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Rendezvous with Destiny – part 2

It was a bright and beautiful day when the Daly and our sister ship, the Smalley navigated  to the South Harbor ship’s pier in Helsinki, Finland, Gem of the Sea.

On our second day in port, part of a three day stop-over, a dance was scheduled to welcome the US Navy to Helsinki. I was not paying much attention at Quarters for Muster that morning, when they gave out all the information. I was not interested in attending the dance, as I am not a good dancer, although I do a pretty good two step. I had no clue as to the time or location of the affair.

All the liberty hounds were gone by the time I headed ashore for liberty. I walked by myself for hours taking in the sights of the beautiful city by the sea. The shadows of the evening were lengthening as I started my return to the ship. I was now very hungry and had no idea where to find any nightlife.

As I navigated through downtown Helsinki, I approached a busy intersection, and stopped, looked for traffic. In the distance I observed two “White Hats” standing in front of a building. A few moments later they were nowhere in sight. I headed toward where I last saw them as it was not far out of my way back to the ship.

It was very quiet as I arrived at the area where I saw the white hats; there was no activity on the street. Then I heard the muted sound of music coming from an open doorway about 50 feet away in the next building. It was the sound of a band playing dance music.

I decided to go in and check things out, not because I felt like dancing, but to listen to the good music, dance or otherwise. To my surprise the ballroom was full of American and Finnish sailors and lovely Finnish girls as hostesses. I had accidentally found the Welcome Dance for the US Navy. Fate/destiny whatever you call it, had been guiding my meandering feet to the vintage building where the outlook on love and life would be changed forever.

It was here I met Tiina and her sister Vieno. They both worked at Helsinki’s largest newspaper. Their department head insisted that they attend the dance because they were fluent in English. They had not been keen on the affair and did not look forward to an evening of dancing with sailors from the USA.

Tiina and I met, we talked, we danced. The evening passed so quickly. I was awestruck, Tiina was a natural beauty, no makeup, only a little lipstick. It was a wonderful evening. We met for only 3 hours. It was our first and only time together, but it was enough for her to capture my heart. She and her sister had to leave and I asked if I could escort them home. They both laughed. They explained they lived in Malmi, a distance of about 12km away, too long a distance for me to travel.

They did however, ask me to walk with them to the train station a few city blocks away. We only walked a short distance and it began to rain. Tiina had an umbrella that she shared with her sister. As we reached the train station the sisters decided to take a cab rather then wait for the commuter train.

Vieno said goodbye and entered the cab. Tiina folded her umbrella and as she began to enter the cab hesitated, backed out, turned to me and handed me the umbrella, saying, “Take my umbrella so you don’t get wet when you walk back to your ship”.  It was a complete surprise. That simple gesture made a profound impact on me. How thoughtful and considerate she was. We were little more than total strangers. She knew so little about me, a foreigner, an American sailor to boot.  I was overwhelmed by her generosity.

She didn’t know if she would ever see her beautiful umbrella ever again, or me for that matter. It was my last night ashore, my last visit to Helsinki. I stood there stunned as she repeated her offer urging me to take the umbrella. She placed it in my hand with a sweet smile, entered the cab, closed the door and rolled down the window. She waved goodbye as the taxi drove off into the rain drenching night.

I stood there for several moments with the umbrella in my hand, unopened, gazing into the direction of the departing taxi. The image of her face still plainly visible in my mind.

I finally started walking in the direction of the ship. I raised the umbrella to shield myself from the rain feeling much like Gene Kelly in that classic movie, “Singing in the Rain”. I experienced a strange feeling in my chest, a feeling I never had before in my life.

I was in a state of amazement at how Tiina had walked into my carefree bachelor life and turned it completely upside down. She managed to change my outlook on life without even trying, just being her natural self.

I began to think how I would very much like to find and marry a girl like Tiina. How could I be so certain?  I had  never been on a real date. How did I know what kind of a girl I wanted to marry. I had never had a girlfriend and had never even kissed a girl .

The more I thought of this beautiful person, the more I felt I wanted to share the rest of my life with her. The big question was, what impression did I leave on her and when would I see her again. Fortunately I had the good sense to ask Tiina for her address before we left the dance and I promised her I would write.

From that time on we corresponded regularly with hand written letters to bridge the gap of miles that separated us.  Letter after letter made the bond grew deeper between us, and we made plans to reunite as soon as my active enlistment expired. My dreams were becoming a reality.

June 3, 1958, serving as a plank owner aboard the USS Joseph K. Tausig, DE 1030, on her first Mediterranean cruise, I was put ashore on the Rock of Gibraltar. I had orders to make my way to Naples, Italy, for discharge. To my knowledge I was the first enlisted man to travel to a foreign country for separation from the US Navy. How that came about is another story.

Almost everything relating to how Tiina and I finally came to be together again, was out of the ordinary. Even the flight from Rome to Helsinki on 5 June 1958, where we were reunited was so very special. We made plans to marry immediately. A wedding date of 14 June was set to give us the time to get the required papers in order. There were so many to sign. There were two marriages; The first by the chief magistrate in the morning and a church wedding in the afternoon performed at a 100 year old Catholic Church the oldest in Helsinki.

We had a wonderful life together, a life filled with blessings. We had three children. Then tragedy entered my life. On 10 September,1997, fate took a sorrowful turn when Tiina became “my special angel”.  Doctor’s negligence and medical mistakes took her away from me. I have been truly lost in the “sea of life’ without her by my side. She was the only one true love of my life.

I am currently writing a book as a tribute to Tiina. It will be something for our grandchildren to read, many generations from now. It will be our story as to how Tiina and I came to be together, a story they will read long after I have made my journey to join her.

Javier Granados  - 2008

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