Tag Archives: sea

Dream A Little Dream

14 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 14 – My dream day: Describe your ideal day. How would you spend your time? Who would you spend it with? Have you had this day? If not – how could you make it happen?

Summer 2008

My perfect day…

It is a hot day and the sun is shining brightly. We are on a beach with lots of soft white sand, and the sound of the Atlantic waves fills our ears.

It is our first proper family holiday. I am with my husband and my two children, who at 2 and 4 years, are the perfect age for children to really enjoy a day at the beach. My brother is there too, and so is my mom, who has flown in from South Africa to be with us.

George, who is almost five, has found a new hobby. He lies down on the slope leading down to the water and he rolls himself down, down, down until he feels the waves kissing his body. Then he jumps up, and squealing with delight, he runs back up the slope to do it all again.

Not only is this fun for him, the physical motion of what he is doing seems to give him some kind of sensory input – something that many children with autism crave.

Two-year-old James and I are sitting near the water’s edge, and I am teaching him how to build a sand castle. I use the little shovel to put damp sand into the bucket. I pack it down as tightly as I can, and then turn the bucket upside down. I lift it off and we are left with a perfect tower for our castle. James stands up, and giggling like it’s the funniest thing in the world, he turns around and lets his bum go Plop! right on the tower.

“Again!” he shrieks, laughing so hard he can hardly talk. “Again, again, again!”

So we do it again. And again, and again, and again. We are not making any progress with the sand castle, but we are having a lot of fun.

My husband is in the water, doing battle with the waves. His life has not afforded him much opportunity to swim in the ocean – real ocean with big waves that raise you up and move with you and crash over your head. He turns and waves; I wave back and laugh as a wave hits him side-on, knocking him down.

I see my mom and brother in the distance, returning from a walk along the beach. They meander slowly to me, taking their time, and sit down beside me, James and George, who has finally tired of his roll-down-the-slope game. My husband comes out of the water and joins us. We discuss dinner plans, wonder whether we need to stop on the way back to the house for wine, and bury the kids up to their waists in sand, much to their amusement.

We are together. We are happy. We are family.

Later, as I am riding the waves, I think that there is only one thing stopping this day from being complete, and that is the absence of my dad. But then, as the ocean swirls around me – the same ocean in which Dad’s ashes were scattered thousands of miles away – I look around me, at the sunshine and the white beach where the people I love most are clustered around a smushed-up sandcastle.

As the laughter of my children floats through the air and reaches me, I think that Dad is probably with us after all.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

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Another World

25 Feb

My son James, who is all of five years old, has a wonderful imagination. When he’s lying in bed at night, after the lights have been turned off, I lie down beside him and as he snuggles up against me, he and I come up with bedtime stories. Well, James comes up with the basic plot, and I just turn said plot into a coherent tale.

Here is last night’s story:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy whose name was James. James was a very good boy who loved his family, did a great job putting his toys away at the end of the day, and gave lots of hugs to his big brother George.

And so one day a giant magic toucan came to see James. The magic toucan said, “James, you have been a very good boy. You ate all your dinner and put your toys away, and you’ve been super-nice to your brother. And so I am going to take you on a special trip.”

James climbed onto the toucan’s back, and the toucan took off and started flying. Together, James and the toucan flew over the fields and oceans, going higher and higher into the sky. They went so high that they went all the way into space. But James was not afraid. The toucan was a magic toucan and he would keep James safe.

After flying for a long time, James and the magic toucan landed gently on another world. It was a planet of brilliant green grass that was soft to walk on, white beaches where the sand wasn’t too hot, and blue, blue seas. There were beautiful flowers and many, many butterflies of all colours. Even though it was daytime on this world, when James looked at the sky he would see twinkling stars that looked like diamonds, and far, far away, he could see the Earth that he had just come from.

On the grass there was a picnic table made of gold, and on the table there were all of James’ favourite foods. There was pizza, and sandwiches, and chicken nuggets, and fruit, and ice cream. There was apple juice, milk and hot chocolate.

As James looked at the picnic table, he heard the sound of children laughing, and then he saw his friends running towards him. James and his friends sat down at the table and ate the delicious food, and drank the delicious drinks. As they ate and drank, they talked and laughed and had a great time together.

