The morning sun peeks through my window and directs it’s warmth on my right eyelid; mother nature’s wake up call. My foggy brain kicks into gear. Numbers… from behind my eyes I see numbers. Low tide… 5:14am. Sunrise 6:18am. Get to work by 9:30am. It’s now 7:00am. Huh… gives me plenty of time to head out to the beach and pick up some shells and driftwood. Hearing rain earlier that morning gives me a reason to change my mind, but the rain has currently stopped so I decide to follow the original plan.
Jumping in the shower, I make the executive decision it won’t hurt to go another day without washing my hair. Not being hungry for breakfast, but knowing I have to eat something, I grab a Key Lime low fat yogurt before I jump into the car. I drive north on Ocean Ave so early there is no one on the road. Crossing over the little white bridge I flick my right blinker on and turn into the small, empty parking lot across from the red church. The sand is firm up to a certain point. As it softens I pull to the side and throw the car in park… for fear if I go any further I won’t be able to drive out.
Reaching into the back seat I grab the plastic ziplock baggie for the shells and a cloth tote bag to haul home some driftwood. I have a few craft projects in mind which require my astute gathering skills this morning.
The drizzle earlier this morning has left a thin, dark layer of sand. Although my car is the only one in the lot, I notice dry sand impressions in the shape of sneaker prints headed towards the ocean. I don’t see a set of prints coming back. Scanning the beach I don’t spot anyone else here. Hmmm… maybe they are on the jetty?
No worries… quite a few people are within walking distance of this beach. I move closer to the water’s edge and begin my search.
Bending over to get a better look, I take off my glasses to see clearer. The wind is blowing steadily from the waves. Damn! I forgot to bring a hair elastic to keep my long blonde hair constrained and out of my way as I scrutinize the mixture of broken shells, sand, and pebbles for the perfect crustaceans I need for my projects. I could use a few more hands… grasping the bags in one hand and trying to keep my flying hair out of my way with the other doesn’t leave any hands left to pick up my treasures. This struggle becomes a comedy routine. Throw my hair around to the back, then quickly bend over and grab the tiny morsel BEFORE my hair flops down in my face again and obstructs my view. Rinse and repeat.
I come here often. It’s my new hobby… hunting and gathering sea glass and such. I enjoy the smell of the salt air, the force of the waves against the shore and the roar of it all. The past 16 years have been crazy and chaotic. Walking on this beach in the early morning makes all of that a distant memory. The sound of the surf puts me in a calm, reflective mood.
Sometimes I miss my old life. I don’t miss my husband’s illness and all the pain I have been through… but I miss the day to day role of being ‘mom’ to a young family. I am in my golden years… all by myself. I am single… but not by choice.
My husband of 27 years passed away six years ago after a very long illness in which I was his caregiver. I met another man a few years later and for the first time in my life, fell head over heels, ecstatically in love. He wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment and moved on to someone else. I am broken hearted.
Walking along the beach gives me time to sort out my life and think about what I want to do with the years I have left. As Pippen sings in the play, “ I want my life to be something more than long.” For this moment however… this damp morning… I bend over placing my nose as close to the sand as I can get without falling over, searching for shells… oblivious to what is going on around me.
Voices to my left interrupt my peaceful interlude. I look up, a young boy and girl are arm in arm walking out from the tree lined area by the parking lot… snuggling against each other. Sigh. I miss that feeling. My thoughts turn to my ex. I would have done anything to have stopped him from leaving me. Sigh. I hope he is happy and doing well.
My plastic bag is filling up fast with broken bits of muscles, clams, snails and scallops. The seagulls have done their damage and most shells have a teeny, tiny hole drilled where the birds have slurped out their delicious feast. Mother Nature has deposited the piles of broken debris in a long line across the sand where the tides have receded.
Without paying any attention to the young couple, I continue my hunt down the beach… standing up every so often to stretch my aching back and flip my hair out of my way… yet again. I don’t need my glasses for close up work, yet if I place them on my head they continuously fall into the sand. UGH! In the future I need to wear a hat and put my glasses on a string around my neck… I make a mental note.
I am partial to the shimmery shells with a pearlized coating… you know, all girls love glitter and sparkle; I am no different. I know when I smash all the shells into smaller pieces the shiny ones will give my project the extra pizzaz it needs. I am so excited!
Out of the corner of my eye I see a clearing in the sand a little bit off to my right. A break in the line of shells. It looks as if someone swiped everything off to the side and wanted to make the clearing obvious. I work my way towards it… keeping my head down… I gasp! Right there… carefully placed in the center of a hand drawn heart… is a beautiful, sparkley ring.
What the f***??? Instantly I turn red realizing the young couple is now standing on the jetty to my right, hugging and kissing. I bet they thought they would be all alone and he planned to propose. Here I am, an old lady ruining their plans and botching up their special moment. Oops… how embarrassing!!
Fumbling, I gather my ‘finds’ and turn to make a hasty retreat back to the car… but I am pulled up short… dead in my tracks. It takes a moment for my brain to register what my eyes are seeing. Standing right smack in front of me is my ex. What the hell??? My heart stops beating and my breath catches in my throat. My knees begin to weaken. I am so confused! What is going on? What is he doing here? More importantly… How did he know I was here???
Without hesitation, he bends down on one knee and reaches for my hand. I am STUNNED. My head is spinning trying to sort this all out and make sense of what is happening. What is he doing?? We haven’t spoken to each other in months. Literally! No phone calls, no text messages, no e-mails. What is he doing here? Be still my beating heart!! What the…???
He broke off with me 2 years ago explaining he wasn’t sure what he wanted. After declaring his love for me and announcing he said the ‘L’ word first… to a year later firmly stating he doesn’t love me… then immediately hooking up with another woman… whom I assumed he was still with. I have never gotten over it. Now here he was, in front of me on bended knee… so far not having uttered a word.
I can’t breathe!!! I can’t breathe!!! My knees finally give out and I fall to the sand, kneeling in front of him. He is still holding my hand, looking into my eyes. Afraid to say anything, not that I could muster more than a squeak, I gulp and try to take a deep breath.
“I love you.” I hear the words quietly escape his lips.
Gulp! Tears begin to puddle in my eyes.
“ I am sorry I hurt you. I have spent the past 2 years thinking I was not the one for you… so I let you go so you could find your Prince Charming. I realized I was being stupid… a jerk really… and I loved you… and should never have let you go. If you will have me, I want you back… if it’s not too late. I promise to love you forever.”
He continued, “ I know I am not perfect… no one is, including you. I have issues and baggage… you do too… but I want to live out the rest of my life with you.”
“Will you take me back?”
With that he reached past me and plucked the ring out of the sand and held it up to me with a questioning look in his eyes.
Whoa! So many questions and thoughts were flooding my head. Where to begin? What should I ask first? I’m speechless.
I remember a night he was in this same position asking me to never leave him. He made it clear he was not begging… just asking. My heart melted that night, angels sang and harps played… that was the night I drank the kool-aid and allowed myself to unconditionally love this man. No one has ever gotten down on bended knee for me before… NO ONE. I blink… the puddle of tears slip down my cheeks.
I shake my head to clear the vision. I look down at the sand and all I see are broken shells. There is no clearing, no diamond ring, and certainly no man on bended knee. It was wishful thinking, plus my over active creative brain fleshing out a story line for a future book.
The happy couple walk past me hand in hand, swing their arms together. Both smiling. “Good morning,” they call out to me. “Good morning,” I reply.
I gather my things… and my wits… and head home.
Oh, what a morning this has been!