Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bumper Cars, Candy Apples and the Prince of Frogs

This has been, sadly, the summer of Margaret's discontent. Not a surprising development by any means to be sure. The exceptionally close nature of her relationship with her Mom, the inordinate amount of time and energy Margaret devoted to Sue's care during the past four years and the epic, Quixotic nature of Sue's battle against a relentless enemy all but assured that in the immediate aftermath of Sue's death, Margaret would struggle.

I had begun to steel myself to prepare for it - to try to do something new and different and actually be a help to my wife in some regard - from the night way back when in June 2004 when Sue's priest came to our home (See, occasionally there is a meeting of the twain) to bless her prior to her first surgery. I thought I had done an adequate job of preparation - done that which was necessary to adhere to the 5 P's (Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance). I have come to understand, during the past forty days or so that I was not.

Summer is Margaret's favorite time of the year. Ever since I have known her, the Shore (we here in Levelland do not go to the "beach", we go to the "Shore') has been her favorite place. Prior to us getting married, when our children were in fact still small children, Margaret, Sue and Nanny would relocate their base of operation for the month of July to Silver Beach, a little sliver of a town near Normandy Beach and Mantoloking. Sadly, shortly after we were wed the family from whom Margaret's family had rented the same house for twenty-plus years was rocked by a tragedy or two of its own and sold the Silver Beach house. An oasis had disappeared forever over Margaret's horizon line.

Margaret is blessed with the great friendship of three women with whom her bond is more familial than social. The four of them seem to comprise their own self-created Sisterhood of the Traveling Cosmo or some such thing. During the summer months, the Sisterhood's headquarters is Lynne's home. Lynne lives down the Shore and her home has become the base of operations for countless good times Margaret has shared with Lynne, Carolyn and Suzanne.

This summer, with her world upside down and her heart simply an open wound, Margaret has absented herself from the Sisterhood. And she has not sought solace at the place that always brings her peace. She has internalized much - if not all - of her ache and her pain, which has made the prospect of doing the things that she enjoys and spending time doing them with the people she loves something that has not occupied a great deal of time in her mind.

Last night, for the first time this summer the Missus and me drove south on the Parkway, over the Raritan Bridge and down to Point Pleasant. Lynne and Suzanne joined us and we spent the night doing something genuinely silly. We ate soft-twist ice cream and waffles and ice cream, we rode the bumper cars and we played the Cadillac of all Boardwalk games - Frog Bog.

When Suz and Rob were little and we were at least annual frequenters of the Point Pleasant Boardwalk, I was quite adept at Frog Bog, a game that requires a rubber frog to be launched (via mallet) from his metal catapult through the air and into a pond that feature slowly rotating lily pads. Once upon a time, I could reasonably anticipate scoring multiple stuffed animals per visit to the Bog.

However, time marches on. And on its march it apparently confiscated my Frog Bog mojo. It had been quite a few summers since I had taken anything other than a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy with me from the Bog. Not last night. Last night, for the first time in a long time, I experienced at least a modicum of success on the Bog. I won Margaret a small frog whose frozen, facial expression is a mix between abject terror and complete incoherence. And for good measure, I won a stuffed alligator for a little boy and his mother after watching the little moppet drain at least $10.00 of Mom's hard-earned money in an unsuccessful effort to win one himself.

This has not been a summer that has gone according to Hoyle. But for one night at least, the concoction of salt air, carnival lights, bumper cars and a bog full of frogs brought a smile to my baby's face. Still at the end of every hard-earned day, people find some reason to believe.

I got mine. And last night, she strolled the Boardwalk with a smile on her face, two of her closest friends alongside of her and a frog under her arms. At least for one night at the Shore, everything was all right indeed.

-AK

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