Shirley walked the two blocks to the beach and down the ramp to the sand. She walked toward her favorite bench slowly, stiff-legged, in hopes of getting as little sand as possible between her feet and her sandals. She positioned herself in front of the bench and plopped down, exhausted, sweating. It was eighty degrees out, on Christmas Eve day.
Shirley shook her head out of disbelief, sadness, anger, and tears brimmed, burned at her eyes. Just a year ago today she was sitting in her breakfast nook window seat with a mug of hot cocoa and marshmallow Fluff, listening to “Season’s Greetings from Perry Como,” and watching the snow fall. Now here she was sitting on a public bench in the sand, sweating and crying.
It started the year the Women’s Fellowship delivered Christmas cookies to her instead of asking her, as usual, to bake cookies. That she was now considered one of the elderly, the “shut-ins,” did its work to begin the destruction, the arthritic downturn and the subsequent move to Florida to an assisted living facility. And in the not too distant future she would be deemed unfit to live alone and have to be moved to a single, stark room in a full-care home.
The amplified sound of gulls feeding penetrated Shirley’s sadness, and she raised her eyes to the water’s edge. She watched as the water washed in and out, watched a wave of sandpipers undulating with the ebb and flow. A small group of eleven sandpipers was before her now, waving in and out, their little legs in fast forward as they worked their way up the beach piping and jabbing at the sand for food. They looked so natural, happy, so at home in their environment, so at peace with existence. And out of the intensity of her watching came the feeling she was one of them, at home, at peace.