Friday, September 30, 2011

The Jellyfish

Some days I just want to sit in a pool of self pity about my life and whine about how hard it is, but then I remember that it could be so much worse.  I have it so good.  My kids are big and healthy.  They are smart and tough.  Some people have disabled kids, or they can't even have kids at all.  I have a great job, and I get paid well for what I do.  Some people don't even have jobs.

But then sometimes I just wish I could change Dad's condition.  Sometimes I just wish that I could stop it, or I could prevent it from ever happening.  Or maybe I just wish that I could reverse the clock back a few years and take back some words said and some time unspent doing the things we should have done together.

Sometimes we are dealt a hand that we don't know how we can possibly handle.  But somehow we make it through.  We are a brilliant and strong people.  We bash on ourselves as Americans all the time, as if we don't face enough adversity.  But sometimes I think "life" itself, is adversity enough.  I don't have to live in a mud hut and truck baskets of water on my head all day long from the creek to know how to appreciate life.

It's painful to watch someone so gifted with their hands and mind not be able to use them so easily anymore.  Watching someone struggle to speak the words they know are there, somewhere...  watching them struggle to sign their name.  It's just an ache so deep it's hard to put into words.  Some days are good, some are bad.  Some days there are broken projects strewn about the garage in frustration, and some days it's all in order, just like it used to be, with every tool in its place.  Sometimes we sit and tell stories about the old days, ones we've told a hundred times, but we still laugh.  There is one in particular that always comes up.  Sometimes I think I see it in my dreams.  A beautiful moment and I will never forget it.

We had taken a three week boat trip up to Dick and Lorena's that year.  They were old friends of my grandparents and they had purchased property years earlier and built a house overlooking Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island, British Columbia.  I was about ten or eleven that summer. 

They had a dock they had nick-named the "Mickey Mouse."  It was all homemade floats that were a little too narrow, and they had been lashed together.  If you got the wrong rhythm going in your steps you could start it rocking so bad that it would tip you off into the water if you weren't careful.  Their beach was rocky and covered with starfish and barnacles that would start to stink if the tide was too low, as it often was in the summertime.

My uncle and cousins were there that year.  We had come up in our boat from Washington with Papa and Grammie, and they had driven up in their car.  It took them about three ferry rides to get there, because you had to island hop to Cortes.  It was beautiful and remote with miles of rocky beaches lined with madrona trees and beach grasses.  Now and then we would see a rare weasel or river otter sunning itself on the shore.  We thought nothing of the bald eagles soaring overhead, or the many nights of steamed clams and crab for dinner.

One day, we stood out on the Mickey Mouse and looked into the water and saw a huge swarm of jellyfish drifting in on the afternoon tide.  There were thousands.  They were all moon jellies, which don't sting, so my Dad suggested that we go for a swim.  Several of us jumped in the water, tickled by the thousands of milky white jellies.  We swam and swam, pushing them around, watching them beat in rhythm under the hot sun.  Suddenly, my Dad shouted, "Jellyfish fight!"  We all burst into screams and the beautiful jellies flew everywhere.  All I could hear was laughter and the "Slop! Slop! Slop!" sound of the jellies hitting the water.  We were all nearly drowning from laughter when I raised my arm to sling a huge jelly in my Dad's direction.  I had perfect aim.  The gelatinous projectile hit its target directly in the open mouth.  I heard a loud gurgle and a Yeach!  I felt myself going under and I gasped a quick breath.  My sides ached.  With a strong kick, I rose back up.  I was in convulsive laughter.  I flailed my way back to the Mickey Mouse.  My Dad was already there in hysterics.  He kept rinsing his mouth with the salty sea water to try to make the slime wash out.  I nearly drown before I was able to grab the dock and laugh some more. 

After that we called a truce.  We all pulled ourselves back onto the dock in the warm afternoon sunshine.  We dried off and got ready to go out and collect our crab pots for that night's dinner.  I still chuckle to myself sometimes when I think of the sound my Dad made as the huge jelly hit his tongue.


  1. Do you mind if I share this Dani?

  2. Share away!

    @Sage, thanks! I will never forget it!