Only with the Heart
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Saint-Exupery
“Mr. Morton, plot a course for
“Aye, Sir,” responded Seaview’s Exec. “Did the Admiral decide to put in for repairs after all?”
“No,” replied Crane. “He’d still rather have the weakened hull sections repaired at the Institute. He says we’ll be fine as long as we don’t make any extremely deep dives.”
Chip frowned, “I’d feel better if we had them
“The Admiral designed Seaview,” Crane reminded the Exec. “I’m sure he knows her capabilities and wouldn’t put off the repairs if he felt she were at risk.”
“I suppose you’re right,” agreed Morton. “But
if we’re not stopping at
“We’re to pick up a passenger at
“That seems odd,” commented Morton. “If he’s so sick, why don’t they just fly him to L.A?”
“Apparently he was a submariner and he said he’d like one last ride on a sub before he dies. You know, Chip,” confided Crane, “I can understand that.”
The Exec grinned at his superior and friend. “Of course you can understand that. I can’t picture you living out a quiet retirement somewhere on land. I’m sure you’ll have to be carried off Seaview feet first. Now me, when my time comes, I want to sleep away in a comfortable bed that is not underneath hundreds of feet of water.”
“This is turning into a rather morbid
conversation,” commented the Captain. “I’d like to think we both have a lot of
years left. Lay in the course for
“Aye, Sir,” acknowledged Morton. “Are you going to note the change of course in the log, or shall I?”
“I’ll do it,” responded Crane, reaching for the log book. He carefully turned the pages until he found the first blank page. After writing the date, June 2, 1978, at the top of the page, he neatly noted the course change and then closed the book. He looked over at his Exec and said, “I’ll be in my cabin catching up on some paperwork until the shift change.”
“Aye, Sir,” replied Morton.
“Admiral Andrew Kraynik, requesting permission to come aboard.”
“Permission granted, Admiral,” responded Crane, extending his hand to the older man who had just descended into Seaview’s Control Room. “Welcome aboard.”
They shook hands and then Crane inclined his head toward Admiral Nelson who was standing at his side. “I’d like to introduce Admiral Harriman Nelson.”
Crane paused to let the two men exchange greetings before he continued, “This is Mr. Morton, Seaview’s Executive Officer.”
Admiral Kraynik turned toward Morton but swayed slightly as though he were dizzy. Crane reached out to steady him. “Are you all right, Sir?”
The older man recovered quickly. “I’m fine, Captain, just a little tired, that’s all.”
“I’ll have Chief Sharkey show you to your quarters so you can rest.” He motioned to the Chief who had been waiting for the summons. “Escort Admiral Kraynik to his quarters and make sure he has anything he needs.”
“Aye, Sir,” replied Sharkey, reaching for the Admiral’s bag. The weight of the bag caught him off guard and he let out a surprised grunt as he hefted the heavy load.
“I’m sorry, Chief,” apologized Kraynik. “It’s loaded with books—I couldn’t travel without my old friends.”
“It’s all right, Sir,” grunted Sharkey in a strained voice. “I’m used to handling loads much heavier than this. Now, if you’ll just follow me.” He turned to head out of the Control Room, his glare daring any crewmember to contradict him.
Recognizing the Chief’s statement as mere bravado, Admiral Kraynik turned and grinned at Seaview’s senior officers who returned the smile. Crane’s smile faded after the two men went thought the hatch. “I wonder if I should have suggested he go to Sickbay instead of his quarters? He didn’t look well.” Absently he played with the ring on his hand, the gesture reflecting the concern in his voice.
Nelson was the one to reply. “Lee, I think we should take him at his word and not hover over him. I’m sure he’d ask for medical attention if he felt he needed it.”
“I don’t know,” said Crane slowly, still twisting the ring. “He might not want to be a bother to us.” He dropped his hands to his sides as he came to a decision. “I’m going to talk to Doc and ask him to stop by the Admiral’s quarters in a little bit. He can introduce himself and offer his services. Chip, get us underway.”
Without waiting for his order to be acknowledged, Crane strode out of the Control Room, headed for Sickbay.
Nelson, Crane, and Morton were in the Wardroom the next morning having breakfast. Crane was drinking his coffee, but he was unusually restless, glancing repeatedly at his watch and then at the door. Nelson watched him with amusement for several minutes before asking, “Are you expecting someone, Lee?”
The Captain was too preoccupied to catch the teasing tone in the Admiral’s voice. “I thought that Admiral Kraynik might join us for breakfast. I hope Sharkey told him he was welcome.”
