Once upon a time, long long ago, I lived in San Diego, not all that far (compared to now!) from the ocean. I was also a part-time (very part-time) mom, and, in summer I had the “task” of taking the kids to the beach. The deal was they came to school with me, payment for which was a Happy Meal, and after school we packed the cooler and chairs and headed to La Jolla Shores. Sometimes their dad would get off early and come with us; other times he met us there. It was a perfect beach for that because it had a large grassy area for throwing a frisbee, concrete picnic tables where we could set our Hibachi, nice showers so we could shower when we came out of the water and go home clean. (A LOT easier on me than making them take a shower at home.) We body-surfed or whatever they were up to at whatever stage of their lives.
There is a kelp forest down there and we thought it was hilarious to yell “Kelp! Kelp!” But now I don’t think it’s all that funny. Kind of funny, but not very funny.
For a couple of years my niece joined the summer “custody” thing, and I’d tow around three kids and buy three Happy Meals. The oldest of the two boys, and I didn’t get along very well — I’m not sure it was me; I think he resented his dad leaving his mom, but because I was there I got the flak. When he was old enough, he stopped coming in summers. Then I had a little girl and Ben, the younger of the Good X’s sons. It was good because it meant the beach drill lasted a little longer.
I thought about all this the other night and it seemed like it was a dream, reasonably because it wasn’t many years and within those years, not many weeks. My thoughts about it were combined with a beautiful memory of a moment. When the Good X and I split up, the younger son — then 15 or 16 — came to visit me. We were hiking at Mission Trails together. He’s a brilliant, gentle, unique, imaginative, intense, sweet, shy… In reality, there are no adjectives for Ben. Ben is and always has been and always will be Ben. He is truly not like anyone else.
“Martha, I just want to know one thing.”
“OK, Ben. Anything.”
“Because you and my dad are splitting up doesn’t mean we have to split up, does it?”
Ben is nearly 50??? How?? Oh, wait…
We’ve experienced so much together — as a “family” of four and as two grown up friends. He now has a great wife and two beautiful kids. Getting there was a long and interesting journey for him — a story that’s not mine to tell, but I can tell this. When he and his wife were heading from California to their new home in the midwest, they stopped to have lunch with me at the little cafe in Descanso CA. We ate, talked about plans, finished our meal and knew we were about to say good-bye. He and his wife are both well over six feet tall. I barely clear 5. Sandi hugged me and got in the car to give us a moment. Ben and I stood looking at each other. Then he bent down and put his arms around me. “I love you, Martha.”
“I love you too, Ben.”
Knowing we might not see each other again, we had to say it. ❤️
Featured photo: Ben and Molly