I didn’t know my husband was behind me taking the picture.
All I knew at that moment was my dad wanted to see the ocean one last time before we left Charleston, South Carolina, and I wanted to make sure he had that chance.
My dad, central Ohio’s retired channel 4 garden guy, Tom McNutt, used to have many opportunities to see the ocean. For more than 25 years, my parents were afforded the luxury of trading the chill of a Midwest winter for the warmth of the sands of Florida. But when the spreading symptoms of dad’s inclusion body myositis robbed him of so many of the abilities you and I take for granted, eventually landing him in a wheelchair, mom and dad said “goodbye” to the yearly ocean views and “hello” to the new possibility of never travelling again.
But after a few years of not seeing their beloved ocean, my husband and I agreed it was time for them to say, “Hello, again”.
After searching for beachfront destinations closer than Florida, we found Charleston. After a few phone calls determining whether handicapped accessibility was indeed, wheelchair accessibility, we had a place, a vision, and a determination. And soon my husband and I began a journey with my parents, many medical supplies, and a ton of great expectations, all tightly packed into a wheelchair accessible van.
Diseases have a bad reputation for a reason. They steal bodily functions, making difficult the once most carefree endeavor. They take away the spontaneity of a moment. They rob us of the extravagance of the idea of never-ending time.
But what diseases can also do for us is to act as a gentle reminder of the goodness of yesterday and even more, the preciousness of today.
For those reasons, I spent a lot of my beach vacation remembering all the wonderful opportunities my mom and dad provided for us kids over the years. Sure I remembered the vacations we shared, but more than that, I recalled the day-to-day normal sacrifices they made that formed me into the adult I am today.
I also spent a lot of my vacation marveling at my mom and dad’s new normal. Their day-to-day life is a physical embodiment of the wedding vows “For better or for worse” being lovingly played out in the simplest, most mundane task.
But, lastly, I spent a lot of the week realizing that these special moments together end way too soon. Just when we settle in to a new place, it’s time to say “goodbye” –even if we are painfully not ready to even begin to say that word.
And so, on our last day in Charleston, when I’d run upstairs to grab a cup of coffee, I looked over the balcony and saw my dad in his electric wheelchair trying unsuccessfully to glimpse the ocean over the door of the pool’s fence directly below.
I dropped my coffee and ran. After all the doors, he’d opened for me over the years, it was the least I could do.
By the time I got to him, he had left the door of the pool area and had returned to his place in the sun by the edge of the pool. “Let’s go see that ocean,” I offered.
“I’m okay,” he countered, with his typical grin.
“I know you’re okay –but let’s go see that ocean.”
Because he knows I am as stubborn as he is, he knew better than to argue. And so we made it out the door of the pool and onto the dock leading into the sand. Before that brief excursion was over, my dad even had sand between his toes for the first time in a long time.
And as we stood there together, taking in the ocean accompanied by a tidal wave of nostalgia, I didn’t know my husband was behind me taking the picture.
All I knew was that moment was one neither time nor disease could ever steal from either of us.