Within the first year after Dad's death, a lot of changes were made. Mom sold the house, bought a new one; Dad's long time financial advisor became ill; we scrambled to find someone as trusted as Harry. We cleaned out closets, moved paintings, sorted, and gave-away.
My attitude towards the beach house changed too. It was here that Dad, in the first stages of declining health, was put on a new medication for his suspected Parkinson's disease. Within one short day, we watched him degenerate almost to the point of incapacitation. We thought we were losing him. Fortunately, someone made the connection to his physical state and the treatment--Mom called the doctor and the medication was stopped. Many hours later, he slowly regained movement until he was mobile enough. We packed hastily, threw everything in the car and drove him home as fast as we could.
My perception of life, of death, of my father's invincibility, had been flipped on its side. A tornado had ripped through our calm and organized household.
After his death, when I thought of going to the beach house, I could only remember trying to lift Dad onto the bed. I had little desire to return to a place I had so loved.
Yet, when the family seriously considered selling the property, I couldn't let it happen.
Time passes, time heals.
When I come to the beach house now, I am greeted with tender recollections. Bewilderment and helplessness are background. I can even see Dad more clearly.
I sit down on the brown leather couch that Mom and him bought from JC Penney. To my right sits Dad. I imagine the contour of his shape, sunk into the cushion, watching his fourth hour of TV, the remote control in his hand. He looks up. He smiles. He wants a snack.
When we return to the same Mexican restaurant where he ordered a "little cup of soup," I think of all the years when that is all he ordered and frequently finished off my enchiladas.
Tomorrow, Mom and I will attend a matinee at the local theatre, where we will watch Shadowlands, and I will remember when together, we all saw a crazy interpretation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat that ruined Dad's love of theatre forever. Or perhaps it wasn't as crazy as Dad claimed it was--perhaps he was growing tired of his own stage.
The most tender and pleasant recollection is Dad's beachside bench. He would rise before 6:00 a.m and wait for the gym to open. When he finished working out, he strolled the boardwalk and sat down on the same bench to contemplate life. I tried to time kayaking with his daily meditation. If I wasn't ready to paddle/surf in, I'd wave--he'd wave back. But mostly I'd try to catch a wave in and sit with my father.
I cannot walk the beach, nor kayak the water, without seeing Dad sitting on the bench, deep in thought, deeply content.
If I could wish for one moment to have with Dad again, it would be sitting by his side, on his bench. He would ask if I'd seen dolphins. We would look for them together. We'd watch the surfers, the surf, the endless blue. He'd share a memory of his own parents long gone from his life.
I cannot separate this place from my dad who is now separated in an impossible-to-comprehend kind of way.