The Beach

The Beach

A Story by A. Doyle

A piece of Debbie Donner's story. A mother of two diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Debbie's journey to retrain her body to move again, turns into a retraining of her heart to live again.

The Beach.

​I’m lying here on the beach, propped up just right so I can stare straight into the ocean. Of all the places Steven makes me go, this is the worst. I’m laid out like a dead fish. Carried in and positioned among the swarms of families who move their limbs over the land and into the sea.
​I glance side to side and wonder what people are thinking of me. Did they see Steven carry me in? Do they know I can’t move? Or do they think I’m just a b***h and don’t want to? What a horrible mother, they are probably saying. Look at her just bathing in the sun, as relaxed as can be, while her husband chases after the kids…while the husband feeds them lunch. They watch while Shirley builds castles in the sand with my baby girls. They watch while Steven covers me with sun block and pulls my hair out of my face into a bun on the top of my head. And then they watch as he leaves me alone on the blanket to take a swim.
​I stare straight ahead, right through him, as he smiles and waves and then splashes around like a silly fish. For what? Is that supposed to make me laugh? Hey look at me…I can move…isn’t that funny? I just close my eyes to make him disappear. I imagine he drowns and when he is revived, he is paralyzed from the neck down.
Shirley is dribbling wet sand into a pile. The girls are following her lead and little mounds of glistening mud are just starting to form a kingdom.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“A Kingdom”, Shirley is saying to me, as she tries to coax me to the water’s edge to build a castle. I was thirteen years old and really thought I would walk straight into the ocean and drowned myself that day. I was sitting Indian style on the blanket in front of my dad’s and Shirley’s chairs. I was fully dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. I had a bathing suit on but refused to take my clothes off. Shirley, as if it made things better, ripped off her pretty white dress and ran towards the water in her bright red suit. It tied around the neck and left a big red bow right under her shiny blonde ponytail. My dad smiled and winked at her as she skipped towards the water waving me on. “C’mon Deb”, she yelled, all giggly like I was going to turn into a five year old and start skipping with her. I actually almost cried. She looked like she was from another planet. When she reached the water’s edge, she stiffened up and jumped back as the cold water shocked her feet.
I imagined everyone on the beach was staring at her. She looked back at my father and I on the blanket and gave the biggest smile I’d ever seen. Her teeth so white I thought they must be fake and it’s a big secret she’s been keeping from us. She dove straight into a wave like she was in a movie or something.
“C’mon Debbie! It’s cold at first but not so bad”, she said when she got back to the blanket.
“No thanks. I don’t feel like showing off today”, I said.
I regretted it as soon as I said it. It was such an immature and jealous thing to say and I wasn’t immature or jealous. Let alone jealous of Shirley. I didn’t want a red suit or a big red bow on the back of my neck. And I sure as hell didn’t want to jump in that salty water.
“Apologize”, my Dad said, not even looking up. It was flat and monotone like he was a robot only programmed to say that one word when the right time arose. My words, I’m sorry, were just as empty. That was the end of my speaking that day.
Dad and Shirley carried on conversation in a whisper as if speaking in front of someone so alone was rude. Don’t make the lonely girl feel more alone. Don’t speak. I wanted to tell them they could speak as loud as they wanted, that I was going deaf and blind anyway. I had wished I were going deaf and blind and I fantasized it was happening right then. I looked all around and I could feel my vision slipping. The figures around me were blurring. The sound of the ocean and the laughter and the children screeching in the water were all fading to a murmur. Then I realized I was just crying.
I’ll never forget that moment. I moved onto my stomach with my chin rested on my folded hands. I thought if I were closer to the ground I could disappear into the sand. I watched the girls around me having so much fun. I started picking out the ones that I thought would be more fitting to be Shirley’s real daughter. I figured she had to be blonde. And perfect. Surprisingly there were quite a few. One in particular was walking in a group of four girls, they were all blonde, but she really stood out. I watched this girl, and the harder I looked, the worse I felt. My stomach tightened so hard I had to squeeze my eyes shut and tighten my fists until I thought I would pass out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I open my eyes and Shirley is looking at me from the water’s edge. I’m lying in my chair next to Steven and I wonder if my face had just been tightened in that memory.
“Wave to Mommy”, Shirley says, and Emily and Christine wave. How rude, I think, I can’t even wave back. I catch myself and try to remember what Dr. Bali tells me. ‘Practice positive thinking Debbie. Your facial movement has improved incredibly, your right arm has marked improvement, and there hasn’t been any new lesions on your brain or spine’. Okay. Look closely girls. Mommy is waving back, it’s just really hard to see from so far away.

I want to be thirteen again. I don’t want to think about who could be Shirley’s daughter. I want to think about whose daughter I am. I want to think about my mom. I want to think about what kind of suit she would have been wearing at the beach that day so many years ago. I want to stare into the ocean and say her name over and over again. Emily. Over and over again and feel my lips press together on the M and my tongue press my teeth on the L. Emily. I want to go back to that day on the beach at thirteen years old and think about what my mom would have done if she could have been there. I doubt she would have sat there in jeans and a t-shirt scowling at the world. I want to go back, for her, and jump into the water. Run along the beach and feed the seagulls. Float on the waves staring into the sky until my eyes go blind from the sun.
Hug my Dad.
I bet she would’ve wanted to hug my Dad.

© 2013 A. Doyle

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Added on October 16, 2013
Last Updated on October 16, 2013
Tags: Multiple sclerosis, MS, mother, journey, healing, paralysis, memories, beach, sand castles, daughters, sickness, illness, negativity, positive thinking, hope, growth, repair


A. Doyle
A. Doyle

Norwich, CT

"I'm in repair. I'm not together but I'm getting there. " -JM more..

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