“I’m sure he did,” replied Nelson soothingly. “The Admiral might prefer a quieter beginning to the day.”
“Or he might feel he would be intruding,” worried Crane. Abruptly he rose from the table. “I think I’ll go by his cabin and extend the invitation myself. I’ll also offer to take him on a tour of Seaview. I wouldn’t want him to think we were inhospitable.”
After the Captain left the Wardroom, Nelson, still amused by Crane’s behavior, turned to Morton. “He’s not usually so solicitous toward visitors. I wonder why he’s so concerned about Admiral Kraynik.”
Morton looked thoughtful as he replied, “I think he feels a sort of kinship with the Admiral. He told me he could understand the Admiral wanting one last cruise on a submarine before he dies. Perhaps Lee sees himself and his future in the Admiral.”
“I supposed you could be right,” mused the Admiral. “Well, no matter. Chip, I’ll be in the lab if you need me for anything.”
“Aye, Sir,” said the Exec as both men rose to go about their duties.
Lee breathed a sigh of relief when his knock on Admiral Kraynik’s door drew a hearty “Come in.” Crane had come to the Admiral’s cabin on impulse, but as he knocked he had worried that he would disturb the older man’s rest.
“Good morning, Sir,” said Crane as he entered the cabin. “I hope you slept well.”
“Good morning, Captain,” responded the Admiral with enthusiasm. “I did indeed sleep very well. There’s nothing like sleeping on a submarine, listening to the purr of her engines, feeling the vibration through her frame…” Noticing that Crane was grinning broadly, the Admiral’s mood changed abruptly. “I’m sure you think I’m a foolish old man. I know this was a courtesy call, Captain, so I won’t keep you from your duties.”
Dismayed at the older man’s reaction, Crane hastened to make amends. “Admiral, please forgive me if I offended you, I was smiling because I feel the same way about being aboard a submarine, especially Seaview, and I was delighted to find someone who understands that feeling. While I guess you could say this is a courtesy call, I came to extend an invitation for you to take your meals with the senior officers.” Glancing at the dishes on the desk, Crane continued, “I see you’ve already had breakfast, so my invitation is a little late for this morning, but I have some time before I have to be in the Control Room and I would like to offer you a tour of Seaview.”
“Thank you, Captain,” said the Admiral, his previous good humor restored. “I would like that very much.”
The two men headed down the corridor, Crane being careful to keep his pace slow so as not to overtax the Admiral’s strength. He also kept up a running patter so the older man could save all his breath for walking. When they reached the engine room, Crane indicated that the Admiral should enter. “I thought we’d start with the engine room so you could see the engines that helped you get a good night’s sleep last night.”
The Captain introduced Admiral Kraynick to the men working in the engine room. The Admiral’s keen interest in the workings of the engines and his intelligent questions impressed the crewmen. The awkwardness and strained politeness that was usually part of these VIP tours quickly fell away as both the Captain and his crew happily expounded on the superior capabilities of Seaview.
The tour ended in the Observation Nose where Admiral Nelson was working on some paperwork. Lee left the two admirals together while he went to the Control Room.
Admiral Kraynick was the first to speak, “Admiral Nelson, you have a fine vessel and an equally fine Captain. It’s obvious to me how much the crew respects him. The men seem more confident and energized when he is around.”
Nelson smiled, pleased by Admiral Kraynick’s observation. “I’ve known Lee since his Academy days and always wanted him to command Seaview. I could tell you some great stories about some of our missions if you’re up to it.”
“Absolutely, Admiral. There’s nothing an old submariner like me enjoys more than a good story about the sea.” He settled back in his chair to listen as Nelson put away his paperwork and began, “I think you’ll particularly enjoy this one. We were....”
The next few days were pleasant for everyone. Admiral Kraynick joined the senior officers for meals and, when he wasn’t resting in his cabin, he spent his time talking with the Captain and other members of the crew. Everyone enjoyed his company because, while he shared some of his experiences from World War II, he never seemed like an older person solely interested in bragging about “the good old days.” Instead he was eager to learn about all the new technology on Seaview, marveling at the sub’s capabilities. Officers and crewmen all greeted him warmly when they encountered him in the corridors.
Entering the Control Room on the third day of the cruise, the Captain reached for the usual weather reports, frowning as he read them. He looked up as Admiral Nelson entered the Control Room.
“Admiral, the storm we’ve been tracking has strengthened overnight and has also grown larger. We can’t go around it and with the weakened hull sections, we can’t dive deep enough to go under it. I’d like to take a team of divers out and make repairs.”
