I sit. I sit every morning I can make it out of bed. I sit on the beach to watch the sunrise. It is what I do. It is the grand event of my day. This one event takes all my energy. But I do it well. I sit in oneness with the breaking waves. I have time and time again crashed with the force of the sea onto this planet we call Earth. But after each crash I return to the depths of the sea to re-gather and start again. This sitting is my sustenance. That is why I sit as an immoveable object of solid quiet.
I am older now. The mind is not as active. The crashing has eroded much of the youth I once was. I had dreams but they are no longer possible or they were achieved. I often do not recognize myself anymore. But there is still a me I can find in the corners of my mind. Inside my mind’s eye I stand tall as the white sand dune that will never erode away. I sit.
At this time of my life, I need the breaking of the new dawn and not the setting of the sun. There is always darkness after the last explosion of color at the sunset. Some say that darkness reveals who you are best. But I say darkness is the place of betrayal. The Betrayals that I have committed to myself and against others lay in a murky corner. Darkness brings the betrayals that lovers, friend, and family have committed against me. In the darkness you only see the shadows of yourself and others. But the dawn brings light to all the things that were covered during the night. The dawn reveals life as it really was and had been. So I sit before the dawn waiting for the revelation of the day.
Some say they want to die in their sleep. They want death to catch them unawares. But I want to be awake so that I am aware of death’s coming. This was the key to life to know that your death is coming. So you live with your eyes wide open.
The sun is just beneath the horizon. It was letting its presence be known with the array of colors it cast upon the sky. When it finally comes up it blinds me. I cannot look at it too long. It hurts my eyes. The truth of life is here in this moment and I cannot look squarely into it. That is why I sit here under this beach umbrella. This is me. I sit. I shall not be moved.
I hear from a distance, voices breaking into my consciousness crashing all my illusions. I look around and it is my wife and children asking me to stand and start again this day. They want breakfast. They are chatting up a storm. We are on vacation. I must have been daydreaming. I look at my watch it is five minutes from the last time I looked. I smile I do not sit. I am constantly on the move. Maybe one day in the distant future I will sit but not now.
It was our first date. I was already sick of the dating world. I hated dating what in sexist vernacular would be called my young thing. I was not dating her because I sought a young thing but because she was there. I knew the relationship was over on our third date when she was wondering if she should go back to college and asked if I had watched some soap opera. I felt old and on a more enlightened plain at the same time.
But this was different. She was of legal age. I knew this might lead to a great relationship. But she came from money and while I did not come from a lack of money my family was not fluent in money. My mother was sharp as a whip and my father had a world of experience but they were not educated beyond high school. We in a sense were from two different worlds.
I will never forget the first time I was in her apartment. Being a curator, the paintings were all covered with sheets to prevent the Savannah blazing sun from fading them. Okay that was new to me but I could live with it. It was then I noticed the sheets on all the furniture more peculiar but hey quirky is good. I walked into the second room which was filled with boxed books. I smiled and said are you going somewhere? She said she was so busy writing her PHD dissertation and that she had not had time to unpack her books. She had lived in the house for over a year. But all that was the least of my worries: the only book that was out of the boxes was an Amy Vanderbilt book on etiquette. I saw my ship sinking fast. I am polite but not full of etiquette.
But I gathered the courage and asked her out. We did not speak of soap operas or was she obsessed with herself. We went to a Thai restaurant and a play. Afterwards we stopped at coffee shop in a basement. We closed down the place. It was magic. Now I am a romantic guy and I was feeling good about this thing we had. You know our first date.
I asked her out for the next week; she said no. I spent Valentine’s Day alone. She went to the symphony with someone else. I wondered if our time had come and gone, and I had not realized it. Ever persistent our second date was a meal at my place and a comedy club and back to my place for dessert. It was then I made the tactical error. I sent her flowers the next day. Which scared the hell out of her. I was moving too fast. Little did she know I was only moving. My other dates, I dated and forgot about it. But with her I dwelled on the date.
The flowers were meant as an appreciation. She saw it as a threat to her singleness. She became sick for two weeks. I began to believe it was over. I mean two weekends in a row and she was sick. People do get sick of me but not quite so fast. But she did have a PhD; maybe she could see the sickness coming faster than other people could. But with a weakened immune system she finally relented.
On the third date and it was obvious that it was happening. Ten months later I mentioned the m word. She freaked. I asked again a month later and she freaked again. So I said I will not bring it up again but when it was time she would have to do the asking. A month later we were in an Italian wedding when she popped the question. I said yes and then she told me I had to propose to her sometime. So two weeks later I proposed to her in the most romantic way that a non-profit employee could afford. My good friend Robert, as chauffeur, delivered her to a fine restaurant and I popped the question and then we spent the weekend at the Redneck Rivera (Tybee Island).
