“Kathie, I have arthritis and asthma, not dementia. Surely you know I'm aware there are no gulls, and there's no floating either. I just want to go again, and smell the air. Feel the sand. See how the sun looks over the water now. Let the sand crabs pinch my toes.” She laughed.
And with that, she gave herself away. Katherine held back tears. Her mother didn't know as much as she thought. There were many, many small things
the television and magazines couldn't capture, (although they had all stopped reporting on it for a while now.) The smell, for one, and there were
no little white crabs scampering around in the sand, nipping your toes and getting into your bags, making everybody squeal. No sand pipers. No
glistening water reflecting a sparkling sun. There was nothing but blackness and death on the beach. The air smelled of oil and death. The breezes
were sticky coming across the water. Katherine's hair constantly felt and looked dirty.
Most of the dead sea life had been removed from the beach by now, but there seemed to be no end to what washed ashore each morning, even after all
this time. Some were just skeletons of what previously were sharks and dolphins, grouper, and all the rest.
But she knew her mother. If she didn't take her, she would call a cab, or get someone else to drive her. Her daughters looked at her questioningly,
as they had heard their mother say many times she was glad their grandmother hadn't seen the beach since she had insisted on going, right after the
storm. Pictures were bad enough, but the full reality of it was overwhelming, especially the first time you saw it. Breathed it. Felt it squish
beneath your feet.
Margaret seemed to know instantly that Katherine would take her. “You girls run along now and get in the jeep," she said, "I'm comin'!”
Katherine could see her mother was in an adventuresome mood.
The drive was mostly pleasant, with the girls explaining what happened to the previous stores, and shopping malls; why they were closed. About the
only store that remained was Walmart. Many people had moved away, the girls told her, and most places simply didn't rebuild. The oil was bad
enough, and the merchants were barely hanging on, but the storms finished them off. Margaret was quiet. “Oh, I see”, she would say. “Yes, I
The vegetation was not nearly as lush and thick as it had been in many places. Margaret watched quietly, but didn't comment. Katherine hoped she
hadn't noticed how “dead” everything was. Finally her mother asked “What happened to Daniel Savakis' Pecan Orchard? And I see that old
Magnolia tree is gone. The one they put on the cover of Southern Living? Did the storm get them?”
“I guess so, Mother. Or somethin' did”.
She knew where her mother wanted to go, so she drove down past the bay, and into the area where they had lived, where she had grown up on the Gulf.
Her father had fished there, and her mother had raised her three children. It seemed like everything they did revolved around those waters. Work,
recreation, leisure, exercise, meals. She could see her father walking through the door at dusk, carrying his catch of the day. “We're having
flounder tonight, ladies”. All of it was provided by the Gulf, and free of charge. She remembered her mother often telling them how lucky they
were to live there. And they all believed it was true. None of them had left, until the storms came, the coup de gras, bringing the oil and
completing the devastation.
The girls got their rubber boots and gloves out of the back, and headed to the beach. Katherine lagged back to help her mother with walking and
stepping over small debris, after she helped her into a pair of her “beach shoes”, which were now rubber boots, rather than the flip flops they'd
They were getting close to the water's edge when her mother stopped, her eyes fixed on the water, on the beach. On her granddaughters.
“Are you okay?” If you're too tired we can go back”. Katherine said. She could see ahead the girls were already throwing dead fish back into
the water, trying to clear the way for their grandmother. She smiled seeing Jamie's glossy lips, with what looked like a dead sand -shark in her
hand. The girls seemed to be examining it carefully. She was proud of them.
“I knew it was going to be hard for you to breath down here, Mother. I was afraid you might even have an asthma attack. Did you bring your
inhaler? Actually, I think you have one in the glovebox--- here, I'll go get it.....
“No, it's not that, Kathie. I am tired, but it's not that.....I'm tired of knowing I'll never go home again. Thomas Wolfe was right,”
she laughed what Katherine recognized as her fake laugh, and their moods changed.
“I'm tired of knowing there is not a shred of what was my life, that is left. That every flower I planted will never bring forth seed. That the
dunes my children played on, have been wiped away. That my grandchildren will never gear up and dive in the jetties like we used to do. And even if
they did..so what? There's no little blow fish there to see anymore. No fish at all. No coral. I'm tired of knowing the things that made my life
good, are gone, except for my children.
I'm tired of worrying about how this happened, but mostly, I'm tired of thinking and cryin' over why it happened.
The reason is just not good enough. There are no reasons. Just a bunch of people making excuses. Talkin' like if we didn't have oil, we'd all drop
dead by midnight. We wouldn't.”
“I know, Mama”.
“Yes, Katherine, I'm tired. Worn out. Get the girls. I'm ready to go.”
[edit on 6/19/2010 by ladyinwaiting]