Admiral Nelson quickly scanned the reports. “I agree, Lee. The sooner we get those sections reinforced, the better.”
“I’ll get a team together right away. Mr. O’Brien, you have the conn.” The Captain hurried out of the Control Room, loosening his tie along the way.”
“Skipper,” Patterson’s voice crackled in the Captain’s ear over the radio, “We’re just about done here.”
“Very good,” replied Crane, “I’ll just double-check the other sections to make sure the repairs are holding and then we’ll head in.”
Lee swam along the sub, shining his light on all the repaired sections, looking for any signs of weakness. He was so intent on his task, he didn’t notice the vine coming up behind him, a vine that seemed not to be just drifting up from underneath the sub, but deliberately reaching for him. Suddenly, he felt a choking pressure around his neck. He tried to cry out, but the pressure on his throat prevented him from making a sound. He tried desperately to grab the vine that was choking him, but couldn’t pull it free. Abandoning that effort, he struggled to reach for his knife, but the vine pinned his arms, increasing the pressure on his neck and chest. He continued to struggle, but felt blackness closing in on him.
“Admiral Nelson!” The Admiral turned around to see Kraynick coming down the spiral staircase, looking agitated. “I know you’re busy monitoring the repair mission, but it’s urgent that I speak to you.”
“Of course, Admiral, Mr. Morton can monitor the divers. Let’s move forward where we can speak privately.”
After they had taken a few steps, Kraynick turned around to face Nelson. “I don’t mean to interfere in the workings of the sub, but I have to ask this. Have you been in contact with the divers?”
The surprise he felt showed in Nelson’s eyes, but he answered courteously. “Of course. We’ve been monitoring their communications. They’re finishing up and should be coming in shortly.”
Admiral Kraynick twisted the ring on his hand, a gesture that Nelson could not help but notice because it reminded him of Lee doing the exact same thing when he was worried. “Admiral, I know this sounds foolish, but could you humor an old submariner and contact them now? I just have a feeling that something is terribly wrong.”
Nelson looked hard at the man, then reached for the mike on the wall. “Nelson to Crane. Come in please.” When there was no response, he repeated, “Nelson to Crane. Please respond.”
With a growing sense of alarm, he looked up at Chip who was reaching for his own mike. “Morton to Patterson, Come in please.”
This time the response was prompt. “Patterson here, Sir.”
“Patterson, the Admiral just tried to contact Captain Crane, but he didn’t answer. Is he with you?”
“No, Sir. He went to double-check the repaired sections. He hasn’t come back yet.”
“Take the other divers and go check on him. Leave the comm link open so we can monitor.”
Each second seemed like an eternity as the officers in the Control Room waited for the divers to report they’d found the Captain. Suddenly there was a shout from Patterson. “There he is! Over there! It looks like he’s caught in some kind of vine. Let’s go!”
Unintelligible sounds of struggle were heard and then finally, Patterson’s voice came through. “We’ve got him, Sir, and we’re headed in. Better have Doc meet us in the Missile Room. That vine, or whatever it was, was choking him. He’s breathing, but just barely.”
Morton responded immediately, “You get him in and we’ll have Doc waiting.” He quickly clicked the mike and ordered, “Doc, report to the Missile Room. Captain Crane was injured on the dive and needs immediate attention.”
Nelson turned to Admiral Kraynick, “I’m going down to the Missile Room. Do you want to come along? Your hunch probably saved his life.”
“I’d only slow you down.” Kraynick responded. “Go without me, but please let me know how he is.”
The Admiral nodded curtly and hurried out.
Admiral Kraynick looked at the book in his hands and realized that even after reading the same page three times, he still didn’t know what it said. He just couldn’t concentrate. True to his word, Nelson had informed him when the Captain was out of danger. Because of his hunch, the quick action of the other divers, and treatment by Jamison in the Missile Room, the Captain had come around quickly. Despite the good news, Kraynick found he was still shaken by the Captain’s close call and by the unexplained feeling that had led to his rescue. He wanted to see the Captain, but felt he would be intruding since he’d only known him a few days. As he looked down at the book in his hands, resolving to concentrate on the words in front of him, a soft knock came at the door.
“Come in,” he called.
Lee stuck his head inside the door. “I hope I’m not disturbing you, Admiral.”
“No, of course not,” Kraynick responded warmly. “Please come in and sit down. I’m very glad to see you. Admiral Nelson was kind enough to tell me you were all right, but I feel much better now that I can see for myself.”
