Mom and dad and I just returned from our annual trip to Sea Ranch on the northern California coast. We spent most of our time spying on wildlife, staring at the ocean, soaking up the sun, breathing deeply. It’s a lovely place to visit no matter the time of year and we’ve started adding birthday weekends to the rotation.
Each time we go, we drive to Stillwater Cove 30 minutes south of the house we rent. Tom and dad had camped there years ago and when going though Tom’s things after his death, a few photos of the beach were tucked in a drawer of odds and ends. Dad had been wanting to buy and dedicate a bench overlooking the water at Crissy Field where Tom’s ashes had been scattered, but it wasn’t possible. The photos made him choose Stillwater Cove instead.
There’s a metal plaque embedded in the wooden picnic table that includes these words chosen by my dad:
It’s nice to go there to watch the water and chat about Tom. We toasted him with champagne this time. It’s especially nice for dad, I think. He was there with Tom so it’s something he can remember enjoying with him.
It’s been 182 days since I’ve written about Tom but I’ve thought about him every one of those days. It seems to be getting harder. For several months now, when I think of him I see is him in the hospital. I wish it was not the first thing that popped into my mind. I have a longing to change some of the things that happened those last few days – things I said, or didn’t say. It’s gnawing at me. I don’t want it to become an obsession but I’m finding it difficult to shake.
Sitting at the table at Stillwater Cove I cried, but it was brief. I tried to look at the water and think about Tom looking at the same waves, breathing the same air, squinting in the same sun. I tried but I didn’t feel him there with me. I feel like it was probably my fault, that maybe I wasn’t concentrating enough. But maybe he was sitting next to dad this time.