We have a bunch of photography enthusiasts where I work, and on Friday it is common for people to exchange their photographs and photography-related stories on a local email alias. Today, someone posted a link to this rather tragic video, which reminded me of a story. Go ahead, watch the video.
Okay, now the story. It starts somewhat sadly. My mother Beverly suffered a pretty serious stroke in her early fifties. In those early days, she had a lot of problems: with her vision, with her balance, and with periodic seizures. Not a very fun time for her, or for the people who cared for her, and about her. A couple of years later, I started dating my wife Carmen. It was near the holidays (if memory serves) and I decided to take Adam (our son) and her to go visit Mom near the holidays. At that time, she was walking, and we decided on a drive to the Oregon Coast to stretch our legs and enjoy ourselves. With all her hospitalization, she hadn’t been to the beach (which she loved) in several years, and the prospect made her happy.
Here is the thing about the Oregon Coast, particularly in the winter. You have to be a bit careful, because the waves can seem very peaceful and well behaved, but can suddenly go rogue and you’ll find one running a good twenty yards or more further up the beach than you expect. Thus, my Mom always warned me to not turn my back on the ocean: be aware of your surroundings.
Of course, when your mother who has had a stroke is on the beach, your attention isn’t on the waves, it’s on her. And of course that allows the ocean to sneak up behind you.
We were walking along in the moist area of sand where the lapping waves will occasionally cool your feet, and chatting and talking. Adam was running around (I think he was about 11) and having a great time, when I realized something was about to go wrong. A much larger swell was forming and was already too near to avoid. When it contacted us, it was above my waist, a good 4 feet tall. I managed to remain upright, but Mom was knocked off her feet and was floating with the wave (at first somewhat inland, but as the wave quickly reversed itself and began pouring back out to see, she floated toward Japan).
Adam was a hero. He had regained his feat and had reached my Mom pretty much as quickly as I did. We got her back on her feat, and made sure she wasn’t hurt.
She wasn’t. She was laughing. Harder than I had heard her laugh in a great while.
When she recounted this adventure later, she said that until then, she had thought that maybe she wouldn’t have any adventures anymore: that the stroke had taken those away from her. After nearly doing a solo crossing of the Pacific, she decided that if she was healthy enough for that to happen, perhaps there were still some adventures (and joys) to be had.
She didn’t do a lot more ocean voyaging, but she told stories. She painted. She quilted. She made her children laugh. She made her grand children laugh. She even got to see great-grandchildren. She talked to me a lot about cooking. Over the last couple years, her condition got a lot worse. She passed away in July. I miss her.
Losing $2400 in camera equipment seems bad, but I nearly lost my mother. But that’s the strange thing: by almost losing her, I got her back, at least for a decade. I’m glad she found the courage to struggle on, both for her sake and for ours.
For that reason, big waves just don’t seem that tragic to me. 🙂