“Actually, that’s why I’m here.” Crane entered the room and sat on the bunk. “Admiral Nelson tells me I have you to thank for saving my life.”
“Oh no, not me,” protested the older man. “It was the other divers and Dr. Jamison who saved you.”
“But you told them I was in trouble. How did you know?”
The Admiral looked uncertain as he said, “I didn’t know exactly. I just had a feeling that someone was calling out for help. It was such a strong feeling that I had to go to Admiral Nelson. I can’t explain it any more than that.”
Crane’s eyes widened at the Admiral’s explanation. “I was trying to call out, but I was being choked and couldn’t make a sound. It almost seems like you were picking up my thoughts.” He shook his head. “I can’t explain it either, but I am grateful.”
The two men were quiet for a moment, then, seeking to lighten the mood, Crane gestured to the book on the Admiral’s lap and asked, “What are you reading?’
Kraynick raised the book so the Captain could see the cover as he replied, “It’s one of Patrick O’Brian’s novels--he’s one of my favorite authors. I don’t think anyone tells a story of the sea as well as he does.”
“I admit he’s good,” responded Crane, “and I hope he continues writing, but I still enjoy Forester’s Horatio Hornblower books, and, of course, Moby Dick, which I’ve read several times.”
The older man eyes sparkled with delight. “Captain, it seems we have a great deal in common--submarines and seafaring tales. Let me show you some of my other books and we’ll see if I have any that you haven’t read.”
The repairs to the weakened frames held and Seaview rode out the storm without incident. The next few days were routine, but pleasant. Admiral Kraynick began to spend less and less time in his cabin, enjoying a comfortable relationship with both the officers and crew, He took all his meals in the Wardroom with the officers. Lee was almost always the last one to arrive, apologizing for attending to “one last thing” before turning over the conn. When he strode into the wardroom on this particular evening, however, he was dismayed to find that Admiral Kraynick was not present. Concerned, he turned to Admiral Nelson, who, along with Morton, had already been served.
“Admiral, I’m surprised that Admiral Kraynick isn’t here yet. Did he say anything to you about having dinner in his quarters?”
“No, Lee,” replied Nelson. “I would think he is just running a bit late.” Smiling at the Captain, he continued, “Perhaps he had ‘one more thing’ to do.”
Distracted by his concern for Kraynick, Lee barely acknowledged the gentle teasing with a brief smile before his expression turned resolute. “I think I’ll go check on him--he might have been overdoing it these last few days.” Without waiting for comment from the others, he turned and hurried out.
Morton looked at the Admiral. “Do you think they would mind if we went ahead without them? Cookie’s meatloaf is one my favorites and I’d like to eat it while it’s still hot.”
Nelson chuckled, “I don’t think they’d mind at all. Besides, who knows how long they’ll be. Those two could get caught up in talking about Seaview and forget all about dinner.”
Both men began to eat but were interrupted by the Captain’s voice over the intercom. “Crane to Jamison, report to Admiral Kraynick’s quarters. We have a medical emergency.” Immediately, both men jumped up and ran out of the wardroom.
Arriving in the corridor outside Admiral Kraynick’s quarters, they saw Jamison entering the room, followed by two corpsmen with a stretcher. Not wanting to be in the way in the small room, they waited outside.
Within a few minutes, the two corpsmen emerged, carrying Admiral Kraynick on the stretcher. Despite the oxygen mask covering the lower part of his face, Nelson and Morton could see he was unconscious and very pale. Jamison was right behind the corpsmen. He acknowledged the two officers with a quick nod, but didn’t stop to talk.
Nelson turned toward the door to the cabin and as the Captain emerged, he reached out to get his attention by touching his arm.
“Lee, what did Jamison tell you? Does he have any idea what’s wrong?”
Visibly upset, Crane stopped and raised a hand to rub his forehead. “He said it appears his condition is worsening and that his blood can’t carry enough oxygen. A blood transfusion will help, but it has to be more than just a match by type. He said that some other factors--I don’t remember the details--have to match as well.”
The Captain inhaled, attempting to steady himself. “Admiral Kraynick’s blood type is rare, but by coincidence, it’s the same as mine and a few others in the crew. Doc can test for the best match. I’m going to Sickbay to be tested now. If my blood isn’t a good enough match, we’ll ask the others if they’d be willing to donate blood for Admiral Kraynick.”
“If they’re needed, I’m sure they’ll be willing,” replied Nelson.
Morton spoke up, adding confirmation to the Admiral’s words “Admiral Kraynick has won the respect of all the crew in just a short time. You go on to Sickbay and we’ll talk to the others.”
