Ships That Don’t Come In

“To those who stand on empty shores and spit against the wind
and those who wait forever for ships that don’t come in.”

Joe Diffie recorded these words written by Paul Nelson and Dave Gibson in 1992 and I hear them several times a week on my favorite country legends radio station. Each time I listen to them I am transported to the 1950s to vivid childhood memories of my maternal grandmother who told me all the things we would do when her ship came in. We would take wonderful trips from our little town in Grimes County, Texas to exotic far-away places like Maryland to visit her brother Arnold and his wife Amelia and California to visit her favorite sister Orrie in Los Angeles. We would stop at the See’s Candy store in Los Angeles and buy all the chocolates we could eat. We could travel whenever we wanted to because she wouldn’t have to clerk at Mr. Witt’s General Store any more. She would buy my mother a new piano and my dad a new car. She would buy me anything I wanted. Life would be good.

I will be seven years younger this Sunday than she was when she was buried on my birthday in 1972 at the age of seventy-four. She believed her ship never came in, and I understand why. Much of her life she stood on empty shores and must have felt she was spitting against the wind. Powerless in the face of poverty and its constraints. Overwhelming loneliness when my mother and dad and I moved out of her home in 1958. Severe depression with sporadic primitive treatments and debilitating medications. Spitting against the wind.

Yet for me, life with her was a ship that did come in. The love I felt from her was as steadfast as the love I feel from my dogs, and they adore me regardless of what I say or do. The fun we shared when I was growing up was worth far more than a trip to Maryland or California could ever bring. My time with her was priceless.

Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate another year under our belts which need to be notched a little looser these days. For those of us who choose to reflect, birthdays are a godsend. We can ponder and ponder the meaning of life and whether we think our life is well-lived. At my age I can also mull over my legacy. I’d like to think I have one.

As for ships, well, I’ve had my share come into shores. Some have stayed longer than others and some are still with me, but all the ones that came in left their imprints in my sand. Life is good.

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Ships That Don’t Come In

  1. coyotero2112 says:

    I have two people I still attend birthday parties for, which quite a few people see as a lame reason to have a party. Always thought it was kind of morbid that the public and media focus on the days famous people died, and not the days they were born. Seems so much more appropriate to me.


    • Ok, since you only attend two birthday parties, I’m removing your invitation that I postmarked just this morning. Oh, well, not to worry. I mailed it to The Philosopher Red, Beachfront # 2112, Somewhere in Costa Rica. I’ll drink your mango margarita and toast myself for you.


  2. Bob says:

    First-rate, girl. Congratulations on a fine piece.


  3. Heather says:

    Happy Birthday Sheila! I have a Granny (my maternal grandmother) who was much like you describe your grandmother. My times with her are truly some of my most precious times I have had. I miss her desperately and give praise to God for the blessing of each moment I got with her!


  4. Millie says:

    Happy Birthday Sheila! I Particularly liked this one and shared your pain. Memories can be so bittersweet .


  5. Sheila, my dear friend, I’ve nominated you for a WordPress Family Award. Thank you for all you do to bring joy to the lives of others.


  6. Billie says:

    Sheila, what a beautiful tribute to your grandmother (my Great Aunt Louise). I loved
    her dearly too, and I truly understand why you did/do. She was a super lady. I wish
    you and I had known your grandfather. Mother used to tell me many wonderful stories
    about him.


    • Thanks, Billie…it’s good to hear from a cousin who remembers my grandmother with such fondness. She was indeed a super lady. One of the great regrets of my life is that I never knew my grandfather. When we get together, I wish you’d tell me some of the stories your mother told you about him! 🙂 I will call you next week.


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