The wind buffets and flaps the awning on the front porch of the beach house where I’m staying. Periodic gusts moan around the eaves and rattle windows.
From this window, rain falls, wet swollen drops, weeping from a sad sky. My friend has given me this space to settle into my soul and spirit for as long as I need it. I’d like to stay forever. But I can’t.
I inhale and remind myself to stay in the moment despite what I know is ahead. More medical appointments for dad, for mom, for myself, for my brother. More to-do things on my calendar — trying to sell the house Joe left me, dealing with his estate.
How is it possible Joe has been gone for almost five months?
Three days of non-stop rain forecast while here and I decide to be with whatever evolves. I muster energy and strength to trek to the boardwalk. Rain pummels me, so much so that I’m drenched through my clothing to my underwear.
Enormous gusts of wind push my body backwards, pick up my umbrella, threatening to turn it inside out, much as my life has been.
I finally see the ocean. At a distance, surfers are in their black wet suits, peppering the breakers and bobbing in the water like buoys. The waves are angry and thrashing, like I’ve been, relentless in their force and height. The surfers sit there, surfboards at the ready, waiting, patient, unlike me.
Then, spying what they feel is the right moment, they stand and allow themselves to be baptized into flight and freedom, riding with balance along a churning curl of white.
They are not afraid. They are in the moment.
The weather has deterred vacationers this weekend. The usual haunts are open – the arcade and merry-go-round, the burger and pizza joints, the owners staring wistfully into the rainy, empty boardwalk hoping for customers.
Before I came here, my bereavement counselor advised me to allow myself whatever my body needs. Whatever my little girl needs.
She wants a soft ice cream cone. I struggle with my umbrella to the counter where two girls stand, idly. I grapple with the cone as I head back out into the deluge, ice cream dribbling down my chin and rain staining my face and jacket, as I lick the cone with abandon.
A few stragglers like myself are braving the storm. Each has a story, as I do. I want to scream into the muddled skies that I’m tired of the storm and the hard, of caring for dad for five years, of Joe’s death, of so many other challenges no one will ever know about. I have been functioning on empty for too long. I’m depleted.
I finish the ice cream, thinking of Joe. How many things he wanted to do but didn’t. Spring training for the Phillies. Mount Rushmore. How his life stopped as if mid-sentence, without a period. Clothes in the washing machine, his sweater that he must have peeled off, crumpled on the couch. His to-do list sitting on the coffee table.
I come back inside, throw my wet clothing into the dryer, and snuggle under a blanket. The house offers me a cozy warmth and comfort, cocooning me in silence and safety. I’m allowing myself to nap, to feel whatever I need to feel. At moments, I feel I’m like the rain, drowning in ceaseless sadness. Other times, I feel as if I’m a cardboard figure moving in a cardboard world. Sometimes I scream at Joe for leaving me and then, I remember his lopsided grin and my heart melts.
Yes, death is behind me, but it is also ahead. It will have its way with me and those I love no matter how much I bargain and plead. I will feel loss and pain. I will cry. And as much as I feel I have a strong spirituality and faith in a Higher Power, I must accept that we are here for a brief time and what I make of that time – how well I love or offer my gifts to the world – is of importance.
I don’t know how well I’m doing any of that. I don’t want to overthink it. I’m good at allowing my mind to roam, to dwell on possible not-so-nice scenarios of the future.
I want to stay in the moment, with these words, with the wind, the rain, under this blanket of belief that I am loved by a Divine power, that I am not alone.
I want to be the little girl, delighting in being soaked to the skin and savoring an ice cream cone in the rain. I want to be a surfer, riding the waves.