Lee looked at both men with a grateful smile, “Thanks, I’ll keep you informed.” He turned away then, walking hurriedly down the corridor.
Dr. Jamison looked up from the chart on his desk as Crane entered his office. Anticipating his Captain’s question he said, “He’s awake and he knows you donated the blood for the transfusion, but that’s all. I told him you wanted to be notified when he woke up and he’s anxious to see you.”
“Thanks, Doc,” replied Crane as he headed for Sickbay proper. Admiral Kraynik had his eyes closed, but the noise of a chair being moved to his bedside roused him and he smiled as the Captain sat down.
“I understand I have you to thank for my still being around. I would say we’re even now since we’ve saved each other’s lives.”
Crane returned the smile but then became more serious. “I was glad to help, but there is something you need to know about the transfusion.”
Instantly alarmed, the Admiral demanded, “It didn’t cause you any harm, did it?”
“Oh no, not at all,” soothed Crane. “I’m fine.”
The Admiral relaxed and let the Captain continue.
“When Doctor Jamison was looking for a blood donor, there were only five of us who had the same blood type as yours. However, Doc said it wasn’t enough to just match the blood type. He explained that with a condition such as yours, it would be best if other markers in the blood also matched. It turned out that we were a very close match. In fact, the match was so close that Dr. Jamison said he’d never seen such a close match in people that weren’t related.”
Lee paused to take a deep breath before continuing. “I was abandoned as a baby and never knew anything about my parents. If there is anything you know that could explain how we could be related, I’d really like to know about it.”
The older man looked stunned. He began to answer, but couldn’t get any words to come out. He struggled to compose himself. Finally, in a voice that shook with emotion, the older man replied, “If this is true, then it is the answer to a prayer I’ve prayed every day of my life for over thirty years.” He paused again to regain his composure and began his story.
“I was in
“I was thrilled when she wrote to say that she was expecting a child. I had no other family so I was looking forward to having my own with Mary. I wanted so badly to be with her, but I couldn’t get leave. Shortly before the baby was due, she wrote to say that her mother had died. Mary was too close to delivery to travel so we couldn’t be together for the birth. She wrote every day and then, one day, the letters stopped. I tried to call, but first there was no answer, then I was told the phone had been disconnected. Because I had no relatives and didn’t know the neighbors, there was no one I could contact and ask to check on her. I tried desperately to get leave and finally with the chaplain’s help, I was granted leave to go home.”
When I got there, I found our apartment had been cleaned out. From the neighbors, I learned that my Mary had died after giving birth to our son. When I recovered from the first shock, I asked about the baby. The neighbors said he’d been taken to an orphanage run by the local Catholic church. I was ready to rush right over to the orphanage to claim my son, but they stopped me. They said the orphanage had burned down. The sisters had managed to get all the children out safely, but they had nowhere to care for them so they simply gave the children to anyone who would take them. In all the confusion, they made no attempt at record keeping.”
“I was in shock over the terrible tragedy that had befallen me, the loss of my beloved wife and our son, but I made my way to the church, hoping that someone would remember my son and what had happened to him. I talked to everyone who might have known something. I even went door to door in the neighborhood, but no one could help me. With my leave ending, I went to a private detective and told him I would pay whatever it would take for him to search for my son. I gave him all the money I had and promised to send more every time I was paid.”
“The years went by and finally, the detective refused to take any more money. He said it was time to give up and accept that I would never find my son. I went to other detectives. Most refused to take my case, but a few tried with no success. Finally, I figured that my son was out there somewhere and maybe the only way to help him would be to give the money I’d been spending on the search to a children’s home. At least that way, maybe some of the money would help him have a better life.”
“But I never gave up hope that someday God would help me find my son. Every night I prayed that we would find each other. And, now, to think that my prayers might finally have been answered….” The Admiral’s voice broke, but he didn’t turn away to hide his emotion. “Please,” he pleaded, “tell me your story.”
Crane swallowed hard. “It’s not a very happy
story and I don’t talk about it to many people. My official records show a
mother and father and although I let people believe they are my natural
parents, they are my adopted father and a stepmother I barely know. I never
knew anything about my birth parents so I always thought I was abandoned
because they didn’t want me. I have no idea who named me and my earliest
memories are of being bounced around from various orphanages and foster homes
“When I was about 10—I don’t know my exact birth date -- only that I was born in 1941--I was adopted by a couple named Crane. They wanted children, but couldn’t have any so they decided to adopt a son. They were good to me and I became especially close to my adopted mother. I was a disappointment to my adopted father, however, because we didn’t share any of the same interests. Still, it was a better life than I had ever had and I tried very hard to please my adopted parents.”
