"Tell me about it..."
"Look, I’ll let Mom know you’re on your way. Once you get here, we all have to go to the funeral home and help her with the arrangements.”
“Dad wouldn’t want a big deal, sis…”
“We know that, Sean, but some things are going to have to be done simply because of who he was. We all know that.” She took a breath and then, “Look, I’ll see you when you land. Mom needs us all right now.” There was a moment of hesitation and then, “Before I forget it, I understand that the chopper’s bringing you all in…”
“Yeah, apparently they got hold of Alex, Kit, Drew, and R.C. It's my understanding that everyone was told to report to San Diego and you all would be brought up at one time. I guess the reason was because you were aboard the Wyoming and they would be docking there. Everybody else is already there…they were just waiting for you to get in, little brother.”
“I don’t understand… Why?”
“Sean…the five of you… you all've been raised like one big family, even I know that and I was the babysitter for all of you, remember? Mom just thought it would be better, and I guess easier, especially for you, if all of you came in together.”
Sean Nelson became quiet as the vehicle turned into the gate of the airfield and headed out toward a jet helicopter that was sitting on a heliopad. The dark blue letters NIMR could be easily identified on the side door. He could see four figures in dress white uniforms, two women and two men, standing outside talking to another man. Seeing all of them there suddenly made the reality of the situation that much harder. His father was dead. What Caitlin had just said was true. They had all been raised like one big family, each family different, yet bound by the same ideals and the same loyalty. And his father had been the instrument by which their families had all been brought together. His father was gone, but he had been loved by each and every one of those standing in front of him. And now, the families had to stand together and again be as one.
“We’ll see you in a couple of hours, sis,” and he clicked off the phone as the jeep pulled in front of the four waiting officers.
He grabbed his duffel, thanked the driver and turned to face his friends, his family. They were all frozen in time for a few brief seconds, until RC moved to his best friend. He extended his hand, which Sean took, and then pulled him into a bear hug. The two young men held each other for a moment, as if their lives depended on it, each not wanting to let go, to be little boys again, when all was right in the world, and their fathers were there, looking after them. Finally, RC released Sean from his grip, and stepped back.
“I’m so sorry, Sean. So very sorry. I didn’t know he
was that sick.”
Choked with emotion, eyes wet with unshed tears, “I didn’t either. No more than the usual complaints over the last couple of years. I should have been home.”
“It wouldn’t have made a difference. My dad said he went in his sleep. I’m sure that Caitlin told you the same thing. Besides, you know what he would have told you...duty first. It was just his time.”
Sean slumped, his normally upright posture folding down. “I know…” he whispered. “I just wish…”
Alex Morton drew him into a hug, tears in her bloodshot eyes, “We all wish we could have said ‘goodbye’. He was the best. We’re all part of him, blood or not, and he’s part of us. Forever. We’ll all get through this together… just like we always have. All of us. We’re family.”
She stepped back, and Kit moved to hug him, and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. “We loved him, Sean. And we love you. We’re all here, for you.”
She stepped aside and Drew took his hand into a strong handshake. “I’m sorry, Sean. He meant a lot to me, in a lot of ways that I can’t explain.” He laid a hand on his shoulder. “Kit’s right. We all loved him.”
Sean looked at the four young officers, all his friends, and more, his family. The raw emotion was at the edge of his being, the overwhelming desire to give in to the grief and let it wash over him, and the friends who shared the love of the man who was his father and so much more. But he also knew he couldn’t give into it. Couldn’t allow it to control him, because if it did, he wouldn’t be able to function, to help his mother and sister.
Drawing himself up to his full height, he looked at them and simply said, “Thank you.”
RC took his arm and directed the others to the chopper. They entered, followed by Sean, and then RC. He nodded to the pilot, and the chopper lifted off, for Santa Barbara.
Admiral Harriman Nelson was gone. He had lived a long full life. He had passed, quietly in the night, in the arms of his beloved wife, Karen. He had built his Institute, his boat, and fulfilled his dream... His added joy had been finding Karen Davis later in his life and then, after marriage, the inexplicable joy of having a son!!
Second Lieutenant Sean Pearce Nelson stood tall, in his dress whites, next to his mother. His auburn hair, so like his father's, shone in the sunlight. He was a copy of Harriman Nelson in many ways, including his intense love of the sea, and all things nautical. Harriman Nelson had lived to see Sean graduate from Annapolis at the top of his class, and had been profoundly moved that his son had chosen to follow in his footsteps, to take to the sea in submarines.
