The Beach House – Anna Maria Island

The View at Beach House Restaurant

I think God works in mysterious ways. We went to the Sandbar for dinner a few nights ago and were told there was a two hour wait. We drove to the Beach House (where the picture on the beach above was taken – from the deck of the restaurant) and waited for only 30 minutes. I thought the discrepancy between the two restaurants was interesting as they both have really exceptional food.

Then I thought about the last time I was at each restaurant. Mom and I were at the Sandbar about two years ago. She had had a doctors appointment and we went for lunch afterwards. It was a hot day but we sat outside at one of the tables in the sand under an umbrella and had a wonderful meal.

At around 2p I said to her “we should go” as it was close to the time she usually took a nap. “No, we don’t have to” she said “we can sit here a little longer.” Sitting there watching my 85 y/o mom in the sun enjoying the beach in the background brought me back to my childhood when we spent many summer days at 2nd and 3rd beach back home in Rhode Island with our closest friends. It was like that – a wonderful summer day with mom looking really happy as she wiggled her toes in the sand while sipping on her iced tea.

The last time we were at the Beach House was a few years before that when Dad was still alive. The four of us went out for dinner (I think it was close to a time when I was flying back to Maryland and we wanted to have one last night out). Like a few nights ago, we sat outside on the deck – but back then, we were a family. I had my camera and wanted a family picture of the 4 of us – which the waiter agreed to take. It was the last family photo we had taken.

So as we sat there the other night watching that beautiful sunset, I heard the woman behind me say “We should get a picture of the three kids”. I turned around and asked her “can I take a picture of all of you?” to which she said “certainly – but we need our other son and he’s at the bar”. At that point our buzzer thing went off and she said “don’t worry, go have a nice dinner” but I said “if I see him, I’m coming back!” Sure enough he walked by our table and back to where his family was sitting so I walked over and said “okay – let’s go”. The 7 of them – mom and dad, their three children and their partners stood together with that beautiful Florida sunset in the background as I took their picture and encouraged them to “scrunch!” – which they gladly did. They thanked me and I went back to our table to have dinner. – Retrospectively I think Dad sent us to the Beach House to “pay forward” our family photo.

As I looked over at the 7 of them enjoying their dinner and each others’ presence, I thought about how quickly life can change – as it did for our family so many years ago. One day we’re having a great dinner together and then Dad’s 25 year battle with cancer worsens. Mom’s ascending aortic aneurysm grows and shortly after celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, dad loses his battle with cancer and 3 years after that mom dies from pneumonia. So many of her friends – and her Cardiologist all said “thankfully it wasn’t the aneurysm”. Mom died the way she wanted to go as she frequently said to me “pneumonia is a friend of the aged – it usually takes you at night when you are sleeping.”

When you’ve worked in an ER as I have – and as she has, and several of our friends have, every day you are reminded that life can change in a second. You see the most loving families gather around a loved one as they die or have the critical conversations about the decisions they need to make or how to navigate the road that lies ahead. You see hands being held, hair being stroked and the “I love you’s” which are never easy to hear because of how intimately personal the conversations that accompany them are.

Life can change in a second.

Watching that family the other night I was very tempted to tell them “pay attention to this time you have and this love and legacy of your family” – but I didn’t – for a few reasons – you know, they would have thought I was nuts and honestly, it would have been weird right? – and a heck of an interruption to a wonderful dinner on a beautiful evening. But on nights like that I wish we all could put our cell phones down a little more and look into each other’s eyes when we spoke to them. I wish we had more intimate conversations with our friends to let them know how we feel about them instead of just keeping on and going along.

So after dinner the check came and the waiter told us that the cost of our chowder was covered by “some people” – the family I had taken a photo of. As we left, I thanked them for the “wonderful chowdah” and they thanked me again for the wonderful photo. – which brings me to my last point (I know – I can hear ya – end this long post). – I’m becoming more frustrated with the whole “selfie” thing. Because I know for sure that while a photo from an outstretched arm can be fun, the photos of entire families with their arms around each other are so much better. So if you see an opportunity to help a family out, ask If you can take the photo for them and just say “scrunch up”.

“You Shouldn’t Have To Pay For Cats”

Take Paws Pet Photography

This is Callie – she’s our very fluffy bundle of love.

Callie was born in Lutz, Fl. She was found and brought to a shelter that is not known for keeping little kittens alive if they are not adopted. As luck (or God) would have it, one day a guy walked into the shelter, saw her, learned of her fate if she was not soon adopted and brought her south to a “no-kill” shelter in Sarasota.

An ad was placed in the local paper for “a beautiful calico kitten”.

One morning mom was sitting in her comfortable chair, sipping her morning coffee when she noticed the ad. “Hey Don”, she said to my father, “want to go look at a kitten?”.

“No, not especially” he answered – flatly, “but I will if you want me to.” I think he wanted to go with her but sometimes he would say this as I think he wanted to see how “into the idea” mom really was. And because mom loves cats – she was definitely into this idea.