“When I was in junior high, my adopted mother was diagnosed with cancer and my adopted father and I took care of her. That was the closest we’d ever been, but after she died, it fell apart. My adopted father wanted me to take over his business one day, but I knew I had no head for business.”
Lee laughed a humorless laugh. “I probably would have lost the business for him.” He took a deep breath and picked up the story. “He remarried when I was a senior in high school and my stepmother tried to bring us together, but my adopted father couldn’t get past his anger and disappointment. She finally had to give up in order to save her marriage. I had always dreamed of the sea so I applied to the Academy. When my adopted father learned that I was accepted to the Academy, he was furious. As valedictorian of my high school class, I spoke at graduation, but he wouldn’t even come to hear my speech. I left for the Academy right after the ceremony and I haven’t spoken to him since. I’ve tried to contact him, but he refuses my letters and phone calls. I list him and my stepmother as my parents on any official documents that ask for beneficiaries. Despite what happened between us, I’ll always be grateful to him for giving me a home.”
The Admiral reached out and laid a hand on Lee’s arm. “I’m so sorry that you suffered so much as a child. I wish I had been able to find you sooner.” Answering Lee’s unspoken question, he continued, “Yes, I believe that you are the son I lost so long ago.”
Lee started to reply, but the Admiral stopped him. “You don’t have to say anything more just now. This has been unexpected for both of us. It’s enough for me that I have finally found you.”
The sound of a throat being cleared caused both men to turn in the direction of the sound which had come from Dr. Jamison. “Skipper, Admiral Kraynik really should get some rest now. You can talk to him again in the morning.”
The Captain smiled at the older man in the bunk. “I’ll say good-night then, because even I have to obey the doctor’s orders. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Crane rose and with a barely noticeable inclination of his head, indicated that the doctor should follow him. When they reached the doctor’s office, Crane, his voice low, said, “If there’s any change in his condition, any change at all, I wanted to be called at once—no matter what time it is.”
“Understood, Captain,” replied the doctor, nodding as Crane turned to leave. When the Captain had left, he turned back to the Admiral, intending to get him settled for the night. His patient had others ideas, however.
“Doctor,” said Kraynik, “I need to speak to Admiral Nelson. Could you ask him to come here, please?”
Jamison frowned, “I think it would be better if you spoke to him in the morning.”
“Doctor,” insisted Kraynik. “You and I both know that I don’t have much time left and there is something very important that I must do. Please, Doctor, ask him to come so I can put my affairs in order.”
“All right,” agreed the doctor reluctantly. “But he can’t stay long. I meant it when I told the Captain that you need to rest.”
“Thank you, Doctor. I promise it won’t take long.” As Jamison reached for the intercom, the Admiral interrupted him saying urgently, “Doctor, I’d rather not have it go out over the intercom—it might alarm Captain Crane and I know he needs his rest after donating blood for me.”
The Doctor put down the mike. “Very well, I’ll send a corpsman.”
Even though it was only 0600 hours, Admiral Nelson was already up and working at his desk. He liked to do a little work before joining Crane for breakfast in the wardroom but this morning he found it difficult to concentrate. He was still stunned by the story he’d been told in Sickbay last night. He’d known about Lee’s difficult childhood. Lee had been the one to tell him when he’d realized the secrecy about his family had compromised Seaview’s security. It had been a terrible time for the Captain. He’d been kidnapped and brainwashed by the Chinese and his absence had been explained with the excuse that his mother was in the hospital. At the time, neither Nelson nor anyone else on Seaview knew that Crane was estranged from his adopted father and stepmother so no one questioned the excuse. If they had, they might have stopped the plot much sooner. Lee blamed himself for not being strong enough to resist the brainwashing and also for having kept his past a secret. He’d come very close to resigning his Captaincy. A knock at his door drew Nelson away from these troubled memories. “Come in.” he called out as he looked up to see who would come in the door.
It was Lee Crane who opened the door, but he didn’t come all the way in. “Admiral, Doc just sent a corpsman to my cabin to tell me that Admiral Kraynik’s condition has deteriorated. I’m going straight to Sickbay. Could you let Chip know where I’ll be?”
Nelson interrupted the Captain before he could finish the sentence. “I’ll take care of it, Lee. Take as much time as you need.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” said Crane, his reply almost lost as he quickly closed the door behind him.
