2 years and 230 days. Sandpipers bring you joy.

sandpiper-2-captioned

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I read this story years ago, and it always stayed with me.  I reach for it whenever necessary to remind myself that suffering is not mine alone, and that I must find joy where ever I can.

Given how much we love the beach and how often we escape there to recharge, I thought you would find this story useful as well.  I think of you whenever I see sandpipers.  You bring me “happy days” like nothing could.

All my love, always,

Dad

She Was Annoyed When This Little Girl Who Kept Asking Questions….

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me.

She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

“Hello,” she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child. “I’m building,” she said.

“I see that. What is it?” I asked, not caring. “Oh, I don’t know, I just like the feel of sand.” That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by. “That’s a joy,” the child said. “It’s a what?”

“It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy.” The bird went gliding down the beach.

“Good-bye joy,” I muttered to myself, “hello pain,” and turned to walk on. I was depressed; my life seemed completely out of balance.

“What’s your name?” She wouldn’t give up. “Ruth,” I answered. “I’m Ruth Peterson.” “Mine’s Wendy… I’m six.” “Hi, Wendy.”

She giggled. “You’re funny,” she said.

In spite of my gloom I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me.

“Come again, Mrs. P,” she called. “We’ll have another happy day.”

The days and weeks that followed belong to others: a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. “I need a sandpiper,” I said to myself, gathering up my coat. The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly, but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed. I had forgotten the child and was startled when she appeared.

“Hello, Mrs. P,” she said. “Do you want to play?”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

“I don’t know, you say.” “How about charades?” I asked sarcastically. The tinkling laughter burst forth again. “I don’t know what that is.”

“Then let’s just walk.” Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face. “Where do you live?” I asked.

“Over there.” She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.

Strange, I thought, in winter. “Where do you go to school?”

“I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation.” She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home. “Look, if you don’t mind,” I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, “I’d rather be alone today.”

She seemed unusually pale and out of breath. “Why?” she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, “Because my mother died!” and thought, my God, why was I saying this to a little child?

“Oh,” she said quietly, “then this is a bad day.”

“Yes,” I said, “and yesterday and the day before and-oh, go away!”

“Did it hurt?” she inquired.

“Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her, with myself.

“When she died?”

“Of course it hurt!” I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself. I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door. “Hello,” I said. “I’m Ruth Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.”

“Oh yes, Mrs. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies.”

“Not at all-she’s a delightful child,” I said, suddenly realizing that I meant it. “Where is she?”

“Wendy died last week, Mrs. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you.”

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. My breath caught.

“She loved this beach; so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly…” her voice faltered. “She left something for you … if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?”

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something, anything, to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope, with MRS. P printed in bold, childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues-a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed: A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms. “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I muttered over and over, and we wept together.

The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words – one for each year of her life – that speak to me of harmony, courage, undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea-blue eyes and hair the color of sand —who taught me the gift of love.

— Mary Sherman Hilbert

2 years and 221 days. Be yourself, Jaialai. Be the gamemaster we know and love.

My dearest Jaialai :

What do you do with tomatoes, sea urchin, and a yoga ball?

We often talk about the funny games you come up with, Jaialai.  Those were some of the best times.  I recall how Grandma used to laugh and laugh when, teaching her new games you invented for yourselves, you would say, “No, Gramma!  You have to do it this way!”

That is you, Jaialai.  You are my joy maker.

I will never forget how you used to say, “Daddy, are you sad?  Let me dance and sing to make you happy!”  You were about two years old.  Having blown the whistle against the Enron of Healthcare, I was unemployed and unemployable.  Being a Type A personality and having been a successful lawyer, I never took kindly to being an unemployed, stay at home dad.  I struggled each morning, at the start of the workday, when I  found myself home with you and Grandma.  On particularly difficult days, it was all I could do to curl up on the sofa to keep an eye on you.  Ultimately, you’d come over and ask, “Are you cold, Daddy?  Let me put a blanket on you.” Or, you’d say, “Are you sad, Daddy?  Let me sing and dance for you.”

My heart breaks each and every time I think of you, Jaialai!  I cannot imagine how hard this must be for you.  Please hang in there.  Be strong!  Hang on to who you are!  Don’t let them take that away from you. You are our mighty Game Master!

Evil exists in the world.  We can but fight them.  We fought the Enron of Healthcare, and won.  We have been fighting the corrupt thugs who are keeping us apart, and will ultimately prevail.  Hang in there!  We will be together again!

All my love, always,

Dad

2 years and 217 days. Be strong, Jaialai!

My dearest Jaialai:

I will never forget the day we played hide and seek at Auntie’s house, when you and I snuck off into her storage room.  The other kids searched for us high and low, and ran past our door numerous times, but never found us.  After the game was over, you turned to me and said, “Thanks for picking me, Dad!”

I will always pick you, Jaialai, and Shosh!  Always and forever!  You are my sons.  Nothing more precious to me than you guys.

Hang in there!  I am fighting everyday to get back to you.  We will clear our names and expose the deceitful, corrupt, and abusive thugs.  Then, we be together.  Right now, those thugs threatened your lives in even greater danger if we try to see you.

Try not to be angry, Jaialai.  I know it is hard.  But, it is bad for your physical and mental health to be angry all the time.  I want you to rely on and support your brother, Shosh.  Be there for each other until my return.

All my love, always,

Dad