In their 55ish years of marriage, my dad had come a long way about cats since meeting my mom. He was a dog person who really had no use for cats. Mom was a complete cat nut who loved having one or two cats around the house. The one cat they had at the time was a beautiful Maine coon cat (see post “I’m Trey and I’m going home!”) but mom had always wanted a calico (and unbeknownst to all of us, had been looking for one for quite a while) so she was excited to hop in the car and go to Sarasota.

Initially, when discussing cats, my father would say “you shouldn’t have to pay for cats, people should pay you to take them from them.” But this slowly evolved to “you shouldn’t have to pay for cats – people should give them to you.”

When they arrived in Sarasota and mom held her little bundle of joy, dad asked the inevitable question. “How much?”

“A hundred dollars”.

“Are you kidding?” dad asked (okay so, he may not have said it in exactly that matter but you get the point right? I mean, this is a kid-friendly blog is all I’m sayin’)

Mom explained to him about shots and needing to support no-kill shelters so he gave in and succumbed to his wife and Callie went home with them.

Callie’s little kitten intuition was so keen that she immediately “got it” that dad was not into cats. Every day she would sit in his lap with a loving look while he petted her and discussed cats “not being all that bad”.

Take Paws Pet Photography

When dad died of cancer a few years later, she was lying right next to him.

It’s never an easy thing to see how much cats grieve when their owners die. Callie and Trey had stayed with mom until she died. The two of them received an abundance of attention in the assisted living place where she was; but now, she is here with me – my little bundle of love.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that we don’t rescue cats; they rescue us.

S.A.Leys Photography

Flight Time

S.A.Leys Photography

I think this may be my favorite pelican photo. Sitting on the bench overlooking the intercoastal (no, not there now but going back in a few weeks), you can see them in flight – sometimes only just a few inches above the water as they fly by. The most excellent thing is that you can also hear the powerful sound of their wings when they fly overhead.

I remember when I lived in Germantown MD and was sitting on the front stoop of our home, we could hear the sound of the traffic on 355 and 270 as both roads were close to the neighborhood where we lived. But in Fla when at my folks, I’ve come to really love the quietude that comes with watching the pelicans in flight over the intercoastal.

“But the Lord..”

SALeys Photography
Mom lived a great life and spent an abundance of the second half of her life caring for my dad. She died a little over a month ago and to say I miss spending time with her is a huge understatement.

When Whitney Houston died, I watched Tyler Perry discuss his relationship with her. He discussed how she would tell him about some of the struggles she was having and he said that just around the time he wanted to console her and say something supportive to her, she would say “but the Lord..” – I was inspired by his words but never quite understood her “but the Lord”… I thought “but the Lord what? – tell me the rest of this..”

I’m not a fan of this grief thing and have been walking around frustrated, sometimes a little angry and resentful and just really, really, really sad. Not a fan of the impromptu tears that come. I’m kinda feeling depressed – that’s what grief does, it makes you take a long hard stare at the importance of the relationships you have and the lessons you’ve learned from someone you love when they leave.

On the day I left the Assisted Living place where mom was, I thought of going down to the dining room but then decided I was too sad and ended up going to Chipotle instead. I stepped up to the counter and ordered a steak bowl. The man behind the counter smiled and asked “how are you doing today?” “Okay,” I said, “not great, not an easy time”. “Sorry to hear that” he said. And then he said that because I wasn’t having a great day, lunch was on him. I thought he was kidding so reached for my card but then the cashier said “No, he’s not kidding – there’s no charge for your lunch today.” “Thank you” I said – completely not wanting to lose it right then and there in the middle of the Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Later in the day, one of the only things left in mom’s apartment was the blazer she had worn for Thanksgiving dinner. It couldn’t go into the quilt I am having made because it needs to be dry cleaned. So for some reason, I don’t understand, I had it dry cleaned and it has been hanging on a door in her room. As I was loading the car, I walked by the laundry room and saw one of mom’s newer friends – a woman she had recently started to have dinner with (it was the same woman who asked if mom was okay – that she was concerned as she hadn’t seen her – when we were riding in the elevator together and I had to tell her that mom had died).

She was trying to get the washer machine to work and asked if I could assist her. So as we stood there together trying to jiggle this and push that, I looked at her and asked: “are you a 14 petite?” (the size of mom’s blazer and yes, a flight of ideas). She said “yes, sometimes I wear a 14 petite, why?” and I explained that I had mom’s blazer and was trying to find a home for it and would she consider trying it on? “sure!” she said.

I walked back to mom’s room to pick up the blazer so she could try it on. It looked perfect on her. “would you like to have it?” I asked. “Certainly!” she said, followed by a huge smile.

It had been a very long frustrating few days where there were moments when I wanted to just be mad at the world, but then these moments (maybe these “but the Lord..” moments) would come where I would be stopped by a brighter moment – a call from a friend to have dinner or another friendly interaction that would guide me to keep moving. And in those moments, I think I may have had a better understanding of “but the Lord…”

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