Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our hearts are broken.

From one end of our beloved Jersey shore to the other, the places we played, frolicked in the surf, strolled the boardwalks and just laid back and enjoyed the serenity of the ocean are gone.


We’ve worried for years about the consequences of a huge storm. We’ve ridden down the boulevard on Long Beach Island and noted with dismay the proximity of the homes to both bay and ocean, just mere blocks apart. We’ve oohed and aahed over the summer beach mansions in Ocean City, on Loveladies and Beach Haven and fretted over the fates of those places should “the big one” hit.

I am not a huge fan of our current governor’s policies on just about everything. But I actually felt as if he and I shared a bond on Tuesday, Oct. 30 when I watched him struggling for the right words to describe his emotions as he toured the shoreline by helicopter and looked down on the part of our state that held such warm, wonderful memories. He was nearly in tears and, when we can finally be permitted to see that devastation for ourselves, we will be as well.

Sandy did to the Jersey shore something no other power could. She simultaneously humbled us and taught us a lesson we’ve not heeded for decades.

Not since the so-called “Ash Wednesday Storm” in March of 1962 has our shore experienced such a pounding. I remember it well, since I was in college in Trenton and so many of my friends hailed from shore places… Seaside Heights, Lavalette, Seabright. But in the intervening 50 years, it seems we haven’t heeded the warning of what monster storms can do. We rebuilt, sure, but without the safeguards we should have put in place in such fragile areas. The barrier islands are, after all, simply sand bars… things that shift and move with the tides.

Sandy slammed ashore like a maniacal schoolmarm, her ruler ready to strike recalcitrant pupils into submission. Didn’t I warn you? she seemed to be chanting, as pieces of affluence floated out to sea. Am I not as powerful as you remembered? she remonstrated those of us who disregarded her destructive capabilities.
We can only stand back, hang our heads and grieve. Grieve for the damage to the peaceful refuge our Jersey shore has been for many of us since babyhood. Grieve for the souls who have lost so much, particularly those whose livelihoods and year ‘round homes are irreparably damaged. Grieve for the suffering and the sadness we all are experiencing.

Maybe as we rebuild, and rebuild we will, we will finally heed the warnings. Storms like this are, as someone pronounced recently, the “new normal.” Climate change and the increasingly fragile ecosystem will continue to remind us of that reality.
If Sandy taught us nothing, she should have at least reminded us who is boss and who controls the destiny of this little planet on which we live.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Glimpsing the future?

It was time to get my toenails fixed and pretty again.

Sitting in the chair next to mine, I saw a sweet-looking woman, perhaps in her early eighties. She seemed a bit agitated, but she was calmed by two women, obviously her daughters, who took turns in the little cubicle, chatting with her and reassuring her it wouldn't be much longer.

I learned from their conversation she'd already had her hair done, was undergoing the pedicure and then still had a manicure ahead. Daunting for anyone, let alone an elderly woman. Each process takes at least thirty minutes or more... a long day in the salon. Occasionally, she would remark about some aspect of her experience, usually saying she wanted to go home.

It didn't take much to figure out she was confused... perhaps in some stage of dementia. But after a few minutes, it wasn't she I was watching. I was paying close attention to her daughters. Two women, probably with busy lives, children, households to manage, problems of their own to solve, were taking turns with the loving care of their mother.

I saw my girls in those women. Although I am but 71 and still of reasonably sound mind and body, Father Time keeps on pushing me toward advanced age. And in those years ahead, I have no idea what life will be like. Will I be able to drive myself to the salon for an occasional haircut, manicure or pedicure? I certainly see myself in the car, doing exactly that.

Or will my daughters, both busy, competent women, have to abandon their daily responsibilities to see that I am driven to the salon for those services? Will they need to stand by my chair, touch my hand every now and then to reassure me they are there and then step aside to let the other sibling have a go at keeping me calm?

I didn't enjoy my usually relaxing pedicure that day. I had seen a glimpse of my own possible future as I sat there, close enough to touch the lady in the next chair, unable to avoid hearing the comments she made and the comforting responses from her children.

How I hope I will not be she one day.