In the last couple of weeks E. has suddenly developed an intense interest in the Titanic, which means we now have several books about said ship out from the library, including the exact book I used to own when I was a child with an intense interest in the Titanic.
E. is aware, of course, that the story of the Titanic is a tragic one, a cautionary tale of needless loss of life, but he approaches the subject largely on technical grounds. He is interested in the hows and whys of the sinking and (especially) the discovery and exploration of the wreck. When I was a child I was most interested in the exploration of the wreck as well (I even had a second book by Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, about the wreck of the Bismarck).
I am really having a hard time with the story the second time around.
As an adult, I can’t escape the horror of the human side to the sinking. I’m finding it difficult to read aloud to E. the sections which detail the children who perished, or the reports from survivors of the haunting cries of the doomed passengers as they struggled to survive in the icy waters, or (especially) the myriad mistakes which led to the tragedy (first and foremost the fact that there weren’t enough lifeboats on board). He doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of it, but I am.
I’ve tried to mostly stop thinking about the children, because I find it too upsetting, so instead my mind keeps coming back to Ida Straus, who was offered a place in one of the lifeboats, but chose instead to stay on board the Titanic with her husband, saying, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.”
I don’t think I could do that.
I love Q. very much and couldn’t imagine a life without him. But I think if I were offered the chance to live, I would take it.
Maybe my reaction is a result of the phase of life that I’m currently in. Obviously there are E. and P. to think about, and (in this imagined scenario), if they were in a lifeboat, I would get in that boat to be with them in a heartbeat. Maybe I would feel differently if I were (like Ida was), in my sixties, with my children grown, having been married to Q. for four decades rather than one.
I don’t think so, though.
Q.’s mother was widowed fourteen years ago, when she was in her early fifties. I’ve watched her build a life that in no way resembles the life that she was expecting to have, but it is still a life of great joy, a life of adventure, a meaningful life.
Maybe Ida would have felt differently had she lived in the twenty-first century and had all the opportunities available to women that we enjoy.
Or maybe she loved her husband more than I love Q.
It’s something I think about.
Would you get in the lifeboat?
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