My children have devised a game and are laughing in the next room as they play it. One son describes it as being “like playing Survivor–if everyone was both on the jury and arguing at the final tribal council, and also has to vote someone else out.” It is a delightful hybrid of probability, social inveigling, mini-tests, and outright bribery.
I hear a son issuing a challenge to his siblings, evidently to give them an opportunity to accrue additional points: “Whoever can say ‘Irish wristwatch’ the most times. . . .”
The laughter is magical.
We have just returned from the rocky shore of Maine, on a spring day when the temperature was in the seventies, and the sun so strong as to have confused the black flies into hatching three months early.
When we got to the narrow strip of beach to which I had been drawn for this day, at the particular hour upon which my subconscious seemed to insist, it was empty but for a family accompanying a therapy dog, a labradoodle whose deep honeyed curls and amber eyes echoed those of our youngest child, who was drawn to her and held her gaze as she ran her hands through her fur. It was at least the third meaningful occasion since Jim died on which this daughter or I happened upon comforting therapy dogs: once was as we walked on a particularly difficult summer day; the next was on the wedding anniversary I should have had with Jim.
On this day, my youngest daughter stripped off her shoes to wade in the Atlantic’s chilly water.
It is exactly one year since we brought my husband home to die, on a blindingly bright late afternoon.
I had my back to the ocean and my children faced it; I read a poem about a turtle that “nudges with its bulldog head/the slippery stems of the lilies, making them tremble.” She leads “the tender children,/the sweet children, dangling their pretty feet/into the darkness./And now will come—I can count on it—the murky splash,….”
And at that moment, just as I felt the catch in my voice as it started to tremble and I needed to regroup to go on, a gentle wave lapped at the back of my feet, tickled at my heels with its own murky splash, a nudge and a wink. I looked up at the sky, over the sea. Thanks, Jim.
except that the great and cruel mystery of the world,
of which this is a part,
not be denied. Once,
I happened to see, on a city street, in summer,
a dusty, fouled turtle plodded along–
broken out I suppose from some backyard cage–
and I knew what I had to do–
I looked it right in the eyes, and I caught it–
I put it, like a small mountain range,
into a knapsack, and I took it out
of the city, and I let it
down into the dark pond, into
the cool water,
and the light of the lilies,
We took coral-red roses to the water. My daughter Emma, in a bright white dress with splashes of deep rose, planted her flower in the sand, where it soon was joined by three of its brethren.
As we retreated back to the ocean path, we saw a man with a camera crouched by the roses, snapping pictures. He was still there as we lost sight of the beach, continuing our walk along the Marginal Way, a path Jim loved in every season.
It was exactly what Jim would have been doing, had he happened upon a bouquet of roses on the beach on a sunny afternoon.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon