Thank you for taking me home to Mother. You are a good man to share me with the sea.
I believe you love her too: the way she licks our toes, how she feeds the sanderlings, and coughs up garbage for the gulls to fight over. How could you not adore the way she shimmers, undulating, breathing in and out: Whoosh . . . Ahhhh . . . Whoosh . . . Ahhhh.
We dallied, too preoccupied with our cameras on the sunny days when mother was calm, our bathing suits twiddling their thumbs on the shelf at the Air BnB.
Two days before our vacation was over, I decided it was now or never. I would walk in and keep on walking until my hair was salt-soaked. You did not back away from the challenge, quickly pulling on your suit while I wrestled with mine.
We stood at the edge of a writhing landscape, and tried to ignore the sand-spitting wind. Mother was worked up. She rolled her waves into hard bats like Sunday papers and slammed them onto the shore, one after another.
I went first, inching towards her black heart, turning sideways to minimize the impact, resisting the tug of receding water on my feet. I paused, then took another step forward and was knocked over by a frothing bludgeon. But I kept my head up from instinct more than anything else, and when I regained my footing I turned, only half wet, and came back to you.
You did better than I, it’s no surprise. After making sure I was all right, you peeled off your shirt, wrapped it around your glasses, and set it on your flip flops. Then you walked straight in and dipped your head under a wave. No inching or turning, you gave her no time to drag you out to sea. I was more grateful than jealous.
We had come to escape the incessant tugging of your desk, because it was your birthday, and to absorb the salt, the sand, and the squeal of the gulls. You were drowning in emails and needed to breathe. “I’ve got it to down to 50,” you used to say and I’d try to imagine having to deal with 50 emails. On our first morning, you log in because you cannot afford to look away and say, “It’s over 300.”
New business was coming in faster than expected and it didn’t help that you had been in class the week before we left. You spent the first half of our vacation shoveling out while I wrote in my notebooks. “I’ve got it down to 200,” you’d say between sandwiches. I’d come in from a long walk and you would stand up to high five me. “Got it to 90!” The next morning, it would be, “It’s back up to 160.”
By Thursday you were able to take an afternoon off, and on Friday — a week in — you didn’t work at all, didn’t even make one phone call. You napped and ate and read and napped. The next morning, we drove down to the beach where you set up a tripod and watched the sun emerge from the sea. That evening we witnessed the full moon rising over Mother Atlantic.
We left on Monday. “Tanned, rested, and reluctant,” I heard you say to someone on your first official day back on the job. Within an hour of closing your office door I heard your feet pounding a staccato beat on our Pergo flooring and knew you were already overwhelmed. I stood and listened, wishing there was more I could do to soothe you and lighten your load. I felt guiltily nourished by our salt water time and grateful to you for your sacrifice, for accepting such a burden in order to cushion our retirement.
A bit further into the week, your boss had drafted a plan to keep you above the water line. You received a promotion and would continue training people to absorb some of the load. I was pleased to see you smile, and hopeful that you can stay afloat.
Hang in there, darling, and thanks for taking me home to see mother.