Open Diary: Peace for Momma

September 15, 2010 at 9:13 pm (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

It is dusk and I watch the dolphins playing as the sun sets. I find my mind wandering, in this peace, to the early memories I have of the ocean. 

When I was very young, we lived in Florida near Coca Beach. We went to the beach frequently. I would immediately wade into the water and sit with my back to the waves, just at the breakers, and play and explore while the sea washed over me. I could sit like that for hours. My father would carry me on his shoulders, walk us out to deeper water, then swim to shore with me riding on his back. This way, we rode the waves into shore together. These are memories I have never lost. I have loved the ocean as far back as I can remember. Even Her creatures fascinate, teach and renew me. I am at home in the salt water, at ease walking the soft wet sand.

The early memories are also filled with images of my mother walking the beach for hours, picking up shells, wading in the water, and generally communing with the ocean. Of all the things she enjoys, this is the one thing that has always brought her a true peace. The ocean is her church. It is her therapy. It is an infusion of life force. Put her on a beach and she is reborn. This is the one thing we truly have in common. And, while we enjoy doing things together, combing the beach is the thing we do with ease and contentment.

We walk together picking up shells or calling the other’s attention to some thing of interest. We separate and go our own way. Mom wades in the water, walks the beach. She finds all sorts of shells others miss, discovers rocks and other evidence of the mystery that is the ocean. I float freely—without any floatation device—and nearly nap in the watery arms of the sea. I swim to shore, shell a bit and repeat the process. We come back together and share tales of our adventures and admire each other’s treasures. We are at our best together during these times.

From my chair on the porch outside of the condo, I watch my mother walking the beach. Head down, back slightly bent, she walks with her cane in one hand and a bag for shells in the other. Her focus is sharp. Her walk is less labored than at home; there is almost a spring in her step—not quite, but almost. It is, really, an air about her. She simply is lighter. The peace she clearly feels walks with her. I recognize it easily, no matter how far she walks. If I look closely enough, I can see her as I remember her when I was young. When she was young. As she was long before the cancer, the chemo and the toll it took on her. She becomes almost girl-like as she delights in the sun, the water, the shells—all the things that make her at home in the universe…and, in herself. She is beautiful. She is my mother. She has suffered much most of her life. This is the one thing that takes the suffering away—if only for a while. 

The water is calm. It is perfect for swimming. The sun glistens on the surface like a mirror. I am here on the concrete porch because I have become drastically allergic to some kind of insect bite—likely, sand fleas. I find myself feeling as if my body has betrayed me. I have bounced back from the years of damage I suffered before they found the pernicious anemia and I can live with the other allergies that result from having an autoimmune disorder. But this new-found allergy now prevents me from doing one of the few things that quickly and effortlessly brings me to center, feeds me spiritually and reconnects me to the family of things.

I am covered in swollen, inflamed and irritated wounds. Even my legs are swollen. I long for the water. The bites from this unknown assailant itch to the point of insane distraction. It is almost painful and persists despite the large amounts of antihistamines and cortisone creams. At least, there is no anaphylaxis. And, I had at least one good day of walking the beach and resting in the water. Not for the first time, I wonder if this physical misery was worth the drive down here, the time away from home and the things I need to be doing, not to mention the time away from the one I love. I look out at the ocean and bring myself back to the moment at hand. Mom is quite some distance away, walking. She has found something worth bending her tired back further to pick up and keep. I find myself smiling. A heron dives low, gracefully, and flies away with a good sized meal.

A few years back, when the cancer and the treatment made mom too sick to make her yearly trek to the key, I promised her—and myself—that I would do my best to get her here every year. She can no longer make the drive, but I can. And, she should not come alone. I realize as I watch her walking in her own world, at peace for the time being, this is the one thing I can give her that really matters. Adding on to my house and moving her in with me, into her own space, was significant. Tilling up half the yard so she can mess in the dirt, grow things and tend them, was a decent way to let her know I care about her quality of life. But this is the gift that counts.

This yearly act is the one thing that demonstrates my full knowledge and appreciation of her. I watch her with no small emotion. She is headed back to the porch. I know she has treasures to show me. The almost girlish lightness in her tired gait is nearly heart breaking in its joy. “I brought you some shells,” she says smiling…”since you can’t go find your own, I’ll bring them to you.” The voice in my mind that questions whether the trip was worth it becomes mute. My eyes water slightly. I walk into the condo with her, knowing that there is not much I would not suffer for this woman who is my mother. This peace she feels in the presence of the ocean is worth some itching, discomfort and relative misery. The bites will heal. The itching will subside. These moments we have together cannot be replaced.

Later, I will have coffee on the porch and look out upon the water I cannot enter. Still, I can see it. I can smell it. I can feel the salty breeze on my skin. I can close my eyes and feel myself floating. When I look in on mom before I go to bed, when I hear her sleeping peacefully, I will remember clearly why I am here. It is now, and will be then, worth it.

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.


  1. Scintillectual said,

    and this is yet another reason why I love and admire you so. I know how miserable you have been and how this has upset you. I have been terribly selfish in feeling abandoned this week—almost angry that you had to drive her down. I horribly hoped for hurricanes or some other natural disaster to wipe out the keys before you could leave. Now I understand. I didn’t before, but I get it now. You aren’t just a chauffeur—you are a wonderful, selfless, loving daughter to a mother who rarely has a moment of true peace and genuine happiness. It’s true, even if the trip brought her just a small measure of that, it was…and will be…worth it.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Sweetheart, thank you. I don’t know how selfless I am, but I do know how important it is to me that she has this time…that we have this time, even if my ability to really share it with her is limited by the reactions and failings of my body. Normally, I would have some greater enjoyment myself. However, the main reason I come is to give her this gift once a year. It seems, in the scheme of things, a small thing to do. I know it has been hard for me to be away. As unconventional as it is, we have built–already–a very nice familial routine. I too, miss being there and sharing in our daily activities. Being here, seeing her so happy, is worth it. And, perhaps next year, we will have the money and the resources for you to come too. I hope so anyway.

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