The trunk of my car is packed with a beach towel, suit, sunscreen, large umbrella, flip-flops and a chair. It’s my emergency summer kit for those moments when an escape to the beach is possible and much needed. I was in the midst of such an escape when my cell phone rang. My car has the feature that will send an incoming call immediately to speakerphone when I am driving. It was J. dialing in from her vacation. She had planned this trip for months and my cheery, “Hello” was met with painful sobs.
J. has had her difficulties with a bad marriage ending thus putting her Green Card progress in jeopardy. She was waiting for a court date which came but her lawyer hadn’t told her until she had already started her vacation. An expensive plane ticket needed to be bought so that she could get back to New York in time. Her sobs echoed in my car as my GPS battled for attention. Slowly the story became clearer to me and I understood that disappointment and frustration were the source of her anguish.
“I understand why you are so disappointed and I am so sorry. This is really just a feeling you are experiencing and not actually a problem. It would be a completely different story if you were being deported”
I stared out over the steering wheel as these words tumbled out of my mouth. Who is this woman I have become?
My friend S. had endometrial cancer and a hysterectomy last year. Everything seemed fine until the beginning of this past July. A scan reveled the cancer had spread to her abdomen and liver. Chemo was administered and the only thing I could do was suggest we go out to dinner if she and her husband D. wanted to. It seemed like a strange thing to offer up but I was clearly out of ideas. They agreed with a hint of excitement but first they suggested we watch the sailboats in Riverton, New Jersey. On Wednesday nights, the boats race up and down the river.
We grabbed chairs and set them up by the river’s edge. It was one of those magical evenings when spirits defy logic and soar. S. asked me to take pictures of her and D. With every click of the camera I knew these would be the last photographs taken of the two of them together. They hugged, held each others hands and had an ephemeral peace about them that I managed to capture.
We’ve become so used to bad marriages ending. Witnessing the end of a good marriage where vows are kept is heart wrenching.
“Till death do we part.”
Heady words to say and even more devastating to live by. S. and D. think that they are at a fork in the road in deciding what treatment she should have. In days to come, more tumors will be discovered and any form of treatment will end. She begins to let go of this life and slowly puts the house in order for the moment of her departure. He resigns himself to the idea that he will help her to the end traveling the days beyond that alone.
Those moments still lay in the future. On the night we watched the boats race, we still had a faint glimmer of hope that there would be another year. I can’t explain why we were so happy during those hours by the river’s edge. By the next morning, a sadness haunted me and the only thing I knew that would cure me was a visit to the sea. Meetings were pushed around and by afternoon I started my escape to the beach. That’s when my phone rang and why I couldn’t mince words with my friend J.
“You do not have a problem as this can be resolved. You are suffering from emotions right now, they will pass.”
I hadn’t understood the difference of emotions verses problems so clearly as I did that afternoon.
When I got to the beach my friend Vita’s father was there. He lost his wife nearly a year ago and his heart still aches. I told him the story of J. and his only comment was, “When you pass 70 you no longer feel disappointment.” I didn’t have the courage to ask what else is lost to completely neutralize disappointment. I’m not sure I want to know.