On the other side of Karen Nelson stood Harriman Nelson's younger sister, Edith. Closer in age to Karen then Harriman, Edith Nelson had been devastated by the news of her brother's passing. Born when Harry was sixteen, Edith had been their parents' surprise and delight. When they had died, Nelson had become his sister's guardian, and the two forged a relationship that was, due to both of their 'strong' personalities, at times, tumultuous, but was deeply loving and caring for one another. Edith had never married, although she never lacked suitors, even now. She looked on her brother, however, as her best friend, as well as a father figure, that the 'little girl' as well as the older woman adored. She found his loss crushing, and was struggling just to get through the ceremonies. She was grateful to Karen and Sean, as well as the rest of Harry's extended family for their support of her. After all, they were all the family she would ever have. Especially now.
Karen's daughter, Caitlin Davis Crane, Karen's daughter from her first marriage, stood next to Edith Nelson, her aunt by 'adoption', They had come to the Institute when Caitlin was 17, and Caitlin Davis had been instrumental in fostering her mother's romance with Harriman Nelson. She had been very close to Nelson, looking at him, and loving him as a father.
Holding tightly to Caitlin's arm, was Admiral Lee B. Crane. Lee Crane had been one of Nelson’s students at the Naval Academy when Nelson had taught Marine Biology there. Nelson had recruited Lee to the Institute and the Seaview, and they had developed a strong bond of respect, concern, and mutual affection. Lee had married Caitlin Davis a number of years after she came to the Institute, making Nelson, Crane's step father-in-law, as well as his closest friend, and employer. Harriman Nelson had been a part of Lee's life for all of his adult life, and right now, Crane had no idea how that huge gap was going to be filled.
On Crane's other side was his friend, and executive officer, Captain Chip Morton. Like Lee, Morton had known Harriman Nelson all of his adult life as well. While he was not a close to Nelson as Crane was, they had a different kind of closeness, borne of mutual likes, dislikes, and shared experiences. That Chip had a deep and abiding respect and love for Nelson was beyond any doubt. There was also no doubt that he, like all of the others would miss Harriman Nelson very much.
Commander Matty Weaver Morton stood next to her husband. She had come to the Institute years after the others, but had immediately developed a genuine fondness for the O.O.M., as Nelson was fondly referred to. She and Chip Morton had fallen in love in the course of time, and married and now had three children, all Academy graduates, standing opposite them, along with Robert Crane, Lee's son, as the honorary pallbearers for the Admiral. All of them, Lt. Cdr. Robert C.H. Crane, Second Lt. Alexandra V. Morton, Lt jg. Andrew L.H. Morton, and Ensign Catherine E. Morton, had known and been nurtured by Harriman Nelson and loved and respected him deeply. Together with Sean Nelson, the five had grown up in a world different than that of many children, yet in special one, that had allowed them to develop into strong, determined, gifted adults
Harriman Nelson had been very proud of all of his 'children'!
Standing directly behind Karen Nelson in the second row, was Anthony Rennalt. With few exceptions, he was one of Nelson's oldest, and in many ways, closest friends. He had come to the Institute in the beginnings, befriending Nelson at what had been the lowest point in his life, after Katherine Campbell's murder. Tony had talked and listened to and shared more than a few drinks with him, and returned him to his boat, the Dreamweaver. The friendship had begun there, and had lasted these many years, often in spite of the two men. Tony was at a loss at how to deal with this. He had never been as close to, or as friendly with anyone, as he was with Nelson. He did not look forward to life without his friend in his life.
As Karen Davis Nelson slowly scanned the people that were present for her husband's final rites, she smiled to herself.
Lord, Harriman would've hated all of this!
He hated public displays of honor for himself and often went out of his way to avoid them completely. In the last years, though, the honors had come fast and furious, and though he had begrudgingly accepted some, there were some that he had quietly relished in. Yet, in this, the final honor, she felt for everyone's sake, this final somewhat public display had to be held....
Her eyes darted from the flag draped coffin to the wisps of cloud in the blue California sky. She momentarily shut out the voice of the priest and spoke her own to him in her mind as she slowly looked over those in attendance.
I know you wouldn't have wanted all this, but it was the right thing to do. You know that. I know you hated the publicity and the accolades, but really, Harriman, you earned this. This and so much more.
Her eyes fell on the group of dignitaries off to the right.
Take a good look, Harriman, at who’s come to honor you. The President broke his European tour to be here, along with the Joint Chiefs, three Supreme Court justices, 35 Senators, Generals, Admirals...and so many others that Lee was hard pressed to find places for all of them to stay! I swear, I think the Biltmore finally had to put out the No Vacancy sign.
