Oceans.

I read once about a person who died.

I don’t know if they were a man or a woman, but they were in their mid-sixties.

They had been married and divorced. They never parented any children and their dog left with their spouse.

This person had a degree in education and had worked as a teacher, working over 30 years teaching 7th grade students about History.

When this person passed away, it had been an expected event. They had a terminal illness. They had retired and chosen to move into a facility with full-time care.

This was when the author of the article had met this person. They had accidentally walked into the wrong room, where the terminal patient sat in a chair by a window.

***

“The Patient sat in a faded maroon easy chair. The off-white sweater covering slender, slumped shoulders gave no hint as to whether the Patient was a man or a woman. Their patchy, light blonde hair blew softly in a breeze from the open window. I stood silently as I realized this was definitely not the 83 year old bed-ridden woman who had hired me. I cleared my throat nervously but the Patient never looked at me. I apologized one too many times as I scrambled to find something else to say. As I began to back out of the room, flipping through my paperwork to figure out where the mix-up had occurred.

Just as I was about to step back into the hallway, a neutral, soft voice caught my attention.

“Do you know something?”

I looked over my shoulder into the empty, quiet hallway and then back to the Patient.

They continued.

“I wanted to be a diver.”

I looked again for any staff members who might have wandered into the hall. I was only there that day to go over legal documents with a patient who wanted to be sure of her only Grandchild’s financial security once she had died.

I didn’t know what to say, so I just stood there – silent.

“Where in this world is anything more wild and free than in the depths of an ocean?”

I began biting at the inside of my cheek, nervously shifting my weight from one foot to the next.

“I was afraid, that’s what it was. I was afraid of what everyone would think. Can you even imagine what people would have said if I had walked away from University and jumped into the ocean? My Father, the Professor…what a prick.”

My eyes grew wide as I suddenly became interested in what this person was saying, whether it was to me or the window or to God Himself…I didn’t know. But I didn’t move, either.

“I wanted more than routine, more than monotony and security. But I gave into fear. I gave into my own goddamned fears of the opinions of everyone else. I don’t even remember the names of most of my peers. Hell, I hope they are all dead by now.”

Suddenly I felt uneasy, as if I may have stumbled into the room of a person who might have shot at me for trespassing had this been a porch instead of a bright white nursing room. I began to turn, to walk away and seek someone more capable than I to come to this dying person’s side.

“Go on, now. Go read those rights to the person you’re here to mark off your list. And when you do, ask them if they lived their life. Ask them if they lived. Because I sure as hell did NOT. And I’m ashamed. I’m goddamned ashamed to be sitting here…because you know what?”

I took another slow, silent step toward the hallway – honestly afraid to turn around, let alone respond.

The Patient sighed and cleared their throat, coughing hoarsely for a moment before saying the last words I heard them speak.

“I’ve never even been to an ocean.”

***

Ugh, that hits me right in the gut. It makes me gasp for air as if someone had just landed a solid punch right to my chest. How incredibly sad that this person, whoever they were, sat at the end of their life and instead of being able to look back at their years of dedication to educating young lives, instead of being able to appreciate the world they had lived in for decades, they stared into the sunlight and bitterly counted it all as loss.

***

I think of this story every now and then, every once in awhile when a similar story is told or a relatively young person passes away.

“I wonder if they lived.”

***

As I was replying to an email this morning, I had to look back on my life and count up my experiences to determine what might make me seem more “employable”.

It didn’t take me long.

I’ve been unemployed, actually, for something like…9 years? It’s ok, I know…you’re surprised. Maybe even appalled. Or maybe you’re surprised because now you know there’s another person out there, just like you.

Or maybe you already knew that about me.

Maybe you’re just waiting for me to get to the point.

#bepatient #geez

Anyway, as I realized I really have nothing to add to a resume, I simply replied…

“I’m practically unemployable.”

And I laughed to myself at the thought, I smiled as memories began to flood my mind.

Lots of beautiful, messy, unscripted, imperfect, crazy frustrating life-changing memories that have filled in every moment of the last 9-ish years of my unemployed life.

***

Of course there are days where my memories don’t bring a smile to my face. Sometimes I find myself in a pool of self-pity and bitterness. I’m sure if someone tossed a sweater over my shoulders, I might resemble that Patient as I sit, hunched beneath the weight of expectations I never met, cursing the thought of who I should have been, could have been…maybe even would have been.

Sometimes I’m incredibly selfish.

Sometimes I forget that nobody forced me into the decisions that have led me here.

#collegedropout #stayathomemom #coffeeaddict #perpetuallypregnant

Sometimes I choose to ignore my incredibly patient and loving Husband and pretend like he needs a lesson in how to properly console his tormented wife.

#whyheputsupwithme #nobodyknows

Yes, it’s true. Sometimes I’m ridiculously emotional and tired and I whine and cry like my 3 year old Daughter in the middle of what we call “a moment”.

“Just give her a moment to collect herself.”

And then when she doesn’t, she takes a nap.

Sometimes I think I’d like someone to show up and make me take a nap to snap me out of my own “moment”.

#butidigress

***

Here’s the thing, the thing that’s been on my mind for basically EVER. I just didn’t realize I needed to write about it until I typed out the word “unemployable” earlier today.

Tomorrow my husband and I will recognize what marks our 8th year of marriage.

