I awake abruptly, thinking where am I? My mind races. I start counting the days until I can see Jack again, a week and half. We planned to meet at my timeshare on Sanibel Island, a place I love. Sanibel, on the gulf coast of Florida has become my home away from home. I spend as much time as I can on the special quaint beach, nature’s heaven. I could tell when we made this plan Jack really did not want to go but I convinced him that we could use it as a place to meet halfway and it’s already paid for. Reluctantly, he agreed; but all he had on his mind was moving into his new condo and the cost involved. It was his first big purchase in over thirty years. I tried to encourage him he would be fine and that he got a great deal, that we deserved to be together.
I wake often throughout the night questioning myself. That is pretty normal for me, but being here is not. Have I made a mistake?
Around four a.m. I hear Dad banging around. Is that the bathroom door? I doze off and awake to more noise. I guess I better get up— it’s six-thirty a.m. Dad will be waiting. It seems too early for me. I miss my meditation and alone time. I miss spending long hours on my homework. I’m used to having until eleven a.m. before Jack got home. That was nice, that was special. I already desperately missed it, as well as my independence and freedom. But not much time to think about that right now.
Good morning Mom and Dad! Wow, I observe how cranky they are with each other. Mom likes to take her time too, but Dad is in a huge hurry, do, do, do, and do. “Come on, I need my protein drink again, Beth Anne.”
O K, Dad”. I make it while making coffee. It’s written down for me, one scoop protein powder, two ice cubes, a handful of blueberries. I am being watched to make sure I do it right. Talk about feeling— I feel like I am in a pressure cooker but we never acknowledge feelings or share them. It’s kind of a do or die atmosphere, and die is an actual element involved here, so I just start doing, no grumbling. I spill some on the counter and grab a rag as quickly as possible.
“Dammit, Beth-Anne, now the measurement is off” Dad barks.
“It’s alright, Dad, I’ll redo it.” He drums his fingers as I start over. We sit at the table again to plan the day. They are so upset with each other arguing over juicing times, their schedules, natural cancer therapies. Mom is pretty passive aggressive and Dad is just aggressive. I am trying to keep the peace or my peace but have not gotten the whole health regime yet. So at this point the table isn’t a comfy cozy place for me and I excuse myself to get ready for the day. This is where I realize I am supposed to get my needs met. And I tell them that today I start yoga and I am also going to try to get a bike ride in. Dad orders, “I need juice and the goat’s milk.”
“Yes, I know, Dad.” Showering is now my solace and getting ready is my sanctuary.
Outside, I enjoy juicing, especially when the weather is truly beautiful. In spring everything is in blossom. Mom comes out to the patio to join us as the doorbell rings. It’s Pete, Dad’s neighborhood friend. He is ninety-five and in exceptional health. We meet and have met before but I never got to know him. I notice he seems happy and interested in Dad’s health and
Well being, and in me also. Wow, I like him. He sits awhile and Dad seems to relax in Pete’s presence. I make him some juice also and I start partaking of the divine nature and find out how much I enjoy carrot, apple, lime, and mango juice. Wow, maybe I’ll take advantage of this time and improve my health and drop some pounds. I feel my obsession with my weight comes from my father. He’s always obsessed, not only about my weight but his own, and everyone else’s too, for that matter.
But at this moment in time, with Pete’s entrance, all seems well. Dad and Pete are talking about enzymes and oxygen therapy with David, their younger friend who is a whiz when it comes to helping my dad set up and maintain his all natural cancer fighting protocol. It all sounds so strange to me. What a strange word anyway, “protocol.” What is that? I thought only doctors used that term.
Dad tells Pete of his trip to Puerto Rico and the treatments he endured and the nine-pound weight loss. What in the heck is an ozone enema? I don’t want to ask Dad, seems way too private. Asking questions is not so easy for me. Dad just wants Mom and me to listen and we do. Pete is excited about a book he bought for himself and Dad, Medical Intuition. He highly recommends it and encourages me to read it also. Pete seems so kind. He still drives and is independent. Pete and Dad speak with words I have never heard of, and theirs is a companionship I can appreciate.
Moments of awe and gratitude fill my heart. I pop up with, “Pete, thank you for helping my dad”.
What? Pete says. You have to talk louder, slower, and clearer. I do and Pete thinks a minute. “You are welcome,” he says very slowly, and it is good of you to come and help Sergeant.
That’s Dad’s real name, Sergeant, and he likes it. Sergeant and Belle have been married sixty-plus years. I think I am making a friend also. Pete doesn’t stay long, picks up his cane and walks slowly and steadily to the door. Dad once told me his name got him places. I always thought it was odd. And my older brother likes it too.
“See ya soon, Beth Anne. I see you like mangoes. I will bring you some of mine.”
“ I love them. Thank you Pete, goodbye.”
In return, all he says is “Peace.” And I’m feeling like life just lightened up.
“Beth Anne, you could learn a lot from Pete. He is highly intelligent and knows a lot about health,” Dad says.
Mom scowls. I know what she is thinking. What next? What new herbal trick or new crazy concoction? She goes in the house and Dad starts expressing his need for the goat’s milk, raw—that is. “If you hadn’t wasted some it –-“ he grumbles.
“Right, Dad, I’ll get on the computer now. But I am going to get a bike ride in.”
The doorbell rings again and it’s Jesse, another friend of Dad’s who worked for him at the plant and does odd jobs around the house and is good on the computer. This relationship is different. He is much younger than me and it seems to be more of a work relationship.
“Nice to meet you, Jesse, and thank you for all the help and things you do for Mom and Dad,” I tell him.
