Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SEA CHANGE or TREE CHANGE (07/13/17)
- TITLE: I'm Not Shore
By Donna Powers
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After 35 years’ living in the Hell’s kitchen section of New York City, I can sleep through any level of noise. Ambulances, police cars and firetrucks wail at all hours and not phase me in the least. When I walk out of the front door of my apartment building, I’m as likely to see a mink-clad matron as I am to see a homeless beggar. I can ride the subway; standing steadily while it jostles me on my way to work - and get all my emails read whether or not I’m fortunate enough to grab a millimeter of the subway’s pole.
I’m a city boy. It’s who I am; who I was born to be.
Yet, here I am this week in an unsettlingly-quiet beach house. Here, the loudest sounds are not from traffic, and our nearest neighbors are seagulls. My morning routine consists of bringing my breakfast into the other bedroom. With me, I bring a cup of chamomile tea and some dry crackers.
Each day, I try to talk my mother into having just a bit of each. Each day she tries, but says she can’t. I smile and tell her that’s OK.
Last week, I got a call from her. I knew from her voice something bad was happening. All she said was, “Johnny, please come visit me. We need to talk.”
I didn’t have to ask her why she’d called; once I got to her house. I took one look at her grey-tinged face; listened for a moment to her wheezing and raspy voice - and knew her lung problems had returned.
What I hadn’t expected was for her to tell me those lung problems had led to her being told she had less than 6 months to live.
After we’d hugged each other as tightly as we could, she told me she wanted me to bring her “home” to die.
For her, “home” was the seashore. Even though she’d raised me in the City, she’d grown up in a town near this shore. As a child, she’d followed the lifeguards down to the beach and spent her days playing in the sand. As a college student, she’d met the love of her life. For him, she’d agreed to live and raise a family in New York City.
She’d never regretted it, but it had never been “home.” This was.
Not for me. The serenity of the seashore seems more discordant to me than a jackhammer. The bright stillness of the sand clamors for a procession of impatient commuters and a swarm of harried people rushing to and fro. The pulse of the ocean can’t replace to the thrum of the subways. I love my mother, but I wish I were in my own home.
But Mom has always been good to me. I owe her this – and I’ve asked God to change my point of view so I can be grateful for the opportunity to share this last chapter of her life.
This morning, as she sleeps, I sit and watch a family of gulls scuttle across the sand. Patiently, the biggest gull prods the little ones as they scavenge for food. It reminds me of all the times my mother prepared nourishing meals when I was a child; and then taught me to cook for myself, as a teenager.
I thank God for my mother, and for all the mothers in the world. And I drink in the silence, and ask God to let it be amplified – or to help me become content with the way things are. I may long for home, but I’ll stay here until my mother journeys to her heavenly home. And I believe He’ll remains faithful to provide all my needs: in the city, the shore or the uttermost parts of the earth.
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