It’s early Sunday morning and I make my way out to my favorite bench at the end of the pier overlooking Portsmouth Harbor. I’ve sat in this same place countless times enjoying tea and a muffin. I usually have this spot to myself and today it was just myself and the seagulls looking for pieces of muffin.
All of a sudden, I turned around and looked behind me to the other side of the pier. I don’t know why, it felt like someone tapped me on the shoulder. Of course, there wasn’t anyone there. That’s when I realized that it was the same place where I had taken photographs of a co-worker’s daughter many years ago. We had been out all morning taking photos for her senior pictures. It was the last stop we made. I wanted the harbor and boats as background. The light wasn’t cooperating, so I had the girl’s mom hold up a large silver reflector. Sally was short and she had to stand on tip toes to hold the reflector high enough. She danced around like a ballerina holding the reflector while I took shots at different angles. She looked so funny. We laughed, it was a good day.
Sally died a few years ago and while I think of her often, this was the first time I remembered that long ago day on the pier. As I said, I’ve been out to this spot so many times just to sit and enjoy.
I haven written anything or picked up my camera for a while. I’ve been in some kind of funk. I’ve been trying to get back on schedule, but it just seems easier to sit and “be.” But this morning I took out my pen and scratched out a few words. I didn’t have my camera with me, so I took a couple of pictures with my IPAD. I can remember that day so clearly now. I can practically see Sally dancing around on her toes trying to hold up a reflector almost as big as she was. I can see her daughter smiling at the camera. I can see myself and remember how much I love photography and writing.
What a strange morning. It really felt like someone had tapped me on the shoulder, but there was nobody on the pier but me.
I find her in her bedroom, sitting in a wheelchair in front of a big window. She is up close to the window panes intently looking out. I pull up a chair and lightly touch her arm. She looks at me and smiles. I tell her who I am. I always have to tell her who I am. I ask her what she is looking at and she says the cars going by. She looks at me a second longer and returns to staring out the window. I sit in silence. We have always been comfortable in silence.
I can hear the ticking of the second hand of the large white clock on the wall. The walls are high in this quaint victorian bedroom. The floor is a rich dark mahogany, along with the door and window frame. The clock keeps ticking, only now it sounds louder. I look at her tight gray curls and the moss green shawl that covers her shoulders. I watch her fingers play with the long fringe.
I look over at the old silver radiator as it comes to life hisses and clanging. The big house always seems to be cold, even in April. I can still hear the ticking clock amid the hissing and rattling of pipes. I hear the echo of voices from somewhere in the back of the house.
By the window there is a small table with half a dozen framed pictures displayed. All the people in the photographs are long gone, but she knows them all. There is one picture of a red cardinal perched on a branch covered with white, pinkish apple blossoms. Whoever took the photograph used a telephoto lens. It looks professionally done with the soft blurred background. She has told me before that she loves birds.
The ticking clock sounds even louder as I sit next to her writing. I hear my pen scratching across paper leaving soothing words behind. She has fallen asleep. I close my notebook and put my pen away. It is time to go.
(I am a hospice worker traveling from home to home. Along the way, I meet special people and would like to share those moments.)
When I walked in the front door, I found my husband standing there proudly holding a freshly baked birthday cake. My big, burly husband held a square pan in his hands. Inside was a chocolate cake with vanilla icing smeared on top in varying degrees of mountains and valleys. Stuck precariously in the icing were six pink candles blazing brightly.
I said it wasn’t my birthday until Thursday. He said that today was the only chance he had to bake it and surprise me.
Surprised I was indeed! The man had gone out, gotten a Duncan Hines cake mix and vanilla frosting and did this wonderful thing for me.
I bit into the still warm devil’s food and it tasted like love – the best taste in the world.