Monday, June 25, 2012


Dad and me, 1977. In this photo, I am just about the age that my daughter is now. 

This week, we made a family pilgrimage to the place where I grew up - where my Mom and Dad grew up and met and got married and had us.

We're spending time with family and friends and re-living a lot of good memories. The Little Pea is getting to see so much of what made my childhood here so happy, and we're surrounded with the love and support of wonderful people who make this place special.

Today my family piled into my Uncle Jeff's boat the way we did on so many summer afternoons when I was growing up. But instead of fishing poles and crab traps and a cooler full of snacks and beer, we had a mission to carry out. We took my Dad's ashes out to the tip of Brigantine Inlet where he had told his brother many years ago that he wanted his ashes to be spread one day. The same spot where they had spread their father's ashes together.

We sped out through a calm bay, holding on to each other and wondering what we would find, finally becoming aware of the anxiety that had been gripping us, as we felt it falling away with the salt spray. Laughing at the beauty around us, laughing at the Little Pea's delight in the boat ride. "The wind is taking my words away!" she yelled to Uncle Jeff.

It was beautiful. The late-day sunshine warmed us, slanting across the marshes, and as we approached the inlet we began to rock over ocean swells, rolling into the protected bay. Uncle Jeff slowed the boat down to a crawl as we passed under the pilings of the Brigantine Bridge, which he and my grandfather had both helped to build so many years ago. He sped back up as we tooled along the jetty my grandfather had been part of building. Out to the tip of the land, and just beyond, to the spot where the bay spills into the Atlantic Ocean through Brigantine Inlet.

Our boat rocking gently on the swells, we each spoke a few words of goodbye. Some out loud, some silently. The Little Pea cried a little, unsure about what we were doing, but certainly feeling all the emotions around her. We all hugged each other. We all felt a bit better.

The little boat turned around and we sped back in towards the shelter of Absecon Bay again. The breeze dried the tears on my face before I could wipe them away with the back of my hand, and my heart felt lighter than it has in many months.

We passed several pairs of nesting osprey. I watched one papa osprey feeding his chicks as we approached the last turn towards the dock where our short trip would come to an end.    

This week has really just begun, but the moments I most longed for - and dreaded at the same time - have come and gone. As we planned for this trip, a shell of tension and grief has been ossifying around me. It is broken now. I hope that as we spend the rest of this week lounging on the beach, taking long walks, playing together, the pieces keep falling off so that I can breathe again. I have so much grieving and healing to do. We all do. I think this trip was the first step.

Me & Little Sis, Brigantine beach, around 1984