The Atlantic

“Wa-errrrr! Wa-errr!” Last week, Adelaide saw a photo of the ocean. A little boy playing. We practice both saying and signing ‘water’…but there is always a prompt from me. For the first time, she initiated it. When I got down next to her, she turned to me and smiled. She grabbed my cheeks in her chubby little hands and laughed. “WA-ERRRRR!”  

We took the kids to the ocean last summer. Their first ocean. We had no idea how they would react. I kept my expectations low. ocean 1ocean 2ocean 3 ocean 4ocean 5ocean 6 ocean 10ocean 7ocean 8 ocean 9ocean 11ocean 12 Graham and Adelaide were enthralled. The sun, sand, waves, creatures. I was in tears at their joy. ocean 13ocean 14ocean 15 Elizabeth spent most of the time nursing and sleeping. She was slightly overwhelmed by it all. But Graham and Adelaide, well, they would’ve set up a homestead and never looked back. ocean 16ocean 17ocean 18   ocean 19ocean 20 We had just learned that my dad-in-law had been hospitalized. “Dave, do we still go to the beach?” My sister’s wedding, the reason we were on the East Coast, was still days away. We couldn’t head home until after the reception. But how could we go have fun when the possibility of losing him was on the table? ocean 21ocean 22ocean 23 We had already promised the beach. Kids were ready. Lunches packed. Sitting in a hotel room helped no one. ocean 24ocean 25ocean 26 As I watched Graham chase the waves and shout with abandon, I found myself praying for my only earthly dad. I sent him photos of his grandchildren playing in the ocean. ocean 27ocean 28ocean 29ocean 30ocean 31 I had suspected a brain tumor before we even left on our trip. He was acting so strangely. Emotional, forgetful, and cranky. As we said goodbye to leave on vacation, I suggested again that my mom-in-law get him in for a scan. She agreed. We all just knew something was off.

On that beach, we were still a few days away from learning that Stage 4 brain cancer was taking him away from us. ocean 42ocean 44 ocean 34ocean 35 Our ocean trip brings back my juxtaposed emotions. Being a grown-up means countless moments of smiling at a toddler tasting saltwater while thinking about the demon that is cancer. Tears of joy mingled with hidden-from-your-children sobs.

All those emotions rushed back like the wave that almost knocked me down last summer. ocean 36 ocean 38 ocean 39ocean 40 Landlocked Adelaide was looking into my face. All giggles. She remembered those waves. The salt. The sand. I let a tear roll down my cheek and onto her tiny hand. My non-verbal daughter was trying so hard to tell me.

But then stinging tears fell. Because this word from Adelaide, this milestone, is the exact thing I would’ve called to tell her Papa Bob. But he is now sleeping all the time in a hospital bed in his living room and can’t hold a phone.

The tide gives and takes away. Lately, it feels like taking is winning… ocean 43

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5 thoughts on “The Atlantic

  1. […] in pretending you can choose the time. Just the slowness of it all. We won’t get the miracle. The tumor won’t disappear. His body won’t un-atrophy. Once he passes, we won’t get our Lazarus back. But we know […]


  2. […] we are approaching that anniversary of him being rushed to the hospital, and I don’t know if that will be the day I go ahead and remove him from my […]


  3. […] my ‘dad’ is an imprisoned sex offender and the only man who was like a dad to me died of cancer. And Dave’s dad died of a heart attack. I don’t want everyone to have bad […]


  4. […] I had to wean her. My dad-in-law was days from dying, and we weren’t sure where Bess would be during the funeral. I was […]


  5. […] years later, we put that kid and his sisters to bed. Cried myself to sleep. It doesn’t matter how long you prepare for someone’s death, it is always too early. Even when Bob’s body tried so hard at the […]


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