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”.

Grilled Swordfish & Corn on the Cob: It’s Not What’s For Dinner

grilled sword
S.A. Leys Photography


I knew the time was coming; I just didn’t know when. Sure enough – yesterday. Right there in the middle of the grocery store in front of all of the spices.
So let me preface this by telling you how great a cook my mom was. My mom was such a great cook that I was severely delayed in learning how to cook myself. Yes, I could cover the basics – spaghetti, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pork chops or chicken with shake and bake and yep, a pretty good stir-fry, but the rest of it – not so much.
During the last few years of caregiving for mom, she couldn’t cover the distance of grocery shopping as it was too much for her. So I did all of the cooking, menu stuff and grocery shopping myself, which isn’t so much to say “oh poor me” but it was a little more lonely not having her with me.
Initially, when she had gone with me, I used to ask her a ton of questions about cooking which she answered offering additional suggestions and ideas. It was always fun to have her with me. And she loved talking about cooking and everything she’s learned along the way. But these last few years, she didn’t come as she was tired and due to a few too many surgeries on her legs for Basel cell melanoma type stuff, she had trouble walking.
And yes, there were times when we were together that she would give me the “are you kidding me??!” glare. Like when I asked her how many ounces are in a cup. She was clearly not pleased with this question and gave me “the glare”. As we stood there looking at each other, it slowly occurred to me that she was not going to tell me. So right there in the middle of the aisle, I grabbed my phone and asked: “Hey Siri, how many ounces are in a cup?” And when the voice from my little black box of wonderful information said “Susan, there are 8 ounces in a cup.” my mom shook her head and said, “I think we’re all in trouble”.
But the other 97% of the time, we had wonderful conversations about cooking; and her information and wisdom were always appreciated.
Yesterday, I found a really great recipe for white chicken chili. I thought I would make it for when Scott is here so that if he was hungry when he got here, it would already be made and ready to go. So I made my list, hopped in the car and went to the grocery store.
As I approached the spice aisle I started looking for the cracked black pepper that the recipe calls for. I thought to myself “why? what the heck is the difference between cracked black pepper and regular pepper and why does it even matter? Is anyone going to notice the difference and is it really going to affect a whole crock pot of chili?” So I grabbed my phone and started dialing.. 401.. 849.. and then I looked at my phone and remembered that mom had died; and then came the tears.
As I continued to stare at my phone, I suddenly felt like I was headed for the b.u.c. (the big ugly cry), so I called Regina. “hey quick question..” I said. “okay,” Regina said – and then all of the questions about cracked black pepper followed. I know for sure this is probably not the question she was expecting, but the cool thing about Regina and many of my other buds are that they have a way of answering questions in a grounding way with the same similar insight and wisdom that mom would have.
This is not going to be an easy journey.
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