“ Oh, it’s so nice to meet you also. Jesse tells me he is here to help Dad with a project. “They are great folks—And I’m not sure what I would be doing without The Sarge in my life.”
I only ever called my big brother Gent, that’s what the family calls him. My older brother lives nearby in St. Petersburg and following in my father’s footsteps, worked at the plant and worked his way up the ladder to the top. He’s still working like my father, not sure what he would do if he retired? Fish, I guess. He loves fishing and is a master at it. Aw, thank goodness for my older brother. I think I need to get together with him and talk now that I am home. What did I just say to myself? Where am I? Oh I remind myself this is just temporary. Gent’s wife, Brittany, and I get along famously. I decide to make a visit soon.
My parents converted my brother’s old bedroom into their home office where I go to use the computer. I find raw goat’s milk nearby, a great solution, and problem solved except there is paperwork involved. We have to sign that it’s for animal consumption only, order a week ahead of time and pick it up when it is delivered from the farm which is about one hour away. I hear banging on the back porch.
Mom perks up from her desk behind me. What are they doing now? I wonder.”
“Dad,” I say, “Mom wants to know what you are doing.”
“I am ozonating my spa and sink water so the vegetables will be clean and purify me too,” he says, enunciating each word as if I’m an idiot.
“OK, Dad.” What in the heck?
Jesse smiles and says, “I work for a mad scientist. I know, oh, how I know.”
I close the sliding glass door to drown out the noise of the drill. “OK, Mom here it is, he is ozonating his spa and his sink.”
The looks she gives me are classic— she is so suspicious of yet one more trick. “Can’t he accept that he may be dying?” She says.
“I guess not, Mom, you know him best. He’s not going out with a fight.” Again Mom pooh-poohs and expresses her doubt about all the energy we are in investing in all these projects.
I pat her knee and tell her I’m going for a bike ride.
“OK, Honey, enjoy yourself” she says as I let my dad know the info about the goat’s milk on my way out. He barely acknowledges me, intensely working and occasionally yelling at Jesse about his tools, his prize possessions. Yikes! I open the garage door and this feels like an old familiar scene— the escape. This is what I did as a kid. I escaped to water, to nature. We lived in Hyde Park where I grew up walking or riding my bike along Bayshore Boulevard, which was and is still truly breathtaking. I love nature, the water, and sunshine are healing balms for my soul. Hearing the birds, feeling the breeze on my face, enjoying the touch of the sun on my arms and legs as I am riding is relaxing and invigorating to me. Heaven, it’s just a little touch of heaven. I find an old familiar bench, memories return, but I am too much in the present scene of my life to return to the past. However, it is comforting to be here. I text Jack “ I am on a bike ride.” Where is he? I’m feeling in a semi-aware state.
He texts back, “just got off work.” Great, he is fine. Although I feel I am losing touch . . .
Dad calls. “Where the heck are you?”
“I’m at the bay, Dad. I’m fine. You know this city has changed. OK Dad,on my way back soon, I am fine!”
When I return home, Jesse is on the computer and has filled out all the forms for the goat’s milk. I make the call to place the order. Cash only, she informs me, and also to bring the forms, she says firmly.
“OK,” I reply.
Mom is making the green puree salad in the kitchen and I ask her if I can be of help.
“No, Honey, I’ve got this.” I help anyway as she starts explaining how it is done.
After lunch, there’s more homework. I call Jack, “I miss you, Honey,” he says.
“ I love you too.” I update him on the morning. He’s just finished playing tennis with his friends and lost all the matches.
“It’s not the same without you, Beth Anne, but I am being a good boy.”
Jack was married twice also and recently divorced when we met about two years ago. A Miami native, he never wanted to live anywhere else. We met when we both attended the annual air show in Fort Lauderdale. Later that night we saw each other again at Aruba’s dancing. We both love to dance. I thought he was so handsome and fell for his sweet childlike innocence. The attraction was strong. I was with my girlfriends, he with his guy friends. We were both interested in finding someone again. And Jack could dance and talk. He and Rodney joined Sue and me for dinner. How enjoyable, I thought. He asked for my number and the rest is history, we had a lot of fun together dancing and romancing. Although I was still gun-shy from my first divorce, and my second try to a man who simply drank too much, I always felt I had so much love to give and felt the need to give it again when Jack took me in his arms and smiled at me from ear to ear. What a beautiful smile. I doubt any woman could resist it.
Except as we began dating it became evident that he wanted to dance and romance for a while longer with other women and that didn’t work so well for me. So we had a series of tumultuous breakups, only for him to eventually promise that he wanted me alone, loved me alone. Then that was a dance in itself. Before that while Jack was dating other women I became his friend and talked and listened to him. I encouraged him and tried to teach him about a positive attitude, affirmations, and meditation. I hadn’t realized how I was hoping to educate and change him. I hadn’t realized that was his job to do alone apart from me. So finally, when he decided that I was what he was looking for, and that I had the best nails for back scratching ever, I was in heaven. He was my heaven; he was my hell, I was his hell; I was his heaven, and we danced.
I had been divorced for ten years and started dating after a five-year sabbatical. I was exploring a new life, determined not to marry again or move in with anyone because that just didn’t work for me, so I figured this was the life for me, freedom. I had my place and he had his place. I wasn’t planning on giving up my space. I had heard of all kinds of successful relationships where separate housing was involved, and that was my answer indeed.
I had had another long-term relationship that ended soon after I retired. But I found I had wings and wanted to fly, to travel, so I did just that. Ever the optimist, I was enjoying my retirement and my part-time job at my sister’s boyfriend’s gift shop on the beach. The customers were fun— I loved the people and the items in the store. And I loved how close I was to the ocean air.