Then there’s all the children. All the children that you opened the Institute to, that have become scientists and teachers and Naval Officers. And all of your colleagues, and friends...
Jiggs is beside himself, Harriman. I swear I think he feels like you deliberately left him alone. You know, when I called him the other morning, he shouted at me, “He took the god-damned trip without me, Karen!" That’s exactly what he shouted into the phone. And if you think Jiggs is put out, just think about poor Tony. I actually had to go to his sailboat last night and talk him into coming today. He didn't want to come but I finally made him promise that he would. He was complaining about having to wear a suit. You know how he is. She chuckled to herself. You know, under all that gruffness, under all that air of 'I don't give a shit'...he cared more than you ever knew, in his own way, of course. He told me once that he admired you...that you were a doer, not a talker. He was right, Harriman. You two...I could never quite figure out at first what really bound the two of you together, but I finally realized that he was your other conscience. He didn't mind telling you the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not. He's done it with me, too. Don't think that you were the only one who got an earful. I got it plenty of times, too.
Harriman, they’re all here because of you. Because of who you are and what you did with your wonderful life. They all love you, Harriman.
There was a smile in her eyes, one no one could see behind her sunglasses, as she gazed back at the coffin. And then, there’s me. I remember the first time I looked into your eyes, that day in the hallway at the Pentagon. They went right into me. And then when you offered me the job, it took everything I had to fight the ultimate inevitable. Course we both know that Caitlin had a lot to do with it, too. I found love again, because of you. I love you and been loved by you, and I know that I’m the most fortunate of all that are here today, Harriman… because you and I… you and I share your son! You will always be with me, no matter what. I will always love you. There will never be another for me.
The S.P.s were called to attention and a 21 gun salute was fired. The wind picked up slightly as the Officer in charge of the unit stood as the flag was removed from the casket. The flag was presented to the Officer, who, in turn, presented it to Robert Crane. Robert saluted smartly, and then turned to Karen Davis Nelson and her son. Standing in front of them, he bent down slightly and softly addressed them.
“Sean, Aunt Karen, on behalf of a grateful nation, I am proud to present this to you both.” He leaned forward and kissed Karen on the cheek. A tear slid down her face, as he said quietly and simply, “I loved him.” He shook Sean’s hand and turned to stand with his father and stepmother. The presentation was followed by a long line of dignitaries forming to offer their condolences to the Nelsons, Cranes, Mortons, and the rest of Harriman Nelson’s very large ‘family.’
In the late summer sunset, a limousine returned to the burial site. Karen had chosen a site on a hill on the Institute grounds. She, Lee Crane, and Edith Nelson had all met and agreed that, though a burial at sea might have been just as fitting, it would be here that he would remain. It had a view of the main buildings, and the dock where the Seaview had been permanently berthed, now a floating laboratory for many of the Institute’s ongoing projects. The car stopped and two people got out. Karen Nelson went to the fresh mound of dark, fragrant soil. Lee Crane got out of the car and followed her. She stood and looked at the grave, and then out at the sea. Lee put a hand on her shoulder. She shuddered once, and then looked up at him. At 65, Crane was still ramrod straight in stature, although his hair was now salt and pepper. She looked up at him, and smiled through the tears that she now let freely fall.
Softly, she spoke to her son-in-law, and long time friend. “I think he would’ve liked this place, don’t you, Lee? He can see her and the Institute at the same time.”
“I think he would like it, Karen, but I like to think that he’s not here at all. That he’s there in the lab at the Institute, or in his cabin on the boat, or just walking the grounds. And then I look at Sean, and I see his smile, and at times, I swear I can hear his voice, and I know that we’ll never lose him. That he’ll be here, with us, for the rest of our lives, and that he’ll live on, here, and in your son.”
She patted Crane’s hand fondly, “You were the son of his heart and brother combined, Lee. Never forget that! He loved you!”
“And I loved him, Karen. He was the father that I never had the time to grow to know, and I hope that I told him that enough in the later years, when I realized how much he really meant to me… I’ll miss him in so many ways…”
She slid her arm into his. “I know, Lee, I know. It sounds trite, but we all will…we all will…” She sighed. “Come on…we’d better go back, or they’ll all be worrying about us. Caitlin and Robert will probably send a search party out lookin’ for us if we don’t show back up soon…and there are a lot of plans of Harriman’s to continue forward with…”
©Linda Delaney, 9/18/05
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