I recall the sunrise on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. I remember the warmth and the breeze that moved through and palms in the palm trees. I made sure to be up early to watch the sunrise. Ever see this before? Ever watch the sun come up in the sky with the ocean below? The horizon starts with a band of orange, which grows and eventually overtakes the sky.
There was a somewhat old man with tanned skin. He was a little more than middle aged, wealthy, spoiled in some ways but mainly drunk and someone that always seemed to find me in the mornings. I didn’t know the man per se. I only knew him because he was staying in the same motel as me. He would drink all night and sleep most of the day.
The motel was not one of the fancy establishments like the ones down the road on A1A. No, ours was only a step above the “No-Tell” motels where people go to find an inexpensive. There were no mirrors on the ceilings. At least, not in my room. But there was quite a variation of guests at the motel. As a matter of fact, there was an adult film convention in town at the time. And, as fact would have it, some of the exhibitors were staying at the same motel. I suppose that somehow, this place was a sense of comic relief.
The older man was always drinking. He smelled of it. He reeked to be honest and at any other time, I might have told him what I thought. But this time was different. I was not at the motel, which was just off the beach for any recreational purposes. I was not on vacation. Instead, I was down on personal business.
This meant trips to an assisted living home. This meant arguments with nurses and medical directors. This meant offering facility directors the name of my attorney. But more, this included the mental preparation of what would come. This included understanding that perhaps this would be the last time I was down in Florida while Mom was alive.
Each morning, I walked the beach to clear my head. And each morning the older man who I will name as Tom would ask the same thing. “Mind if I walk with you?”
Tom would call me Kerouac. He said this because he read some of my journal entries. He read some of my junkie stories and my drunk prose. He said, “You sound like you get it.”
Tom told me, “I used to be friends with Bill too,” which is code for “I used to go to A.A. meetings as well.
At any other moment, I might have had a different opinion of Tom. However, I suppose there are times when any company is good company. I suppose Tom was a good distraction for me. Besides, I hardly listened. I just let Tom talk like a radio in the background. Know what I mean? It’s like you can hear the sound. you can hear the music and understand but at the same time, your mind is elsewhere. This is how I would describe my morning walks with Tom.
It was strange though. As beautiful as the mornings were and as beautiful as the sunbeams against the waves shimmered; the palm trees, the sand on the beach, and the waves that came in were all somehow sympathetic to me. They knew Mom was about to die. And so did I.
But yet, I’m not sure that I was ready to deal with the end result. I’m not sure if anyone is ever ready for something like this. We know this is in the mail. We know what’s coming and yet still, no one is really prepared to say goodbye. At least, not like this.
I’d walk along the shore and let Tom talk about himself and his business. Tom told me about his lawsuits, and his wife who threw him out, which explained the reason why Tom was at the motel. I doubted all of what Tom told me, which was fine because Tom was only a distraction. Tom was background noise like a radio on the counter. Besides, if he was as wealthy as he said, then why was he in such a cheap motel? By the way, I looked Tom up once. And guess what? He was telling the truth. But let’s get back to the beach before I digress.
There are times when the world seems to be against us. There are times when the emotions are mighty and weighty. There are times when the emotional impact of life is too much to bear and more, there are times when no matter what age we are; emotionally, sometimes a boy just a boy. A kid is just a kid. And sometimes, I was just a kid that needed his Mom. But Mom was sick. And this was me at the time.
I think it would be more accurate to say that we are always children. No one ever really grows up. We just learn to mask ourselves a little more. I think we might play grownup games but when life hits hard, the primal awareness is clear. Life is life and all things must and do come to an end.
I don’t mind sharing this. I’m sure Tom wouldn’t mind either.
I’m sure he would remember too. At least, I suppose he would.
I know I remember him.
I want to see that beach as it is, right now. I want to watch the sun come up like I did during those few days when I stayed to see Mom. I want to feel the sun on my face and watch the waves crash upon the shore.
I want to hear the birds and the sound of the ocean to act like a symphony that understood my sadness.
Tom was just window dressing for the moment. He was more like decoration/ Tom was something that took the attention away from the tasks at hand. He’d call me Kerouac and then he’d ask me, “Are you gonna write about this one day.”
I nodded my head, smiled, and told him, “Probably.”
It’s been a while since I’ve been down to Ft Lauderdale.
It’s been about six years to be exact.
Six years, and yet . . . .
it seems like a lifetime ago.
It’s Mom’s birthday tomorrow.
But that’s a different letter altogether.