At the south end of Long Beach Island, NJ there used to be a huge bird sanctuary. It was at least a mile of untouched beach, populated solely by birds. It was the quietest part of the island and a place of refuge for me.
Hurricane Sandy wrecked the bird sanctuary. There’s still some beach left, but it’s only a fraction of the size of that quiet, solemn place in my memory.
It’s October and that means I’m thinking about how Hurricane Sandy wrecked me too. Caleb was born and Dad died in the middle of it. I can still hear my mom saying how they were going to stay at the hospital so that they wouldn’t have to risk losing power at home and I can swear it was dark and stormy outside my own Las Vegas hospital room.
Life has changed. For the most part, it’s still beautiful; different than it was, but still beautiful. Most days I am amazed by the sunrise, the sound of the waves, and the little birds that scurry about. Other days, I can’t help but notice that most of the beach is gone.
Yesterday was Mom and Dad’s 30th anniversary. It ended up being a day of sunrises: Caleb was cranky, but overjoyed to have a few play dates; I got plenty of things crossed off my list; and I’ve actually gotten decent sleep the last few nights. And then I think about how Caleb is growing up and my dad isn’t here to see it or to give me advice or to offer insight into the inner workings of the young boy’s mind.
If I’ve learned anything about grief over the last two years, it’s that I need to be okay with the fact that disappointment and joy will always coexist. Even when all I can see is the missing sand, the sun will still rise and there will still be that place where I can go and find peace.