Last Wednesday when I sat to write, I reviewed my last entries as I usually do, to see where I’ve come from. When I got to the part about seizing the day I laughed. Not happily, but bitterly. Right, I remember. After a rough one, I’d gone to see sunset on the beach at the end of our substitute street. My answer, my refuge, my breath in this post-storm storm, has been that beach. For a while a few months back it was inaccessible, while they built new ramps over the dunes. I missed my beach moon nights but I knew I’d be home by the end of summer and it was for the good of Long Beach and my temporary neighbors who would be living on this block long after we left.
Well I wasn’t home in the summer and I am not home in the fall. All last year I pinned my hopes on this fall, when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I’d be home (after all, what house takes a year and a half to build?). I’d sit up high with my west-facing windows and see those spectacular fall sunsets from the comfort of my beautiful home.
This summer, I began to doubt that. Besides promises (in all caps) of you will be home THE FIRST WEEK IN AUGUST or “get ready to move in Labor Day” or “by the first of October,” and then “the end of October” (with no bathroom or kitchen in sight) I knew that we were still far, far away. I had to start finding today’s sunsets.
So I did. Our rental is actually closer to the beach than our house was, so for the past three months I have gone down to see the sunset every night I am here. Perhaps this is why I still need to be here, I convinced myself. If I were home for my long-awaited fall sunsets I would stay comfortably inside or on a deck, not out in the world like I am now, grounding myself in sand, in earth, breathing the salt and the ions, meeting fellow searchers on the sand. I started compiling my pictures for a photo book of the fall sunsets–from my beach instead of my house. I had found joy hidden deep in the disappointment. I had to document it!
Fall was 16 days old when they tore down the months-old access ramp and piled sand 15 feet high to block the beach. Last Wednesday when I walked down there I truly believed I was hallucinating. The stress had done it once and for all. All those sunsets did not save me after all; I had lost my mind. The ramp they had just spent months building could not possibly be gone.
No, but it is. On this street, and at the two access points adjacent to ours, though not in the rest of the West End, they are renovating them after one summer. They should be done shortly…. by December. My October and November sunsets have been eliminated once again. My path to peace, to solace, to sanity, has seen yet another roadblock.
What to do? How to not feel targeted by unseen forces? How to not lose hope? How to not feel victimized after two years of crap like this? How how how? I guess you just DON’T. How did Dan do it? Dear Dan who just died of cancer at the age of 42, at my age, who lived and lived and lived while he was dying? Who made a joke the very last time his hospice nurse injected him with morphine? He loved people, he loved the world, he loved his family, he loved his moments, and when the moment was a morphine injection, he loved that moment like nobody could.
And Ty. Ty Louis Campbell. I saw him smile through a bath, in pain and partially paralyzed, just months before he died of cancer, years of prodding and punctures and pain tattooed to his baby boy skin, held by his mother who scooped up water and trailed it gently over his broken body. I saw him smile up at her taking in her eyes, her easy touch, her voice like a dove’s, the love pouring out of her from some endless unseen source, just spilling, unstoppable like tears do when you break, like rivers when they breach, and you think it will never end and it does but this love, this love it never ends.
So what do you do when your beach is blocked?
You laugh about it. You blog about it.
You scrap your Illinois Beach fall sunset book and make an Illinois Beach summer sunset book.
You make late afternoon coffee dates with friends.
You climb a 15 foot sand mountain.
You go see Ty’s statue, Ty’s playground, Ty’s beach.
You do anything, everything, you try it all because you can. And you try again, in a different way, or from someplace else, or you attempt something new, or you do something old that you almost forgot.
I will not let disappointments define me. Tonight, the hot water doesn’t work again in my post-post-post Sandy apartment. The gremlin-baby-beast dog is upstairs caterwauling into the space above my head. A few pieces of base trim were added to our house today when it is a bathroom we need. And the beach is still blocked.
But MY beach is not blocked. This beach is open, and we all share it, in this world and the next. The waves come in like that love, from an endless source, and I can hear them laughing from here. I have access to all that is good and beautiful on this earth. I am alive to find it. And I owe it to Dan and Ty to try. To feel the love and give the love and to laugh. To try and try.
try and try
ty dan ty
try and try
In memory of two smiling guys, one big & one small