O Captain, My Captain

No Telling

Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie has died. If you’ve never watched Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, then you probably don’t understand the enormity of such news. Captain Phil was a Bering Sea crab fisherman, a roughneck, a superstitious seafarer, a treasure hunter, a pirate with a heart as big as a refrigerator. He died Tuesday at 53.

This series began on the Discovery Channel about the time The Perfect Grandson was born. Our little guy had some scary reflux, and for the first three months of his life he slept in an upright position under the watchful eyes of either his mother or me. One of us was always awake with him. We slept in shifts, and my night shift was from 10 pm to 3 am. The Discovery Channel and those crab fisherman on Deadliest Catch were my salvation in the wee hours. No matter how much sleep I lost, those boys on the Cornelia Marie lost more. When The Perfect Grandson woke fretfully, we cuddled and watched the boats rise out of the waves and snatch crabs from the freezing bottom of the sea, the Cornelia Marie crew dangling like bait from their own boat.

In fact, I made a list at one time of Things The Perfect Grandson Can Never Be. A Crab Fisherman in the Bering Sea came in at #2, just behind A Prisoner of Any Kind and several ahead of A Republican.

But that’s not why I’m heartbroken over the passing of a man I only know from a reality TV series on the Discovery Channel. Captain Phil was every boy I went to high school with who drove muscle cars too fast and partied too hard, who screeched into the school parking lot with a Marlboro clenched in his smile and a warm roach-clip tucked in the ashtray. Phil was every rough boy playing pool with his paycheck on Fridays and sporting a two-day shiner on Monday mornings. The kind of boy who made you laugh despite yourself, who winked and called you darlin’ in front of your boyfriend. The kind of boy who fell in love, hard, every time.

Captain Phil was every unapologetic charming rascal I’ve ever known. They defy geography and time, those fellas. For the most part, these boys are bulletproof – you can’t kill them and they can’t kill themselves, no matter how hard they seem to try.

So I was understandably gut-punched to hear that the good captain died, of a stroke no less, at 53. While I’ve come to some sort of hand-shaking terms with my own mortality, it’s trickier to see the charming rascals of my youth as human enough to die. At least not from something like a stroke. A crash or overdose or barroom fight gone south, maybe, but not from some old man’s disease. There’s no hero in a story like that.

A man who rode the Bering Sea like a wild horse for thirty years needs a stronger ending.

(Photo via CorneliaMarie.com)

20 thoughts on “O Captain, My Captain

  1. Monda, I'm glad that you found comfort in whatever form to get you through your trials with The Perfect Grandson. I find myself looking for the same kind of comfort to get me through the trials The Queen and I are having with her health.

    I find it amusing though that it is prohibited for TPG to be a Republican when it is my firm belief that both political parties are evil, greedy, spawns of Satan Hell bent on the destruction of the Constitution to suit the whims of the highest bidder. Just my opinion, of course.

  2. K., I made that list over two years ago. Today I would most certainly exchange “Republican” for “Politician” on that list. I want The Perfect Grandson to have ethics and unwavering honor, and I suspect no one can have a healthy dose of either and run for public office.

    Here's to good health and comfort for The Queen!

  3. some of those wild rascals you describe crossed my radar too
    ya wouldn't want to live with them
    but they're sure fun to have around…

    my condolences.

  4. If you get the chance, watch the reruns. In a time when everyone works behind a computer, it's shocking to find men out there doing such ancient, dangerous work.

  5. Several of those men have passed through my life. Thanks heavens they just passed through. I'm sure TPG will be an absolute joy filled with ethics, honor and common sense.
    I am now looking for the reruns.

  6. It is a shame that he died of a stroke. His death should have been spectacular. He certainly should have been eaten by something. Then he could have died fighting, which I am sure that he would have prefered, being a man like that.

  7. . . .

    I am glad that you wrote this. I wouldn't have found out otherwise. To read this, I know exactly how you feel.

    I must be honest however. . . whenever I watch that show I can never eat. My heart is on a string. Dangling. Waiting for that plunge into icy water and the seawater streams from my eyes.

    I both love and hate watching that show. It brings me to a level of emotion that can only be named the 'bering sea'.

    I want to thank you for blogging this, now I and those that watch itand haven't seen the recent episodes can mourn it too.

  8. That was an awesome post, Monda. Those boys you described can still make my heart go pitter-patter, which is why I have to stay single forever ;0).

    BTW, I seriously think you just might be the best mother and grandma on the planet. TPG and Emily are super lucky to have you!!

    Oh yeah, yesterday I used your “looking over the reading glasses” approach on a rather small group of sophomores who wouldn't do their assignment because they claimed to not have read “To Kill a Mockingbird” yet and couldn't imagine why their teacher left such an assignment. Stopped them cold. Then I made them discuss the book with me. Turns out, they knew an awful lot about that book for folks that have never read it! I'm totally using the glasses approach every time!!

  9. We watched each episode religiously. We cheered, laughed, and cried with each white-knuckle episode. I knew Capt. Phil was in bad health after a blood clot was found, but didn't think it would end so quickly. He's got two sons that will most likey grow up to be just like him. While I like each of the other crews, the show will not be the same.

    Here's to all the boys with crooked grins, muscle cars, and tight jeans that have ever crossed our paths, made our mama's worry and our daddies reach for a loaded shotgun.

  10. For every Captain Phil, there are at least two good women out there worrying themselves blind. Since our captain had sons, I figure the number of good women weeping on the dock will expand exponentially.

    I guess we'll see. The new season begins in April, with and without Captain Phil. And no, it just won't be the same.

  11. We've watched The Deadliest Catch since the first episode and have come to the place where we refer to the fishermen by their first names, as though they are a neighbor or friend we haven't seen for a while.

    Captain Phil will be missed at our house.

  12. That show is so intriguing. It ranks up there with the”Dirtiest Jobs” show. It really brings to light what people do to bring us things we take for granted. I was watching “Dirty Jobs” (or whatever it's called) last night and they were showing how poop was processed. Ewww… I felt sick just watching. Had to turn the channel. No no no…. I will never flush without thought again.

  13. I asked my friends to recommend new blogs for me to read… which is how I ended up here at yours. I haven't gotten to read many of your posts yet but was excited to see a post about Capt. Phil. (If “excited” is an appropriate word to use in this case.) I posted my own Capt. Phil blog but don't know if many of my friends “got it”. If you're not a DC fan, maybe you just can't understand how a brash crab fisherman could be so much more! Glad to know I wasn't alone after all. 🙂

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