Here’s to 33

Hello 33. Nice to see you!
It’s hard to believe I’ve greatly surpassed the 30th mile marker. It seems like I just turned the big 3-0 yesterday. The proverbial time has flown, that’s for sure.

Although my 32nd year was bittersweet, my 33rd year will definitely be something unfamiliar, yet exciting; different yet memorable; empty yet overflowing. I have many amazing things happening in my life right now, and I plan to cherish all of those good moments, while learning to balance upcoming holidays, annual camping trips, and life in general without my mom. I almost feel like this is a 1st birthday of sorts. I feel like I’m learning to live this new life from the very beginning. Life certainly changes in a blink, but takes so much longer to adjust to.

Turtle beach was one of those family camping trips we’d make sure to squeeze in every summer since we discovered the place about 6 years ago. We weren’t able to go last year as my mother was in the middle of her chemo treatments all throughout the summer of 11′, but we were able to rent a small beach house in Indian Shores for a week in late July, so I was able to experience one last summer beach vacation with my mom. She lovedthe beach. The saltwater was in her soul. We were always convinced she was a fish in another life. She was fearless in the water. Scuba diving, water skiing, jet skiing, swimming; you name it, she did it. I remember mom telling stories of when she was learning to scuba dive and getting her certification. She told tales of dark waters, pilings and shadows under the old SkyWay bridge as she braved the depths for a little piece of paper that would take her through amazing adventures exploring coral reefs, lobstering and so much more throughout her life. I always envied my mother’s fearlessness. As many of you know I’m not a fan of deep water. Guess mom’s liquid loving genes weren’t inherited ones!

As my birthday approached, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I didn’t want it to turn into a wallowing session. I’ve always been a HUGE fan of birthdays and didn’t want to lose that spark. I knew my birthday would never be the same, after all, the person who gave birth to me is no longer here. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but I decided that I wanted my mother’s spirit to be there with me on this special day, so I went ahead and booked a weekend at the Turtle Beach Campground, one of her favorite spots in Florida.

Little did I know Ms. Debby would be making an appearance, raining out our trip, but we made the best of it, and lived up the weekend, just as mom would have wanted us to. We fished, played in enormous waves, and ate, drank and were definitely merry (and soaked most of the time).

Walking around the campground and beach brought memories of my mom flooding into my brain. Everywhere I looked, my mother was there. Smells of bacon cooking at campsites made me think of my mother standing there in her swimsuit and black shorts, sunglasses already on, black hair flapping in the sea breeze cooking waffles and bacon on the griddle outside. It’s those memories that I want to hold on to for dear life, which is why I write them down here.

On Saturday night, dad and Brian were pretty exhausted fairly early on in the evening from long hours of fishing and wave jumping and decided to crash early. Just like my mother, I’m usually full of energy, even after a long day. On nights like that, when everyone in the camper would head to bed, my mom and I would stay up until the wee hours of the night playing board games. We’d sit at the dinette table engrossed in Scrabble and Uno until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. I have vivid memories of her sitting across from me in her reading glasses and pajamas, looking down at her Scrabble letters, tapping her nails on the table as she thought of words. I can still hear that tapping. I can still hear her ask me to pour her a glass of chocolate milk. I still have “M vs. S” score sheets of ours saved in my mom’s memory box. I can still see my mom’s mischievous smile when she looked at the score sheet and realized she was winning. As I climbed into bed early that Saturday night, with no one to play games with, I couldn’t help the sobbing. It flowed out like my soul was trying to escape my body. As Brian held me in the bottom bunk bed I couldn’t control my thoughts; I just pictured her at the table and wanted that moment back more than anything else in the world.

We returned home on Monday and had a little get together with my family for cake.

I shared the memory box I made with my family, and knew I would make this a birthday tradition as a way to have my mom’s spirit there with me. I’m lucky to have so many people in my life who care about me. I’m grateful for those family members and friends who made my day special. I appreciate Brian and his family, who have welcomed me into their family as if I had always been there. I consider myself to be a very lucky girl, even though I have an irreplaceable piece missing from my world.
Here’s to 33. Here’s to family. Here’s to friends. Here’s to life. Here’s to love.