Nelson looked at that closed door, concern for his friend briefly seizing him. Then he rose to help his friend in the only way he could, by giving him time, precious time with a dying man.
When he entered Sickbay, Crane started to head for Admiral Kraynik’s bunk, but Jamison hurried over and stopped him. Drawing the Captain aside, Jamison said quietly, “I’m afraid he’s slipping badly. It will probably be only a few more hours.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do?” demanded Crane frantically. “Another blood transfusion, or…” He cast about desperately for a solution. “We could put him in the Flying Sub and get him to that hospital in LA.”
“I’m sorry, Captain,” said Jamison gently.
A new voice, still authoritative despite its weakness, interrupted their conversation. “It’s all right, Lee. Please, come talk to me.”
Crane drew a chair beside the Admiral’s bunk and sat down. The Admiral spoke before Lee had a chance to say anything. “Lee, I never expected to see the end of this cruise. I knew it would be my last. What I didn’t know was that I would receive such a wonderful gift—to find my son after all these years. You’ve grown into a fine man and I couldn’t be more proud of you. I won’t ask you if you believe I am your father—it is enough for me to know in my heart that you are my son.”
“But I do believe you are my father,” said Crane earnestly, “And you are everything I could have wanted in a father. I wish we could have more time—there’s so much to say. I want to know everything about you and about my mother.”
The older man smiled gently, “Your mother was a wonderful woman and she loved you from the moment she knew you were on the way. She named you Lee after her father. I’m glad the name stayed with you because it would have meant so much to her.” He fell silent for a moment to catch his breath.
“We may not have had much time, Lee, but it was good time. Being here on Seaview with you was more than I ever could have expected at the end of my life. I do have a favor to ask of you, if it’s not too much to ask.”
“Nothing could be too much,” declared Crane. “What is it?”
“I’d like to be buried at sea—from Seaview,” responded the Admiral.
“You don’t want to be buried with your wife—my mother?” asked the Captain.
The older man smiled at the question, responding with gentle humor. “Are you afraid I won’t be able to find her?”
Lee grinned sheepishly as the Admiral continued, “We’ll find each other and I’ll tell her all about our son and what a wonderful man he has become. She’ll be so happy.” His voice trailed away as he drifted off. A few moments later, he opened his eyes and smiled at the Captain. “I guess I have another favor to ask. I know you have duties, but I’d like it if you could stay with me a while.”
“I’ll stay,” promised Crane taking the Admiral’s hand. “I’ll stay as long as you need me.”
The older man smiled, his eyes closing again.
“Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our departed shipmate and we commit his body to the deep.” The Captain’s voice was strong and steady, never faltering as he said the words of commitment. He honored the Admiral by conducting his burial service with dignity. The crew of Seaview, who knew their Skipper so well, saw in his eyes the pain that didn’t show in his voice. They shared their Captain’s sorrow, for Admiral Kraynik in his brief time aboard Seaview had become “one of their own.”
“May the Lord bless him and keep him. May the Lord make his face to shine upon him. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon him and give him peace. Amen.” Three volleys of gunfire rang out over the sea and then the men of the Seaview followed their Captain into Seaview’s comforting warmth.
Nelson descended the stairs into the Observation Nose and saw the Captain standing by the windows looking out into the darkness, unaware of the Admiral’s presence. Nelson stopped briefly to put the small object he was carrying into his pocket before descending the final few steps. He walked over to sit down in the chair behind Crane.
Seeing the Admiral’s reflection in the glass, Crane began to speak without turning around.
“When I was very young and things were difficult, I had this fantasy about my real father coming to rescue me. In my mind he was the perfect father, loving and kind, yet strong and unswerving in the face of trouble. I clung to that fantasy for years. When I was adopted, I put that dream aside and concentrated on being a good son to my adopted parents. It worked for a while, but after my adopted mother died and it became clear I was a disappointment to my adopted father, I turned again to that fantasy. This time it brought me no comfort because I knew there was no father to come to rescue me and I decided it was just as well since I would probably disappoint him, too.”
“I went to the Academy, determined to make my own way, on my own, without help from anyone. It would have been a lonely life, but I was fortunate to have found good friends and mentors in the Navy.”
Crane smiled briefly to acknowledge the Admiral’s role as a mentor before continuing.
“But friends and mentors aren’t the same as parents and I guess there was still an empty space inside me—until now. That good and honorable man told me he was proud to think that I was his son. He also told me he had never abandoned me; he had lost me and had spent his life searching for me. Can you imagine how I felt when he said that? Admiral, before he died I told him that I believed he was my father, and I meant it when I said it, but now I wonder if it isn’t just that I want to see my childish fantasy fulfilled.”
