Dear Mom: Memorial Day Weekend

Dear Mom,

It's Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer.  This weekend holds so many memories for me here at the shore at "your house."

I woke up as the sun was rising this morning.  (Much earlier than I would have liked).  Seeing the sky change colors from bed was inspiring, but it was also sad.  This was your view, your bed.  You should be here.  While I love this place, you loved it so much more and worked so hard for it.

I remember Memorial Day weekend of 2012 as one of the best.  (Too bad that would be shattered just a week or so later with John's death.)  I had lost quite a bit of weight.  (Currently I weigh almost 10 pounds more than I did that weekend, much to my shame.  But still 30 pounds less than when I started my weight loss journey in the fall of 2011.)  It wasn't terribly sunny and you gave me your Bon Ton credit card so that I could buy some new clothes as an early birthday present.  There was no limit to what I could spend.  I spent HOURS in the store, trying on clothes and finding, to my surprise, that I had I could fit into a size 12.  (Today, I can barely fit into that!  Ugh!).  I kept trying on things and putting things back and then trying on more.  I must have spent $300 of your money.  (This was before the days of the thrift shop.)  You didn't care and I felt so good with all these new smaller clothes.

2012 took a bad turn after that with John dying suddenly just 5 days before my birthday (forever putting a damper on that) and SuperStorm Sandy destroying everything in its path that October.  But you vowed that you would be back in the house by Memorial Day 2013 and you were.  When waiting for the bus to come back to the island (the only way you were allowed back after the storm), you met friends who already had a contractor lined up.  You jumped at their offer to give you his name and number.  He and his team worked hard to make the house a home again.  (Or at least they did in the beginning.  Although far from perfect, yours was one of the first/few homes that he "finished" or nearly finished.  That was before the lure of fast money made crooks out of most of the contractors who came to the island with promises that would never be kept and money that quickly disappeared.)  The home wasn't perfectly finished, but it was good enough to live in.  And as promised, you had your grandson down for the summer once again.

Last year was your last Memorial Day.  I know we were here for part of the weekend, with your grandson helping to transplant some small tomato plants that had taken over your back porch to pots outside.  This year, there are no tomato plants.  Dad is in the hospital (supposedly being transported to a rehab facility this evening...not Willow Springs, which he had previously been in, just like you had...and I feel like my mistakes have repeated themselves over and over again and guilt lies heavy in my chest.)  And while your grandson is "down the shore," he is not here, but with friends about 15 miles north.  Would you approve of 10 teens spending four days at the Jersey shore unsupervised?  Would you think I was foolish?  Or would you encourage the life experience?

This Memorial Day, "your" street is different.  I feel somewhat out of place.  Perhaps you would too.  Two houses have been sold (including one that we once rented and belonged to one of your dearest friends) and have new families residing in them.  Two houses are in the process of being built/rebuilt.  (Which means that the two "children" you cared for the most, after your grandson, will not be around much this summer.)  And the neighbor to your immediate north has not been down since...?  (A big, beautiful house that sits unused would certainly make you sad.)  Then there are the neighbors across the lagoon.  The house which keeps its outdoor lights on all night long (which shine directly into your bedroom) might have been sold, as there are more rowdy children and not one, but two jet skis moored to their bulkhead.  And the monstrosity of a house, two doors north of that, is once again inhabited with a family that has tons of money, but not much common sense or courtesy.  You'd be appalled by all the loud "music" and language that echoes over the water. 

The traffic...well what can I say?  It's the unofficial start to the season.  Getting to the hospital to see dad wasn't too difficult.  Coming home was a different story.  The options to get on and off the island are limited and EVERYONE seems to be determined to hit the beach this weekend.  (Which I think will turn out to be warmer and sunnier than initially predicted.  Is this a sign of the summer to come?)  You may not think it possible, but they have built even more houses since you died.  Patches of land that once housed the market and the rescue squad are now packed with new homes (some finished, some not.)  More people, more money and less respect for the land that you cherished.

You can, however, be proud of me for one thing.  I managed to figure out how to turn on the water outside, so tonight I can shower under the stars.  I knew where I had to look for the lever to turn it on, but I didn't realize there were two.  (Or at least not immediately.)  Then when I managed to get the hot water on, I had a heck of a time turning it off outside, crawling around on my hands and knees trying to turn it off and fighting a stiff and stubborn valve without burning myself.  But it did it and I guess I have to take the wins where I can.

The sun is fading in the western sky.  It's time for me to test out that shower and climb into the bed that will always be yours in my mind.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring another sunny day, one where I might actually find the time to drag a beach chair three blocks to the east, plunk down and watch the waves crash upon the sand.  If only you could be with me.

I Love You.



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