There had only been one holdback I had now. She was adopting a baby girl from China. I thought, that is something I can do, but I would like to have some time for an engagement before we had a baby. I was not for a shotgun wedding. She assured me it was at least six months and more likely a year before the call would come telling her to go to China. How time flies: the next week she received the call. A month and a half later we would be leaving to China and ten months later we would get married. I had to do the honorable thing; we were with child and living in sin. So you see in the end I was not the one moving too fast. But maybe after seventeen years of marriage this month the timing was just right.
They, as all young couples, thought there was no greater love than theirs. It felt truly magical. But the love had never faced a challenge. It was fresh and urgent. So they married at an early age while still in college. The first ten years flew as they continued their studies and jobs were started. Their love was not stale but a little of the fervor waned. They were at a new point in their relationship of settling into love instead of discovering love.
They had had no conflict or difficulties; the road remained smooth. But they had used all the goodness of fate and now for the first time fate was cruel. It was a car crash. They had been t-boned by a truck; their small environmentally friendly car was turned into a pretzel. The driver of the truck was drunk, speeding and unaware of their car and so he never slowed down until the impact. They were fortunate in that they both survived. But the wife’s arm was mangled and caught between the door and the engine that had been rearranged and was placed in her lap during the crash. Her arm was three quarters severed and to save her life the doctors saw no way but to remove the rest.
The husband found himself strangely effected by this. He could not shake the loss of a hand to hold or an arm to complete an embrace. He knew this was wrong and he knew that if he loved her this should, in the big picture, make no difference. He felt guilty and covered his feelings of the lost of the arm.
The good news was the doctors were going to replace the lost arm with a bionic one. They said they would connect the nerve endings to the computer chips so that she would have total control of the arm. It was the cutting edge of technology and would ensure that she would be able to carry on with life just as she had before. She was pleased with this news. He was again happy for her but the fact that it was not a real arm repulsed him. He was not sure what this meant. He felt small and was disappointed in himself. But still the feelings would not leave.
All of this he would try to hide from his wife. The arm worked brilliantly; you could not tell any difference in her body. And the flesh-like covering did not reveal the difference. The arm had totally became one with her body. It was her body. Yet he would, on long walks on the beach, position himself on the original arm’s side so that when they held hands it would not be the bionic hand. He was constantly placing himself on the original arm’s side to keep from having to touch or deal with the artificial arm. They lived like this for another fifteen years. Their love was strong and even with all the foibles they saw in each other they were in it for the long haul.
It was then that the cancer came to visit her. It would eventually take her body and ravage it. She would lose her hair and in the end she would be left a physical shell of her former self. Yet her spirit never failed her. Surprisingly he found resources inside himself to be her caretaker that he never knew were there. They were a team as when they first met and as then more in love than any other couple in the world.
They had been together over twenty-five years. When she died he was devastated. The memorial service was attended by family and many friends who had loved her along the way. His eulogy spoke of the lost the world would experience, ‘A great loving soul had been taken from us, ‘he proclaimed. He could barely stand but he did the eulogy because that is what she would want. The usual condolences were offered and the service was the beautiful one they had planned.
The next day he went to the funeral home to pick-up her ashes. She was cremated. When he arrived he was met with the unexpected. Her ashes were in the nice funerary vase they had chosen and he would spread them on the beach they had once walked. This was as planned but the bionic arm was not something he had planned for. He did not know they gave arms such as these back to the family member who usually would donate them to a hospital. The funeral director said some people kept them as they did often with the ashes. He reluctantly took home the arm. He would decide later what to do with it.
He was exhausted after the funeral home and when he at last came back to his house, he opened the door with vase and arm in tow. He threw the arm on his bed as he changed into his pajamas. He wanted to sleep even though it was early afternoon. He went into his private den and placed the vase on the shelf he had so diligently made for it until he could spread them on the beach. He fell asleep in his favorite chair, looking at the vase. He did not know how long he had been there when he awoke and slowly trudged to the bedroom to sleep for the night. He walked in the dark in a trance, climbed into the bed, pulled the covers up, and started a deep lonesome cry.
It was sometime in the night that he felt her gentle almost reluctant touch on his shoulder. This was always followed by the hand resting on his shoulder and then a gentle kneading of the back. It had been her way for years. Whenever he was stressed or depressed it was always there, her gentle hand reaching out to comfort him.
Sometime in the night he realized it was the arm he had rejected that was applying the touch. But it felt so soothing and comforting and was so much her signature way of gentle touch that he could not be repulsed by it. He reasoned that the arm had for so many years been at her command that its circuits had memorized neural paths she had created. It was in fact her touching him now. The part of her he had rejected was now the part that comforted him.
The next day when he awoke the arm laid on the bed inert. Probably the last surge of electric energy had left and now it was only a motionless arm. He would take the arm to donate to the hospital today. It was no longer repugnant and he realized how much a part of her it had become. But he knew she would want to give someone else the chance she had. He returned it.