I had to get away from it all. So I walked. My gait was halting in last night's shirt and Bill's crocks that were too large for my feet.
But the small beach was close and the weather strangely warm for December. I could hear birds whittering away in the trees, three whispy clouds were painted on a peerless blue sky. Such a cruel day to die, although technically the time of death was the night before and the small neighborhood beach ten worlds away from the sterile room at the back of the hospital.
It was the first time I had stared at the work of death, waxy, yellow and undone and while I was grateful for dodging death for half my life, it had caught up with me. Still the words of John Donne marched around my head.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so:
Death struck me as a sickly and a mean thing, not at all mighty, a hobgoblin panhadler that had stolen the vibrancy and magnificent from her face.
And death left me speechless, weak and wavering. Absent minded and wandering, mouthing at cupboards. I was lost unlike my dear wife who put up with so much but complained so little.
Only the beach drew me with any purpose, away to the small jetty and the drifting blueness of the sound. Souls drift away on such days and we can only watch and wonder at the ebb and the flow. I recalled a sunset when I was here before. Noah threw stones in the water and Rob showed him sticks. Still the distance between us went well beyond the beach. Rob was already drifting away and soon would be a name without a face. And the child was an adolescent now, although I had not seen him for a long while.
From a house on the bay I heard laughter from a yard sale and remembered a similar sale here two years ago when we had laughed as I picked up a bulky JVC camcorder for $1 only to throw it away.
Now these people were separated from me both in time and mood. In a way I wanted to be anonymous as if this small beach was a microcosm of the desert island I longed to be a small black figure on, lost in sunsets, like driftwood on the rocks. My mother-in-law could be difficult but she had a big heart; at least until it packed up.
The occasional spats were as insignificant as fragments of shells in the bigger picture of the world, so why did we let them fester? And the words of one of the saddest songs caught in my throat.
Of all the things I should've said,
That I never said.
All the things we should've done,
That we never did.
All the things I should've given,
But I didn't.
More than 40 years ago there was a wedding of college sweethearts. I don't know the details but picture a small white, clapperboard church. I picture hope springing from the roadside verges. But they went their separate ways and their paths seldom crossed and only bitterness grew from the verges. At least until they were reunited within the year - walking down a valley where we assume there is no sea. A place from whence no traveler returns.
This woman's Work - Kate Bush