There are times, for reasons I cannot explain, when melancholy descends. I’m not sure melancholy really nails the state of mind I am trying to describe. I’ve searched for the correct word...the definitive word for that feeling. Stress isn’t correct, nor is depression, nor worry. Should I be required to create a word for it, what would it be? Overwhelmsion? That word might almost work. Even if it remains unnamed, when the mood strikes, I know that if I go to the sea my fuzzy head will clear, my spirit will be lifted, and I will return home a little more like myself than when I set out.
It was overcast and humid this morning, but I held out hope the rain would wait. Shorty, almost 91 years old, and I set out for the beach to look for shells. I put on my yellow sunhat that looks like Pooh’s rain cap and handed Shorty her straw hat. She didn’t take note that it was her very own garden hat, nor did she question why it was hanging in my hall closet, nor why her suitcases were in the back seat of my car. I hope she will not ask but I plan. After she has gone upstairs to bed this evening, I will sneak back outside and carry them in. I will unpack them quietly and launder the clothes she will keep and then those we will donate and put them into the appropriate stacks. This evening, as she has done for the last few days, she will ask me if her house is ready and when she can "go home." Once again I will not tell her the truth. "In a few weeks," I will say, but I will not be completely honest. I will not tell her she is to live with me now. I will not tell her yet. Not today. Soon. But not today.
Eventually, however, the news must be broken and the storm will come. When that happens, after it happens, I will find some time to take myself down to the sea and sit on my favorite bench swing and look out toward the horizon. I can breathe there...breathe in that briny oxygen. I realize it is only an illusion, but I cling to the faulty reasoning that nothing really bad can happen within sight and sound of the waves. The birds soar and dive and soar again...with a silvery fish plucked out of the surf as easily as I would pluck a flower. I cannot pretend to know the names of all the sea birds I watch. I recognize the pelican, of course, and the gulls. But is that little bird who runs so quickly on such short legs a sandpiper? Is that larger, longer-billed bird pecking in the wet sand a tern? Every time I go down to the sea, I vow to buy a bird book "soon."
Today, we walked a good portion of the beach. It was overcast and, although humid, the wind blowing off the ocean was cool. We didn’t find any shells of note, but as Shorty correctly pointed out, "We need to come when the tide is just going out." In the days when I had a boat we would run out to Little Tybee, not accessible by land, and find lovely shells. The children were young back then and I would tell them not to take shells that were being rented by hermit crabs. Those shells were their homes, I explained. Some of the shells collected in those long-ago days are scattered here and there on bookshelves and tables in my home. They adorn a picture frame. A bag of them is tucked into a drawer awaiting some long forgotten project. One small scallop shell is attached to the end of a ribbon bookmark. Every now and then I’ll pick up a conch shell and listen to the roar of the waves and I imagine I can hear my own words whispered back to me, "Don’t take that one. That one is someone’s home."
The summer people are almost gone. In another month the beach umbrellas will have been folded and carried away until next season. Those of us who remain, who do not come in search of a golden tan but who long for oyster season and squally seas and stinging salt spray, will be there listening for wisdom in the rush of the waves .
Oh grad, this was a lovely post and my heart goes out to you as you make this difficult transition as easy as you can for your mother. But what of your space and time, my friend? Will you have help when it comes to managing the burden of an elderly relative? I couldn't do it myself and I am overwhelmed by your generosity and your patience. I hope the sea helps, but I also hope you have human hands and minds and hearts to help in practical ways.ReplyDelete
What a lovely, loving post!! (and I feel that way about the sea, too. It's what makes me reluctant to live away from easy access to it). I wish you all the best during what can't be an easy transition.ReplyDelete
Litlove, I'm lucky. Shorty doesn't need constant care. It's really more a health and safety issue. She's "with it," which makes it hard because she is well aware she has a house down the road. She is a determined lady.ReplyDelete
Inkslinger, I think the transition will be harder for Shorty. We'll see how it goes. I would love to move to the mountains of Virginia, but I would miss the ocean too much.
Beautiful post Grad. I hope the transition for both you and Shorty goes well. My mom had to recently move her sister to a full-time care facility because she has Parkinsons and can no longer take care of herself. Her mind is still fine but she resents being where she is but my mom can't take her in because she needs nursing care so no one is very happy at the moment. On the other hand, my soon to be 97 grandma is still in her house and has had her daughter living with her for the past several years and it is working out great for both of them. So all the best to both of you!ReplyDelete
Stefanie, I think having your mind remain sharp but having your body fail is almost worse than the other way around. Neither prospect is very comforting, however. My Mom is a pretty easy person to have around, and she is fine to be at home while I am at work, so I am lucky in that.ReplyDelete
Beautifully descriptive post and so poignant.ReplyDelete
I so feel for all of you. My wife and I are going through early stages of this kind of stuff with her mother, who is in a nursing home now and so desperately wants to go home. It is physical health issues and not age that keep my mother-in-law there and it is sad to see.ReplyDelete
I understand your reluctance to share with her that she is now in the place that is her home. I commend you for being that home, it is a task not everyone is willing to take on. I wish you all the best when you do tell her and hope that all of you have a pleasant and surprisingly wonderful fall.
Such a moving post, I feel for you and your mother. All my wishes.ReplyDelete
This is kind of odd, but I find myself wondering if there's a word in another language for what you're experiencing. I'm thinking Latin, or French....?ReplyDelete
Sigh... what a beautiful and yes, melancholic, post, Graddikins. How is it going with Shorty? There is so much poetry here, and so much compassion. I wonder if ennui is the word..? Again, probably not entirely right... language fails us as the seas never do. Love to you.ReplyDelete