Anchor away: finding myself in my father’s story

by Lindajoy Fenley

Tired and chilled to the bone, I finally headed to bed two hours before sunrise one cold January morning. I shivered and pulled the covers up to my ears. Disturbing thoughts that had emerged from a large, thick envelope I’d found in my mailbox the previous afternoon ricocheted inside my brain. I wanted to escape into the comfort of sleep, but couldn’t stop thinking about the investigation of my father’s death fifty years earlier.


Fenley family 1953 or 1954 - Version 3Fenley family together — 5 years before losing Daddy

I was ten days away from turning ten the last time I saw him aboard the Navy ship he commanded during the Cold War. My sisters, brother, mother and I had squeezed into his cabin on the USS Boyd to say goodbye. I wrote my name in a square marked March 19 on his desk calendar and placed a green doily I had crocheted on top.

Daddy lifted me up and gave me a peck on the cheek. “Be a good girl, Linda,” he said. “And remember, you and I will have a Big Adventure when I return.”

He walked us to the deck and said goodbye again before we plodded down the gangplank. Then, like a school of fish, we turned to look back at the gray vessel looming above us. As the Boyd, flagship of the destroyer group soon to head west, pushed away, I felt I’d lost my anchor.

I asked Mom, “Why does Daddy have to go away?”

“Don’t worry, Linda. Time will go by quickly. Daddy will be home before you know it.”

I looked down at my blue and white saddle oxford shoes and bit my lip. Daddy hadn’t said time would go quickly. He’d said he’d miss me.

I retreated into my own world, recalling Saturdays Daddy had taken me to work with him. He had told me that destroyers were among the Navy’s smallest vessels, more agile than aircraft carriers or troop transports. They were the greyhounds of the sea, known for gracefully gliding across the water when the ocean was calm. However, Daddy told me, these ships rocked so much during storms that sailors called them “tin cans.”