Lee turned to face Nelson. “How I can ever be sure if he was truly my father?”
Nelson reached into his pocket to retrieve the object he had placed there, but changed his mind and withdrew an empty hand. He paused a moment before answering his Captain.
“’It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.’” quoted the Admiral.
Crane looked at him and said slowly, “I don’t understand.”
“Then let me ask you something,” suggested the Admiral. “You spent a great deal of time with Admiral Kraynik, much more than you would usually spend with visiting brass. Do you know why?”
Crane thought for a moment before answering. “At first it was courtesy to a distinguished visitor with some sympathy mixed in. I could understand his wanting one last cruise on a submarine before he died. Then I found that I enjoyed his company. We shared so many interests—submarines, books about the sea. I enjoyed talking with him and he seemed interested in hearing about Seaview.”
“Just like a proud father,” observed Nelson.
“Are you saying he knew, or had some idea, before he came aboard?” asked Crane.
“No,” replied Nelson. “I’m not saying that at all, just making an observation. Lee, think about your reaction when he was late for dinner the other night. You were concerned, so concerned that you went to check on him instead of sending someone else to do it.”
“We all knew he was ill. That was why he was aboard,” said Crane defensively.
“I wasn’t criticizing you, Lee, You were right—he needed medical attention and you saw that he got it. However, you could have turned him over to Jamie and walked away, but you didn’t. You stayed with him in Sickbay, almost frantic to do something to help him.” Before the Captain could offer another expression of denial, Nelson added gently, “Just like a concerned son.”
When Crane said nothing, Nelson continued, “Lee, something drew the two of you together. During his time on Seaview, Admiral Kraynik was the father you’d always wanted and you were the son he’d lost. Look in your heart for the truth, Lee, for that’s the only place you’ll find it.”
The Captain turned back to face the windows again and several minutes passed before he spoke. “In Sickbay when I told him I believed he was my father, I spoke from my heart. My doubts since then have been in my head.” Crane turned to face Nelson. “You’re right, Admiral, we were father and son while we were together and that is all that matters. I’ll be proud to call him my father for the rest of my life.”
Nelson looked at the younger man, pleased he had found the truth he was seeking. “I came down here to give you something. While he was in Sickbay, your father asked Dr. Jamison and me to witness a codicil to his will. The small amount of money he had saved he had willed to an orphanage and he let that stand when I assured him you were doing well financially. He hadn’t made any provisions for his personal possessions, however, and in the codicil we witnessed, he left them all to you. He wanted you to have his books and other personal items.”
The Admiral reached into his pocket and withdrew a small silver frame that contained a picture of a young woman. As he extended his hand to give the frame to the Captain, Nelson explained, “He especially wanted you to have this and asked me to give it to you. He carried this with him all the time. It’s a picture of his wife, Mary.”
Crane took the picture and looked into a pair of eyes that were the same as the ones that looked back at him from the mirror each morning. He raised his head to look at the Admiral who was smiling at him. “Yes, Lee, you have her eyes.”
“Why didn’t you give this to me right away?” asked Crane.
“Because its value would have been diminished if you saw it only as evidence that Admiral Kraynik was your father. Lee, any piece of evidence—even that picture—is only that--evidence that is always subject to review as our knowledge grows. Scientists are working on genetic testing that could someday prove paternity pretty conclusively, but that is only biological evidence. The things we hold in our hearts—our faith, our values, our love of family and country—aren’t based on evidence and are stronger for it. You wouldn’t have been able to know the true value of that picture until you believed in your heart that Admiral Kraynik was your father.”
“’It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.’” quoted Crane, repeating the Admiral’s earlier words.
“Exactly,” said Nelson.
“I’ll cherish this picture as my father did,” declared Lee. “Thank you, Admiral, for helping me see the truth.”
“You’re welcome, Lee,” responded the Admiral. “If you want company when you go through the Admiral’s things, I’d be glad to help.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll be fine. It will give me a chance to get to know my father better. We’ll be docking in the morning so I think I’ll get started packing up the things in his quarters. If you’ll excuse me, Sir.” At the Admiral’s nod, Crane headed for the spiral staircase.
Nelson watched him go and then said softly to himself, “It is only with the heart…”
I have been fortunate in my life to have had a doting grandfather, a loving father, and a wonderful husband who is devoted to our two sons. This story is dedicated to men everywhere who have given a father’s love to a child.