I’ve spent a great deal of time these past few weeks and months revisiting the places that hold special memories for me. Sometimes those visits have been deliberate. Other times, I have revisited those old memories quite by accident. Today we took an unplanned trip to a place near and dear to our hearts.
It is a tremendous feeling to roll out of bed when I wake up on my own instead of to the trill of our three alarms back home. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the gentle Gulf of Mexico shimmering beyond the three giant windows in the bedroom. I threw my legs over the side of the bed and went to grab a cup of coffee. I joined T on the balcony to drink my coffee and look out at the water. We sat for a while and then decided to throw on our suits and head down to the water. We spent a lovely morning on the beach. The weather here was perfect today. While it is 100 degrees in the shade back home, we have traveled south to 85 degrees and a soft, cooling breeze coming off of the water.
As we relaxed in the sun, Emily asked if we could drive to Dauphin Island later in the afternoon. Dauphin Island. It has been years since we have been to Dauphin Island, before Katrina, and we all knew that the island had suffered tremendous damage. But yes, we agreed. We all wanted to go back to that special place. We were so close, and Grandpa loved Dauphin Island.
We all enjoyed the drive, and cheered when we crossed the border into Alabama. Almost instantly, the memories flooded back. We remembered so many things. We remembered places we had shopped and eaten. We remember the boat rides, the walks, the funny things that had happened on past trips. We all remembered Grandpa. So many times today, I wanted to pick up the phone and call him! I wanted to tell him that certain things had remained after the hurricane. I wanted to tell him what had changed.
The changes were astonishing. Third row beach houses were now beachfront. The homes on the bay no longer had bay access. Their docks and piers were sitting on sand. The entire west end of the island had shifted. We drove as far west as the road allowed. Several times, we had to drive through standing water. The island had been cut in several places. Gulf and bay were now only separated by the narrowest strip of land.
We looked for places we remembered. Que Sera, the weathered beachfront house we loved, was gone. We stopped where the home had once stood and looked at the vacant stretch of beach. Posts remained. That’s it. She was gone. I could see the house super-imposed in that spot. I could see my little kids playing happily. I could see Dad, too. Yes, the memories were still there. The memories were so real. I had forgotten so very much, but it all came rushing back.
We were happy all afternoon. We found a spot on the beach and walked across the sand as smooth as sugar. We floated in the Gulf and remembered happy times. Emily and I walked down the beach. We explored a tidal pool and waded into the warm water with the birds. Em is grown up now. Dad is gone. The boys no longer travel with us. This afternoon, though, I had them all right back with me for a few hours. They were all in my heart.
As Em and I walked back to where T and Lola were playing in the waves, I thought of all I have forgotten. It seems that I have forgotten years of my life. I have forgotten so many good things. I have been caught up and preoccupied. I have been focused on all of the wrong things in life. So much is right in front of me, and I have lost sight of it all. Why? How does that happen? How have I allowed that to happen? I have wasted time. I have wasted years and missed chances on nothing worth my time, energy, or efforts. Pure Waste.
We were all worn out by the time we decided to pack it in. We laughed as we changed into dry clothes in the car and attempted to make ourselves look presentable. We had one more thing we needed to do. We had one more memory to revisit. We headed down the road to the best part of the day. We were on our way to a little place, not too clean, and nothing fancy, but with the best delicacy in the world…in our opinion. We were on our way to deep fried crab claws.
We ate them piping hot, and licked our fingers after each bite. We smiled from ear to ear as we enjoyed something we hadn’t even known we were missing until today. When we returned, T smiled at me and said it was the best day he has had in years. Me, too.