For the last few days, I was at a Gulf-side beach hotel. I’ve loved the feel of sand between my toes and the sound of waves coming into shore for as long as I can remember. My parents took me to Jones Beach and Cape Cod every year. As soon as I was old enough, my parents watched from their beach towels while I bobbed and body-surfed in the ocean. Sometimes I made a friend for the day, but oftentimes I was by myself in the water. In my 30’s I explored Georgia’s Golden Isles on my own. So staying at the beach by myself doesn’t seem odd — and at the old and elegant hotel, no one cared about my past, just that I was a current guest.
The first morning I took a nice long walk along the beach, leaving imprints of my bare feet behind in the wet sand. I didn’t intend to collect shells, but after passing others with their heads down, shell-filled bags in hand, I began to gaze downward as well. I came back to my room, triumphant with three small conch-shaped shells cupped in my hand, just a bit worn around the edges – like their collector!
There aren’t a lot of memories of beaches with Rick. He was careful about getting too much sun and he didn’t see much point in just lying on the beach. The years we rode to Daytona Bike Week, however, he reserved an ocean-view room so I happily could stroll the beach, splash in the water and dig my toes in the sand. Give Rick a mountain-view room out West instead, and he was as happy as a clam. (The full mid-19th century phrase, for those who care, was “as happy as a clam at high water” according to http://www.phrases.org.uk; I just couldn’t resist extending the beach references.)
In a few days will be our wedding anniversary. During the last week of his life, Rick reminded me that our premarital counselor told him, “If you get five good years with Mary, it will have been worth it.” With a smile he said we had had twenty good years. Yet I wanted twenty-one, twenty-two and many more years of marriage to Rick – who knew the sand would pour through the hourglass so fast?