I scour the rocky beach with my young friend Micah. Through his eyes I’m discovering all the wonders of this remote bay in Kodiak. A simple request to see the bay has evolved into a scavenger hunt along cliffs and boulders. As I scamper over barnacled rocks in my slippers, I’m transported into Micah’s playground of tide pools, tiny hermit crabs, even a sea urchin. Jagged rocks loom large like sentinels over these beach treasures. But the treasure that most catches my eye glints slightly beneath the puzzle of smooth , black, flat beach rocks perfect for skipping in the ocean.
“What is that?” I ask Micah as he chooses the perfect stone to throw into the water. He stoops down to look at the tiny blue treasure. “Sea glass” He picks it out, cups it in his hand and hands it to me.
“Blue is the best color. That’s the most rare on this beach. That’s my favorite. “I examine the tiny sapphire jewel in my hand. The color is deep. The edges round and smooth.
“That’s a good piece. I know a perfect place where we can go and find some more. Come on!”
Over kelp bulbs, seaweed, rocks we scramble until Micah and ruddy cheeked 5year- old Stuey lead me to the promised land. “Look at this one,” says Stuey . In his chubby little palm lays a perfect piece of aqua sea glass.
“Oh, that’s beautiful. Can I have that piece?” I ask.
His little blond head ponders for a moment. He shakes it back and forth.
“No,” he says. “I like this piece.” He scrambles off to find some more.
A little miffed I crouch down to seek out my own. I discover a large blue piece to examine. I love the color. “What about this one?” I offer.
Micah comes over to inspect. “No,” he says, “the edges are too jagged. It’s not ready yet.”
Stuey returns, clenched fist uncurling to reveal a large brown piece.”I like this one.” Micah examines. ” No Stuey. Not that one. It’s too sharp. You’ll cut yourself.”
“No I won’t,” he protests, clutching the jagged piece in the flesh of his palm even harder. “Look. I’m not hurt!”
And as I watch that cherub faced boy tight fisted clench that shard I realize
I am that broken piece,
Shattered from the impact of watching my mother decline.
Like sea glass worn away over time
Broken pieces of the woman she once was
Her memory, cognition, awareness are diminished
By this disease called Alzheimer’s.
The brain eroded by plaques,
Minerals eating away her mind
As sea salt eats away glass
Rendering it transparent
While I still broken, fragmented, attempting to to grasp understanding of this disease,
Its process like salt burns my wounded heart,
I still have sharp edges, cutting words, distorted from lack of sleep, anxiety of the unknown,
Guilt divided between duty to my children and husband and duty to her.
I too held on too tightly
Squeezing the broken pieces of my life too hard
Thinking it was noble, beautiful to hold on to the pain and let uncertainty and fear and guilt grip me
as I watch this disease wear down my mother.
Yet she like sea glass
Continues to shine
Luminous beauty beneath lost memories,
Spirit glowing under frosted edges,
Edges smooth and gentle
A treasure to be found.
My friend told me the story of sea glass:That true sea glass has rounded edges
And pieces like bottle tops and bottoms are most rare
As are the colors blue and aqua.
And in a piece of true sea glass
The original color remains the same
Only gilded by the coat from the sea.
A myth about sea glass Is to return the broken pieces not yet polished
Back to the sea as you make a wish.
So I will throw this broken fragment back to the sea
And not wish for a cure
Or a miracle or her memory back.
Instead I will find treasure in her gently worn life
Her smoothed edges
Her luminous spirit
And clutch it to my heart.