The Scenic Route

A seagull stood close to my chair, and I hoped he didn’t decide to linger. I had buried the tortilla chips that I had dropped on our attempt to set up our lounging spot.  Hopefully, he couldn’t smell them.  I didn’t feel like having him soliciting our good nature.  At first, I admit, I had cursed his existence.  Then I realized that a visit to the beach would not be complete without seagulls.

He squawked in frustration at the lack of food offered and flew away.

I turned to see that Mike was still alive.  He was out in the water practicing his open water swimming.  I was happy he could entertain himself, so I could read my novel.  Lying on the beach with a good book always sounded so enticing.  I always dreamed of the opportunity to lie on the beach in the peace and quiet of nature.  Surrounded by sand and dune grass, I tried to embrace the experience.

Each time I found myself sinking into it, I could hear super nanny and the children in her care.  “C’mon, who wants to build a sand castle?” She squeaked in her conjured enthusiasm.  “Okay, do you want to make a large castle or a small one?  Do you know what a turret is?”  Then she went on to explain to the two and three year olds what a turret was.  Finally, she announce, very loudly, “Okay, we’ll make one with two round turrets and one square moat.  It will be an epic sand castle!”

Her voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard.  I pondered the situation, and I wondered why there was always some overzealous mother, who longed to convince all of society that she was the best mother in the world by talking really loudly and getting everyone’s attention.  The children were both blonde.  The “mother” was dark-haired and dressed in a leopard print bathing suite.  That’s when I came to the conclusion that her unnatural approach had to be that she was the nanny.  She was trying so hard.  I wondered if the parents were present.  It was like she was trying to gain their approval.

Mike emerged from the water.  “I swam a half a mile.” He announced.

“Cool,” I remarked, realizing I had no idea if that was far or not.  It seemed far.  I am sure I could not ever swim a half-mile.  And truly, I would not ever find out, because I had no desire to see how far I could swim.  I rarely swim.  And when I do, it is for fun.  Not challenge.

“Come get in the water!” He pleaded.

“Oh, my gosh,” I objected.  “I don’t do water.”  Then I chuckled, more to myself, because I knew I should get in.  “Okay.  I’ll get in.”

Mike grabbed my hand in excitement.  I was a bit nervous, as he was always a bit overzealous.  He was a natural athlete.  Always active and pushing his body to the limit.  I, on the other hand, had never been athletic, not to say I couldn’t have been.  I just wasn’t raised that way.  My family had been all about working hard and accomplishing things.  Tangible things.  Like, “I moved fifty bricks.”   Or, “I did three loads of laundry and cleaned the house top to bottom.”  In my family, if you had said you ran three miles or swam a half-mile, they would have thought, “ what a waste of energy.”

Mike took my hand and led me to the water.  I felt his determination, and I decided to set the ground rules.  “You are NOT dragging me in!” I laughed.  “I have to go at my own pace.”

He laughed his ornery laugh.

“I mean it!” I said.

“Okay,” he conceded.

We walked hand in hand into the water, which was as cold as if someone had emptied a million trays of ice into the water.  Mike laughed, evilly, as I gasped, cringed, then squealed.  “Oh my gosh.  This is SOOO cold!  I cannot do this!”

“It’s okay,” Mike tried to convince me.  “You get used to it!” He stated enthusiastically.

Did I want to get used to it?  What was the purpose here?

I thought of years past.  Any time we had traveled to Lake Michigan, I had always forced myself to go in up to my neck.  Now here I was, fifty-one years old, and I was going to wimp out?  No way!  I decided I was not “too old.”  Never.

I made some loud noises, proclaiming how painful it was, splashed water on my torso in an effort to break my body in easily, then on the count of three, down I went, but only up to my neck.

“Okay!” I announced, “I’m done.”  I turned to go toward shore, looking back at my ornery husband.

Mike dove under the water and began chasing me like a shark.  Pretty appropriate for Shark Week!  I ran, as well as a person can run in waist high water, looking back fearfully as I was being chased.  I was laughing and looking back; he was close on my heels.  Just as I was about five feel from shore, he grabbed my ankle.  I grabbed his shoulder as he emerged, and threatened him that he better not make me fall.

We walked back to shore, laughing, and as we did, I looked at him.  Really looked at him, and realized we have been together for twenty-four years.  Our wedding anniversary is in less than two months.

Twenty-four years we have struggled through together.  It hasn’t been easy.  He likes Judas Priest; I like Brandi Carlisle.  He is a conservative Republican, and I am more of the liberal view.  He loves to watch the news, and I would rather listen to nature.  He likes red meat; I like poultry and fish.  Sometimes, I guess, I feel we are such an odd couple.

But it’s on these vacations, when we let go of the day to day, and we just hang out – giving and taking, engaging in the things that each of us are interested in, we have fun!

Marriage is tough.  I don’t think it matters what you agree or disagree on.  I wonder if there ever really is a match made in heaven.  I know that I have never met a person that I could live with day in and day out and not have some grievance against.  I think it’s about living and let live.  Honoring yourself and your own feelings, desires and doing the things you like; yet finding a common ground to share without giving up the person that you are.

In today’s world, I wonder how many people think that everything has to be perfect all the time.  I wonder if they think their significant other is going to make them happy, when in reality, one has to make one’s self happy.

Mike and I have found that each of us can do our own thing, find the best us, and then bring those people together.  He can swim the deep, while I sit on the beach and go deep.  In the end, I think we compliment each other’s lives with our differences.  We have each been a teacher to the other.  Had we been too much alike, we would never have learned so much.

Happy Anniversary to my shark, who dares me to go into the water, to ride my bike farther than I ever think I can, and for showing me a world I would never have found alone – even if it has been a very scenic route.

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