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Our 8th Wedding Anniversary, April 4th, 2017.

In 8 years of marriage and 15 years of life ( gosh, that makes us sound kind of……old… ) my Husband and I have learned that together, we are capable of incredible things.

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This life, this world we have immersed ourselves in…

1

…it is so good.

Sure, it isn’t perfect. I’m nowhere near Super when it comes to Mothering.

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I have plenty to learn when it comes to parenting.

And marriage.

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There are days when I scream my head off at my Husband because I’m a hot-headed, temper-tantrum, crazy-hormonal emotional BOMB when I am pregnant.

And when I’m not pregnant.

There are days when I stand at my toddler’s crib and sway back and forth, his cheek pressed to mine, as I breathe in the intoxicating smell of graham crackers and Baby soap that always seems to linger in his reddish, curly hair.

I can’t get enough of his sweet, squishy cheeks…on his face or his bum.

Some days I miss the silence of a childless world. I miss the confidence I carried as a lightly tanned, somewhat toned, perky-boobed young woman with the world at my fingertips and a firm belief that I was created to move mountains.

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Some days I miss my Kelly Green bikini and neon floaties. I miss the cold beer and the warm, gentle waves of the Atlantic off the coast of the Carolinas. There are days where I wonder why I left behind those afternoons spent drifting down the coast, drunkenly laughing at the idea of being consumed by sharks with a friend as we were carried further and further into the sunset.

***

Some might look at this life, at my memories and my half-finished scrapbooks and toy-covered carpets and think…

“…wow, I really thought she wanted more.”

When I think of these kinds of things, I see the face of my first college roommate in the Honor Dorms. She was intelligent and gorgeous. She was intimidating but her passion was also quite inspiring. When I first met her, I knew right away she was seeking a political career based solely on her reaction when I said to her…

“Yeah, I graduated with like a 3.5? Actually, I don’t really know. I’m pretty sure I was put here by mistake. I’m definitely not Honors material.”

This well-spoken, well-behaved young woman – Student Body President of the largest high school in the area, Valedictorian and Special Needs Tutor, Captain of a Lacrosse Team and already running for some sort of leadership position at the University – she stood in front of me, her face unchanged and she said,

“Wow, well what an opportunity for you! I’m always so thrilled by chance meetings. This must mean we were meant to help each other in life.”

She wasn’t thrilled. But she sure smiled like she was!!

I remember sharing the closet-sized dorm with her, having conversations now and then about school, life and our dreams. We clicked when it came to just about everything, actually – except Lacrosse. I still don’t get the appeal.

Soon she realized I wasn’t an idiot and I realized she had a soul.

Then a lot of life happened, I dropped out of school and forgot to collect my fish tank from our shared bookshelf before I left the campus for what would be my final day as a college student.

Pretty sure my fish died. Pretty sure she had to deal with it.

Pretty sure I was the worst roommate ever.

But anyway, I happened to see her name in an article not too long ago. I learned that she had gone on to become the Student Body President of our University and served politically, not only on campus but also in the community. She might have some kind of Doctorate or something and probably saved orphans and rescued a lot of kittens, too. Honestly, I didn’t finish the article.

But I did think to myself…

“What would she think of me, now?”

“What would I tell her, if she stepped into my life and saw me, ten years down the road?”

***

And this thought reminded me of the first article, about the bitter person who died. And then that created a little thought bubble that stuck to the lining of my brain for awhile until it was surrounded by so many bubbles I kind of forgot about it.

And then came the e-mail.

And then came my answer.

***

“Wow, it’s been forever!! Come in, take a seat! Have some coffee.”

She might not want to at first, but she would take me up on my offer. She would sit and smile that smile and sip her black coffee, as any real adult would, and she would look around at my home as she peeled her sleeve off of the sticky armrest of her chair.

I would look at her and smile as I stack my unfinished scrapbooks beside her on the table, excited to sit down and share my life with her.

“I’m so glad we can do this. Here, here’s a wipe for that syrup. Let’s start here, with this one. That’s my wedding album…”

And her walls would begin to crumble and the trained, stiff smile would ease into a relaxed, familiar softness of a girl I knew so long ago.

And we’d share our memories and laugh about the dead fish and as she would open the first album, I would set down my coffee and say with subtle pride,

“Welcome to my ocean, Friend.”

***

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brandy Lewis says:

    This is one of the most beautiful and poinient things I have read for a very long time. I am breathless.

    I definitely do not want to take anything from the beautiful words you have just touched me with but I would like to say two things.

    1. In college my last class before my capstone, was a career guidance course. I learned that one resumes, Indeed, what have you, stay at home mom should ALWAYS be listed! That is one of the biggest multitasking jobs there are. 1, 9, or 20 years worth of stay at home mom duties should be listed. Of course you can leave out things like syrup cleaner upper or poopy diaper pro. But don’t sell yourself short, you work your butt off. You are totally employable!

    2. You are enough.

    Like

  2. Tammy ramsey says:

    Beautiful! It’s funny how many of us parents have felt this way when we’ve given up our career or education for family. Here’s the thing, the best impression you can make in this world is the memories you leave with your chikdren. It’s the pride that will happen the first time one of your kids repeats to their own kids something you’ve said as a parent. Being a Stay at home Mom takes more guts, intelligence and stamina than most careers!

    Like

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