When the meal was done, James and his friends went to play on the beach. They frolicked in the water and built magnificent sand castles. They ran around, playing tag and having races.

All the time, the magic toucan was there, making sure the children were safe and having a good time.

Eventually, it was time for James to go home. He said goodbye to his friends, and then the magic toucan took James around the corner, where James saw the biggest slide he had ever seen. The slide had walls going all the way around, and little windows in the walls.

James climbed into the entrance of the slide, counted to three, and off he went! Down, down, down the slide went, turning this way and that. James had a fantastic time on the slide, and he looked out of the little windows as he went down. The slide went all the way back down through space, and ended – in James’ bedroom!

When James came out of the bottom of the slide, he landed right in his bed, and his Mommy was there to put the blankets over him and tuck him in. James was so tired from his adventures, and he drifted off to sleep and had beautiful dreams about all of the wonderful things he had seen and done.

The end.

Ashes And Roses

6 Feb

It is with a bittersweet feeling that I pay tribute to both of my parents on the anniversary of their marriage. The sweet part of the equation stems from the fact that my parents had a fantastic marriage. They had a deep, profound love for one another and apart from the occasional spat, they treated each other with the utmost respect. I could not have asked for better role models to show me just what a loving, solid marriage should look like.

The bitterness, of course, is because Dad is no longer with us. Today, Mom is in Cape Town without her beloved husband by her side, gazing longingly into the sea in which she placed his ashes six years ago today, on what would have been their 40th wedding anniversary.

As I reflect on this day, I cannot help but contemplate my own relationship with Gerard, now almost a decade old, and our own upcoming wedding. For all intents and purposes, we are already married. We have been living together for a long time, we have created new human beings, and our union is legally recognized as a spousal relationship. But still, getting married will, I believe, add a new kind of depth to our relationship. We see it as the chance of a new beginning, a new and wonderful chapter in our lives.

People ask why we waited for long to get married; why, indeed, we are bothering to get married at all. The answer, quite simply, is that we have arrived at a point in our life together where we feel that we can get married. You see, Gerard and I have been through a lot. We have survived a great deal: the loss of both of our fathers, my post-partum depression following the birth of James, George’s autism diagnosis, near-bankruptcy, to name but a few. Our relationship has been placed under unbelievable strain; it has reached the breaking point.

But when it reached the breaking point, it didn’t break. Somehow we saw our way through all of the dark times. We found a way to stick together, to emerge from that terrible bleakness and desolation as a pair, as an integrated whole. We know what we are capable of surviving. Neither of us could imagine life without the other one. We feel that we have earned the privilege of being married to each other.

I cannot wait. I am really, really excited when I think about the day I will exchange wedding vows with my beloved, in front of friends and family. It will be an amazing feeling, walking down the aisle on the arm of my brother, and then looking into Gerard’s eyes as I declare my eternal love for him. Mom will likely shed some tears, but there will be happy tears mixed in with the sad.

It makes me sad, knowing that I will not get a father-daughter dance with Dad. But I know he will be there, hopefully nodding with approval and glowing with pride.

February 6th, 2005

Dad has been gone for exactly two months. It is almost sunset.

Mom tentatively carries the urn holding his ashes to the edge of the rocks, with her sister standing a respectful distance behind. Clutching Dad to her heart one last time, she whispers her goodbyes to the wind, and hands the urn to the man standing beside her, the man who is surefooted enough to brave the rocks.

Mom stands beside her sister, and watches as the ashes of her beloved are gently transferred from the urn to the sea, from whence they will travel to who knows where? Many, many rose petals are placed into the sea to travel with the ashes.

Mom watches in silence as the ashes and the rose petals float out into the ocean. The tide is low, the rose petals waft lazily as they escort Dad into the beginning of his eternal travels. Together, the roses and the ashes reach the horizon. With the sun directly behind them, the ocean current moves them around in a small circle, as if they are waving goodbye to the widow standing on the rocks.

Ashes and roses disappear from sight, just as the sun dips below the horizon and closes the chapter on the day.