It just dawned on me, I wasted all these opportunities to show my wife and my family affection. Life is just way too short to not take every one of those opportunities. —Randy Skinner
Husbands should go to Antarctica to appreciate their wives.
It's too late for Tiger and Elin, or Kobe and Vanessa, but if they'd only learned what BYU geologist Randy Skinner did during the holidays, they'd have their wives and kids and would have saved a combined $185 million.
Skinner, an avid outdoorsman and former Scoutmaster from Orem, left home Nov. 17. He missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, returning Jan. 7 from a scientific expedition, part of a million-plus dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to collect data on ice layers by satellite in Antarctica.
There, he and five others pulled equipment-laden sleds behind snowmobiles 90 kilometers a day and ventured more than 400 kilometers from Berg Field Center, the nearest safe haven and airport.
Skinner, who'd been weeks from home many times, found himself on an ice sheet where every direction is north, summer temperatures had a minus-40 degree wind chill factor and the sun never sets. The windiest place on earth with no mountains, hills or valleys, if one strayed 100 feet from a tent in a storm, there would be no way to tell direction and you could literally get lost with no sense of where to go.
Three weeks in, it hit Skinner like a ton of bricks. The 45-year-old missed his wife Dedi, his kids Keylea'Shaye and Brennon in a way he can't describe. On Dec. 23, he found himself in a whiteout blizzard, his one-man tent ripped and shaking like it would blow to pieces. Snowdrifts built up around his shelter, almost burying him.
"For almost three days, all I could do was lay there, read a book and pee in a bottle," he said. When a satellite phone kept dropping his call to Dedi on Christmas Eve, he felt tears run down his face and freeze. He was a frustrated, empty soul with a longing he'd never felt in his life and it tore him apart.
At that moment, he would have paid any price, given anything to speak for five minutes with his wife and kids.
This experience changed his life. He is not the same man.
"I've been gone for a week or so before and I'd always come back the same person. Two weeks wasn't a big deal, but by the time I got to a month, I could feel it and once it came to two months it became this aching, this profound feeling of being alone, a wanting to be with the family. This loneliness was almost like having another person in the room, you could feel it. It got bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
"It just dawned on me, I wasted all these opportunities to show my wife and my family affection. Life is just way too short to not take every one of those opportunities. I recounted vividly in my mind: I'm watching TV, she's tired and goes up to bed and I say, 'OK, see ya.' We don't do that anymore. I can't imagine that anymore."
Delays kept the group longer than expected. Skinner made the mistake of counting the days and when weather got bad, a plane got delayed, equipment broke down and extended things, it ate him alive.
"I love Dedi and I don't know what it would be like to be without her but I didn't realize how much I love my family because they are here every day and I'm here every day. They go to school, I go to work, I'm kind of busy so I'll be home at 6 or 7 and that's just the way life goes.
"Now, I don't like not being around her. I used to be at church, Keylea'Shaye would sit here, then me, then Brennon and Dedi so we could break up fights. Not anymore. I told the kids when I got home, 'I sit by your mom at church from now on, end of statement. I don't care if you are sick or what's going on, I sit by mom. Nobody sits in the front seat of the car but mom so that I can hold her hand when we're driving, I don't care where we're going or for how long.'"
Married 24 years, Skinner said when he first got married, he'd roll over, give Dedi a kiss and tell her he loved her. "That probably lasted several years, but then I got lazy and I quit rolling over to give her a kiss."
Now Skinner's got a big photograph of Antarctica over his bed. "It's to remind me just how lonely that place was. A year or a decade from now, when I'm really tired and I just want to go to bed, there's this picture of loneliness and hopefully it will remind me and I will never go to bed again without giving her a kiss or holding her hand at every opportunity."
Skinner says every husband ought to go to Antarctica to realize what he has.
"I needed this experience to hit me in the face really hard, to say to me: look around, see what you have."
"When I realized that, I was three weeks from getting home and time couldn't go fast enough. Drilling couldn't go fast enough, the snowmobiles couldn't go fast enough."
Listening to Skinner, I think a lot of married men could gain from a trip to this land where everything is north.
You can't go to Antarctica without an extensive physical examination to prove you are healthy and in proper shape to do so.
Tiger and Kobe would have easily qualified.