Scattered— Part 1

Saturday morning dawns cool and bright.  I awaken from a troubled sleep filled with dreams of being late, of not having enough dinner ready, of spilling the contents of a wide brown box all over a boat, and of the disappointed frowns of the souls of my husband’s parents.  Those souls hover around my mind as I move further from sleep and I remember that this  is the day we will fulfill my husband’s parents’ wishes by scattering their intermingled ashes off of the coast of Cape Ann.

I drink coffee and dress to run.  All I can think about is clearing my head of those dreams.  I head down Old Garden  Road, choosing the long loop onto Marmion Way.  The air is cold on my skin, but there is little breeze, so I warm up quickly.  Although I have turned up the volume on my music, the upbeat tunes slip by without notice.  My mind works to make sense of the past year and how it has finally come to today.  I look for anyone I know who might be out running.  I would like company this morning— someone to match my stride, someone to chatter away about whatever is going on in their lives so I can stop thinking about mine for a while.

I turn onto South Street, then Eden Road, Penzance, and down to Pebble Beach.  Camborne Pond is full again, the seaweed is gone from the shoreline, and perfect waves roll in, their curls a translucent pale green as the sun lights them from behind.  I run slower today, thinking about Craig’s mom and dad, how much they loved coming to this beach, even just to drive by it and gaze out at the horizon.  I cannot stop thinking either about what my own mother said on the phone before I left on my run.  Didn’t I feel sad?  Wasn’t this a sad day for us— Craig, the kids and me— the day we really said goodbye to two people we loved so much?

I had answered no.  All that was left of them was ashes.  I already missed them.  They wanted us to do what we planned to do later in the day; we were actually glad to get it over with.  We had mixed the ashes together a few weeks ago.  It was a strange event, with Craig and his brother standing on the front porch, flanked on all sides by the kids and me.  One heavy bag of ashes into another, then stirring them together with a wooden spoon, all on top of the outdoor table where the whole world could watch us if they wanted.  Could it be any stranger than that day?  Also, I didn’t think of the ashes as “them” so much.  They had been vibrant, active people—- one with soft brown eyes and a round soft body, the other with bright blue eyes and a wiry frame.  The ashes were only what was left.  Not them.  No.

After my run, I cook dinner.  I want it to be special, and I want it to be ready when we return in the early evening.  We dress warmly, expecting the air on the open sea to be much cooler that the day on land suggests.  Our son meets us right after work, and the four of us drive over to Cripple Cove in Gloucester.  We are quiet in the car, trying to make conversation but lapsing back into a somber silence that reveals our collective unease.  My brother-in-law is already by the dock and we watch and wait for my friend Richard.  He owns and operates a fishing charter boat.  The Black Pearl pulls up to the dock right on time.  As his charter guests for the day debark, we gather our jackets and bags.  We climb aboard, the two brothers hefting the box of ashes onto the deck with a bit of effort.

Richard introduces himself to my family, drops his son off at a nearby pier, and steers his boat out of the tiny cove toward the open sea.  The five of us try to relax as the wake behind us grows wide and full.  Richard increases his speed and we head into open water.  My kids seem okay, although they are quiet.  My daughter perches on a bench, gazing out toward the sunset and the shoreline of Gloucester.  My son stands at the stern, squinting at the sparkling water, his hands in his pockets, not knowing what else to do.  My brother-in-law keeps to himself most of the time, occasionally making light conversation with one or another of us, and my husband wanders around the boat, taking pictures of Ten Pound Island and its round little lighthouse, and of his family on this day.

As I listen to the hum of the boat’s engine, I think about how my father-in-law would have been pleased with this choice— the fishing boat, (which would have appealed to his frugal side), the sunset, and all of his family here together. Thinking of his tender heart makes me catch my breath.  I think too, that my mother-in-law would have preferred a classier boat, maybe a schooner.  Something more dignified.  But then I think that as long as her husband and she are together, and knowing that the people she loved the most and that loved her were abiding her wish to be with the true love of her life and a part of the sea off of Cape Ann, she would not have been angry.   She might have been a bit dismayed at the smells of fish and engine oil scenting this ceremony, but I know it would have been all right with her.

I pace back and forth between my family and Richard, asking questions and relaying answers, helping decide where we should scatter the ashes.  When we are far enough out, Richard slips the boat’s engine to idle.  We can see Thacher Island and the lip of Cape Hedge Beach.  When we turn, we can see the Boston skyline.  This is the place.

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6 Comments on “Scattered— Part 1”

  1. Jayne Says:

    so, so lovely.

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    [tears] Beautiful.

  3. Pat Earle Says:

    Touching and tender//This WAS a heavy weekend for youlove to you and Craig

  4. Craig Says:

    I love this piece so far. You are doing great. Also love that it will be episodic. So I don’t have to relive that day all in one long post. I would be glad to offer some of the shots from that beautiful evening. Thanks for writing this.

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