We drove down to San Diego to visit friends yesterday. They are living in a small apartment on the beach while their house is being remodeled. Jeff is a very successful architect and Jeanie, before myriad illnesses forced her to quit work, was yet another attorney. We arrived, had a quick lunch and ran to the beach.
The waves were calmer than usual and the ocean gave off the buttery, salty odor that I can never get enough of. The water itself was gun metal gray; reflecting the clouds that had arrived over night. The wind had arrived with the clouds, forcing us all into sweat shirts and jackets. Nonetheless, a day on the sand in any weather is better than a day any where else.
Jeff had purchased balsa-wood airplanes for us all. We took turns launching them into the afternoon sky. And watching the wind pick them up and slam them against a nearby cliff. My boys thought this was “way cool”.
Then disaster struck.
Jeanie, who suffers from early onset osteoporosis, can barely walk unassisted at this point. Nonetheless, in an effort not to be a “burden,” she tried to climb down a rock and onto the beach. Jeanie ended up face down in the sand. When she got up she screamed. I thought we were headed to the local emergency room. But the pain was of a different nature.
On their tenth wedding anniversary, which happened to be one month after her last round of chemotherapy, Jeff gave Jeannie a ring. Jeff gave it to her both as a token of his love and to celebrate her victory over breast cancer. Jeannie had worn it every day since then.
For the last several months, she had been losing weight. The ring had become too big for her fingers. It disappeared into the sand as she fell.
The adults spent the rest of the day searching for Jeannie’s ring. The boys hunted for crabs and fish in nearby tide pools. Klarissa, Jeanie and Jeff’s 7 year old daughter, sat on a rock and lectured us endlessly about the fact that “girls just don’t like to get sandy water on their pants.” (I thanked God yet again for giving me boys.)
We finally rented a pair of metal detectors. More time passed. The tide started to come in. Jeanie and Edna herded the children up to the apartment to watch Harry Potter 3. Jeff, who is a born optimist, started to look forlorn. I looked out at the sinking sun and swore I was not going to give up until the water was around my ankles. The air cooled. Jeff stopped and sat down. I knew he was about to tell me to give it up. He didn’t get the chance. For, as the sun touched the ocean, I heard a high pitched chirp from my machine. I stuck my hand into the sand and felt the ring.