Physical needs have taken up a lot of my time recently – not my choice but the reality of where my body is now. As far as I know I am not battling any disease process. It is just that structurally a cyst that has resided in my left kidney/bladder area for perhaps sixty years has suddenly decided to block the ureter connecting these two important body parts. The urologist offered three different ways to solve this problem. The first two have not worked – surgery happening in September is now the only remaining option.
Saturday night we returned from our family beach week at the Jersey shore. We are blessed with our large family and fully understand that as the children get older, as they finish school and are out in the work world, as they marry and enter into relationships, and have families of their own, the size of our gatherings is going to vary. This time we had 31 family members for all or part of the week who came from California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York.
Many years ago we settled on Diamond Beach, New Jersey as our go to place. Jerry had participated in a sprint triathlon at Chincoteague Island and when the excitement of that race was over, we then traveled up the Atlantic coast, stopping at various beaches so Jerry could test the waters as we searched for the perfect beach for our body-surf loving family. When the children were small Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island were our go to places. Beach erosion and a sewage pipe that was extended out into the ocean had changed the contour of these beaches. They were no longer ideal for body surfing.
Growing up on Long Island, it was only a short ride on the train to reach the Rockaway beaches. I have always felt a spiritual connection to the ocean waters: the sound of the waves crashing, the repetition of the waves, the birds, the dolphins, the many ocean treasures. When I was really young my father used to carry me into the water on his shoulders because I was a little water fearful. That stage passed pretty quickly but I didn’t tell my father because I loved being on his shoulders. Then one beach day Pop got the message that I was not acting like a scared mermaid. He swung me around – took one look at my smiling face and tossed me into the water and off I swam.
This year we tried something different for our dinner gatherings at the beach. Because of Covid we didn’t start looking for accommodations for each family till February and then we had a hard time finding condos that were very close together. Instead of sharing dinner we experimented with each family taking a turn providing a dessert for all. That was pretty successful. One night after dinner we all gathered on the deck of the place where Jerry and I were staying. Son Jim made an insanely delicious tiramisu for all.
Our beach gatherings are pretty casual with each family following the timetable that works for them. And wherever the first arrivers on any day settle is where the rest follow suite when they arrive at the beach. When the nineteen grandchildren were little, water safety was a big issue. Now with ages ranging from fourteen to twenty seven everybody is ocean competent. There is also lots of reading, cross word puzzle solving, beach walks, bocce ball, soccer, body surfing, and sharing of what has happened since we were last all together and of future plans. For our family the ocean offers the ideal setting for satisfying physical needs and spiritual needs.
As I have mentioned before there was a period in my life when I used to pray that if God wanted to suddenly make me musical it would be a pretty dramatic miracle. Well God did answer this prayer by gifting me with my wonderful husband who has music in his very being and each of our children and grandchildren are musically gifted – some write music, there are several guitar players, and piano players. To my unbiased ear they are all gifted vocally. With this in mind it just kind of flows that we have talent night during our beach week. No pressure, participation is strictly voluntary.
This year we held it on the large outside deck of our hotel where we had previously shared Jim’s incredibly yummy tiramisu. Since this was going to be more than a dessert sharing I checked with the hotel staff to make sure they had no problem with our family gathering on the deck. They liked the idea of the deck being a place for a family gathering. They didn’t ask the size of our family and I didn’t volunteer any number. We gathered at 7 on the deck for pizza and then moved into the various family performances. Jerry was the MC. I was bursting with pride but that was mixed with a tinge of nervousness as we applauded loudly each performance. Many of the hotel rooms overlooked this deck. I hoped we were not bothering any of the other hotel guests. The setting was perfect overlooking the sand and the ocean beyond.
The next morning I decided to stop by the front desk to make sure the staff was still ok with our deck activity. I was greeted with a big smile by one of the managers who said how much they enjoyed the music and singing from our gathering. I smiled a thank you but was confused that they could hear anything inside an office that was quite removed from the deck. From what I could gather the hotel has a device in place that allows them to monitor activity on the deck. They also said that several families had made a point of stopping by the front desk to say how much they enjoyed the performances and asked if this was a regular Thursday night activity. We also heard that other guests with rooms near the deck had come out on the walkway in front of their rooms to better enjoy the music.
Sunday morning, after our beach week, we attended services at our parish church. This was only our second time since Covid restrictions began. It is so nice to be back to in person church services. Zoom services work – if there is no other option – but actually being present, in church, surrounded by folks who seemed as pleased as we to be there, is very powerfulI! I had been musing on what to call my next blog and had pretty much settled on the above title when at sermon time the priest focused on our various needs, grouping them under their spiritual and physical aspects. I was so pleased. We were meant to be at this particular liturgy.
Right now I have surgery scheduled for September 13 at our local hospital. In the last visit to the urologist before we headed to the beach, we learned that in his twenty years of urology practice he has had only two – three cases like mine. I was a bit taken aback. He said that if I would like a second opinion he suggested the head of urology at George Washington University Hospital. After googling this recommendation I learned that this doctor was also at Sibley Hospital and prior to that was at Johns Hopkins – where our son Joe graduated from medical school. I called and made an appointment. His first opening was August 27. I took it.
Though I brought my laptop with me to the beach I was able to ignore it , and pretty much only used the i phone to message our various family members about the logistics of some of our gatherings. I stopped reading about, and tried to stop thinking about the significance of my health symptoms , about the qualifications of various doctors and various hospitals. I stopped planning for my hospitalization. It was a much needed break as I opened myself to the healing powers of family and of the ocean. To quote Vincent van Gogh,” the heart of man is very much like the sea. It has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has its pearls too. “