There is a novel called The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks about a couple who have been together for a long, long time.  She has forgotten much and has almost forgotten him, but as he retells their story, she sometimes remembers.

That is fiction, but today I saw the real.

It was a difficult decision to bring her to this place, but when there was little sleep for either of them, and the wandering off got more dangerous – it was time.

He tells us that one truth he’s learned is that they are indeed “one”.  A piece of him remains behind as he leaves her there each evening.  He returns each morning, rested and knowing she has been kept safe through the night.

He explains her limitations in conversation to her old friends – my parents. She is pleased to see them and recognizes them right away.

He relays a bit of the humor in the conversations that happen.  When he told someone that he has been married to her for 59 years, she looked up and said “better luck next time.”

He visits his old friend (my dad) and eventually leaves for a bit to take him for a short ride in his car.  After they leave, she wanders out of her room and down the hall.  As she is walked back into her room, she goes to the window.  She is looking for him.

The brief drive is done and she looks out the window and sees him step out of the car.  She is immediately more animated but seems a bit unsettled and states emphatically as she points – “That’s Merle.  That’s my husband.”  She wants to get to him.  She wants us to help him find his way back to her.  She asks us to help him find the door to get back in.

He returns to her room and his gentleness is calming.  She holds on to his arm.  She is peaceful.

Dementia has stolen away much from the final years they thought they’d have as equals.

But as he stated at the beginning of our visit – they are one.  He holds the memories for both of them.  He remains faithful to his wife, sweetly tending to her, protecting her.  The rings placed 59 years ago remain on the aging fingers, symbols of vows honored.

Today I witnessed love tangible.

Home and Family Defined

When he contemplated the transition to a time of ministry, my world shifted a bit.  I would not grow old in this farmhouse that had housed my family while they grew.  After the initial realization that we would be moving to places unknown, it was actually not so hard to let go.

Home is really family – and to some degree – my stuff.  Some moves have been exciting – a bigger, newer home, or even a transition to a new state.  One move was more stressful than the others.  We were leaving home and friends far away, knowing no one in this new place, living in a small rental home that needed some cleaning and painting, and four small ones to keep occupied within its walls – while a husband worked in a very stressful new job.

When we moved to the farmhouse, it felt permanent – but it was not.  (photo above from a recent trip down memory lane – in its present state of “decay”)

But I have been blessed in that each move has been the result of a choice, and with an intact family.  When we left the farmhouse to enter a parsonage – it was not “my” home, but it was.  The people in it were my family and my family is home.

This last home has grown quiet and feels a bit empty with daughters and niece no longer there.  It has emptied out to just two – and although it seems to have trouble with maintaining that number, this time it just may last.

A house is a house – a family is home.

Gift of the Sea

Before the husband and I became a couple, I enjoyed only an occasional visit to the Atlantic. He changed that for me, and love for the sea (and him) has become stronger each year.

Growing up in Connecticut, a trip to the beach meant driving down Route 9 until we found ocean.  Public (crowded) beaches are what I remember, and that ocean is trapped behind Long Island Sound.  We sometimes drove further east to the coast of Rhode Island.  Finally – there were beach visits to Cape Cod, generally getting lost in Providence, RI on the way there or back.  (No Google maps or GPS…)  We visited the beach in summer most times – but when my in-laws lived in Chatham, Massachusetts for a year, one winter visit I saw surf frozen on the sand.

In May of 1980, we started our honeymoon in Old Saybrook, CT next to the Atlantic.

Once transplanted to Virginia (1989), we made a summer trip for a long weekend to see what this Outer Banks we’d heard about was like. Two adults and five littles (four offspring, one niece) in a not very large motel room with a pool nearby – crowded, yes – but we were hooked.

We had found our new Atlantic Ocean.

Some eastcoasters enjoy Virginia Beach, some head to Myrtle Beach, but we felt at home at the OBX.  Yes, there have been a couple of years at other places – Holden Beach (NC), Jekyll Island (GA), and even the rocky shores of Nova Scotia for the daughters and me.  Sidenote: After a few years, following some complaining from offspring about how b.o.r.i.n.g the beach was, they were rewarded with the Melting Vacation (100 degrees) in Williamsburg. After experiencing a vacation in one hundred degrees in a place modeled after a time with no AC, with actual ACTIVITIES they were forced to do, they were ready to return to the ocean the next year.  No further complaints.

There are vacationers who fill every moment away from home with plans of what to see and do, but there are the other types of vacationers.  The sort who walk along the shoreline collecting shells, who rise early to view a sunrise (with camera and coffee cup in hand), who occasionally head to a restaurant or a garden or an aquarium – and then return back to the familiar sound of ocean waves.  Even those who do not sunbathe (or tan) can find a home at the shore.

During some of the annual visits, a rental house was big enough to hold more than the immediate family.  A cousin, or a sister and her family, or some friends for a day or two of that year’s trip, and yes – old photos will show that there have been people along who have now become distant memories.

The OBX even became home to my engagement ring as it slipped from my finger into the sand one (thinner) year.  (Mile Marker 10) Hopefully it became a treasure on someone else’s finger eventually.

Most trips have been off-season in order to more easily afford that oceanfront view – but there was one “in season” trip.  It was over the July 4th holiday and the view of the fireworks while sitting between two distant piers was impressive – and loud!

This year, it has been a quiet week in a small rental home perfect for just two.  The ocean and husband remain constant – and although it feels different having just me and him, it has been great. The grocery purchase was much easier. Yes, I surf (not on the ocean waves), he studies, we read, I take pictures, we walk on the sand, we talk, cook, and try out a couple of new (to us) restaurants.

I’ve suggested upping our OBX frequency to the husband since it’s just the two of us now … But…

… I ponder the idea of a family reunion here next year.  🙂  Those littles are now grown with spouses or almost spouses (and jobs with salaries – :-).

There are new memories waiting to be made!