a journal of...

A journal among friends...
art, words, home, people and places

Monday, June 19, 2017

At The Shore

My aunt tells me, "I'd like to see the shore once more..."  My uncle agrees that it would be good to have a break from the usual, their very nice but more restrictive apartment life in the retirement village they moved to last year.  My aunt will be 98 in a month, and with both sight and hearing challenges, and her heart giving us pause, a breath of sea air seemed understandingly appealing.

To be truthful, there was a lot of resistance, others wondering, protectively, at the sense of such a journey at her age and in her condition.  My uncle, too, also a late nonagenarian, might find it as difficult to be driven the three hours from their present home to their old one, and adjust to the different space.

But in all her years, she hasn't missed one shore stay for the 72 years the house has been in the family, and strangeness wasn't part of the equation for either of them.  So why not go once more to the place where, as my mother used to say, life was "easy in, easy out" and at the very edge of the world find some well-deserved peace and familiarity?  Sometimes, safety is a excuse we use (though with all good intention) to save others, and sometimes ourselves, from the risk of living well.

So off we went.  The weather for the most of our week was grand--beautiful blue skies, calm ocean, refreshing breezes even as the heat soared inland, the early-season pleasure before the vacation crowds began.  One day we even managed to sit on the beach, watching the waves roll in.  As the weekend approached, the wind shifted direction, the waves grew frillier, and the currents drew in their brows, promising rip tides.  But the sky only sprinkled now and then on us those days, leaving plenty of time to walk the boardwalk a few times a day, sit on the deck in sun or shade, shop for new shoes and beach clothes, meet with family we don't see often, and entertain visitors.  At night there were cards and cribbage, and the fishing boat lights and the corp of engineer dredgers at work (the effects of hurricanes linger) against the blackness. In other words, shore life as usual.

The week went quickly; I was sorry not to have scheduled us a bit a longer, as it was clear how invigorating it was to them.  They walked longer and longer; they took stairs more surely (and sometimes startlingly more independently), and were up for anything.  It was, as my aunt kept saying, "a good change".

And for me, it was a hopeful and instructive lesson in how to live.

Change is most of the time good for us.  It's always a risk turning blind corners (all corners are blind, even the ones we think we can see around), not knowing how the future will turn out.  But it can also be a means of believing that, yes, we're still alive and up for anything.  That we still have the courage to face the unforeseen and the strength to accept it.

Especially when we're at the very shore of the biggest life event of all.

Meanwhile, the younger generation, still oblivious to the vulnerability of age, picks up where we leave off.  They're crabbing this afternoon, after dowsing each other with water balloons on the deck and shoveling their way to buried treasure in the sand.  Nights, they do puzzles, try bingo and an ocean version of Monopoly.  Just as we did.  Sometimes the years bring no change at all, a most welcome, most gratifying thing to behold...part of the pleasure of growing older.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

This is the Song

Home now, I am listening to the soundtrack that some months ago my brother asked his brother-in-law Mo to put together and give us for his memorial this past weekend.

It's a peaceful, beautiful, still-cool June morning, sun filtering through the trees and warming up to the idea of warming us as the day grows.  I've waited until this moment to play it so I could hear it pure, if you will.  Elton John's on now.

My gift is my song and this one's for you...

As with the soundtrack of everyone's life, its lines are what we remember Tom for.

Keep Me in your Heart for a While
The Weight
Over the Hills and Far Away
Heart of Gold
How Long Will I Love You
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Uptown Funk
Message in a Bottle (I hope that someone gets my)
Closer to the Sun
Time of Your Life...

Lots more.  Two discs full.  I started, unintentionally, with disc 2, entitled Follow the Sun. 

But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song
It's for people like you that keep it turned on

Ironically, there wasn't much sun for our gathering; it rained every single day for a week, and in the few hours when a vague clearing allowed, we could walk on the beach, go for a swim, stretch our limbs a bit, keep umbrellas at the ready.

 All the other 90% of the time we were together in one house or another, where there was a lot of talk and a lot of food (we are who we are), some drama, some pain, a lot more things to laugh over, and much more than that to be thankful for, mostly each other.

And you can tell everybody, this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words...

And there was music, lots of music every night.

Music in the ceremony, music in the video his son and niece made for us to reflect on his life, music long into the night when we played, one by one or in twos and threes, and everybody sang.  My brother Charles had written a song for him, which Tom had gotten to hear back in February, and he sang it again for us.

I hereby apologize to poor Jean's neighbors for the din of forty grownups shouting Boardwalk at the top of their lungs, but I also admit I'm not sorry. For a moment, whoever we be on our own, we who gathered were singing the same song.

...how wonderful life is while you're in the world

In my mother's youth, every family event rang with piano, strings, voices...opera, folk, popular, dance. Meanwhile, children ran in and out, cooks cooked, aunts danced, men weighed matters, stories passed on.  She and her father would think ours was nothing new, but would surely be pleased that somewhere in the genetic material passed on to us, the impulse to song continues.

So, yes, we got the message in the bottle, Tom.  We know who you were and still are. We know who we are, too...the ones who keep playing your life, who keep it turned on.

There's a reason that our favorite time of day, the one we get up in the morning to meet, the one we take most photographs to keep, is sunrise. 

Even if on some days, as my sister's wall reminds her, you have to make your own sun.