My mother was still alive when I jumped into the Atlantic Ocean and wailed as the waves crashed over me. My head was tousled by the break, my mouth filled with salt water, and I screamed for as long as I could stand the brisk ocean water on my exposed skin and face. She was still alive, but they had told us just hours earlier that she wasn’t there, and wouldn’t be again.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, letting out all the noise that had built up after a week of sitting silently by her side, waiting for her to whisper to me that she hadn’t gone anywhere, to hear the quietest of movement as her eyes opened. Those quiet noises never came, so I screamed.
They say that grief washes over you in waves, but I just jumped in.
Now, a month after her unexpected and downright earth-shattering death, I find myself making it through the day. I smile, I engage, and I laugh and start to get back to my daily life. Sometimes, though, by the day’s end I shatter and scream. I sob into the pillows, until I’ve soaked through all four that stay perched on my bed. I hold back the sea all day, waiting for a moment where I’m on the beach alone and can let the waves pummel me.
And of all the things that I’ve struggled with returning to, this column has been the hardest to tackle. For years I’ve written it, and here and there have gotten remarks or comments from readers across the state. But, every Friday without fail, my mom would text me about the latest Tangled Up In Blue. She knew the production schedule better than me, and couldn’t wait to let me know she read it.
So, when I sat down the first week after she died, I just couldn’t write it. Same thing with the second missed deadline. And with this one? I’ve started and stopped several times, struggling to find the balance between heart wrenching sadness and, well, the outdoors? This is a recreation column after all.
I wanted to find a way to relate my mother to the running that’s been bringing me some sort of solace, but I honestly don’t think I ever saw my mother run a day in my life. And my own running hasn’t brought me too much relief these days, with crying breaks halfway through 5Ks.
But, what my mother lacked for in the running department, she made up for on the water. My mother was a fisherman and a crabber.
She knew the best way to bait a crab trap, and could sit on the dock in the sun for hours, whether the crabs were biting or not. No matter the haul, she knew my dad would be there, ready to cook them up for her with a generous helping of Old Bay. She rarely cracked into a blue claw crab that wasn’t the best crab she’d ever eaten.
And my parents used to tell me about the days when she would show up with her pink rod and reel on the party boats, making all the men joke and jeer until she brought in the biggest fish.
While my mother was in the hospital, my dad, brother, and I told friends to empty out the crab traps. Just like with writing this column, we weren’t ready for the blue claws yet. But, slowly and surely, we’ll get there. And, hopefully, this will get published, Friday morning will come and someone somewhere will have a smile on their face reading it, just like my mother would have.