Monday, March 3, 2014

I'm Coming Home

This has absolutely nothing to do with running. But, considering I barely run anymore.... does it really matter?

This has more to do with ME.

Tomorrow I'm coming home.

It's been three years. Since I've been home.

No, not here home.  But, home where my heart is.  St. Maarten.

It's the place where I'm most at peace.  Most happy.  Most myself.

I've missed it.  I haven't been there in awhile.  Because, well, life.  Work. Stuff.

But, tomorrow, I go home again.  Finally.

St. Maarten is not just a vacation place to me.  It's ME.

48 years ago my parents were on a Windjammer cruise in the Caribbean.  They got shipwrecked.  For real. The boat started taking on water.  Somehow, they made it to the shores of St. Maarten.  Awaiting them were some islanders.  One couple, transplanted Americans from LaPorte, Indiana, the DeMyers, took my parents in.  Took them to their home, little beach cottages.  Told my parents they were going on vacation the next day.  That my parents were welcome to stay there for the remainder of their trip. Just clean up before they leave.  And, leave them $10 for their stay.  My parents did just that.  However, they kept in touch with his couple.  Came back to visit them again.

A few years later the DeMyers decided to move back to the U.S. and asked my parents if they wanted to buy the property.  Uh, yes please, thank you.  My parents did.  Huh, a young American couple now owning beachfront property in the Caribbean?  My parents rock.

Let me just clarify.  These are little beach cottages.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing extravagant.  They are simple.  They are quaint.  They are perfect.

So, it's all I've known.  It's been a part of me my entire life.  Sure, we vacationed in Florida, Hilton Head, etc. as kids.  But, eventually we dropped it all for time in St. Maarten.  It was amazing.  French.  Dutch.  Euro chic.  Christmas on the beach.  New Years parties with the beach neighbors. French dinners in town as kids.  Boating on our yacht .... a dinghy - no joke.  Tic tac toe in the sand under the moonlight with my mom.  Hanging in the hammock with dad. Summer of college with friends. Sunset after sunset after sunset. We loved every minute of it.

The island friends I met in bars as a teen (no judging.  They don't have a drinking age) who are STILL my best friends to this day.


It was my dad's favorite place on earth.  His hammock.  His gazebo.  He was so happy here  I got it.  I understood it.

We've had many hurricanes hit us there.  Some in epic proportions.  Landing on the first plane back on island after the worst of the worst was.... awful. Seeing our place..... almost completely destroyed..... was just awful. Overwhelming  in fact.

But, we got our hands dirty.  We worked our asses off.  We got back up.  Each and every time.  We got back up.

Just before my dad died, we decided he needed to get down there one more time.  We knew it would be his last trip.  While my sister wasn't into St. Maarten like I was, she knew this would be a trip to make.  However, that meant I had to take care of my grandmother at home.  I could not go.   It was killing me.  Mom, dad, sister all there.  Without me. So, at the last minute, I asked grandma if she could handle her 90something self for a few days without me.  She said, "sure".  I didn't believe her.  However, I went anyway.

I jumped on a plane.  Showed up at our gate.  Opened the door.  To find my dog and my sister staring at me.  In shock.  I put my finger up to my mouth, "shhhhhh".  "Where's dad?".  She pointed.  I walked up to the door.  Walked inside.  "What's for dinner tonight?!?!?!"

Dad: "Huh, I haven't thought about  it..... uh.... Oh, my god!!!!"

Best. Surprise. Ever.

Ever.  Ever.  Ever.

Pretty sure he cried.  Positive I did.

We, as a family, spent the next 4 days together.  Not something we did much.  But, we did it this time.  We sat on the beach together.  We had dinner together.  We spent time with dad.

It was the last trip he ever made to his island home.  Well, alive anyway.

My dad fought cancer for 8 years.  It was a tough fight.  He gave it his all.  Fought to the end.  I was with him all the way.   Literally.   I held his hand to just before he died.

After he died I got the first plane out I could to St. Maarten.

I got home to the cottages.  After years of stress with dad dying I could finally exhale.  Breath. . Be happy.  Be.

Oh, sure, I cried a whole bunch.  Like a lot.  Dad would never be here again.  That just didn't seem right.

But, our beach home also gave me just the hug I needed.  It always does.

Six months later mom, sister, my 6 month old niece and I took my dad's ashes to where he needed to be.  Our beach.  On my last night there (I flew straight to bridesmaids duties) at sunset we gathered with our toes in the ocean.  We tossed dad's ashes into the air.  Into the sea.  Under his beloved hammock.

It was just what he wanted. It was perfect.

I continued to go home to St. Maarten at least once a year.  To be with my friends there.  With the friends I had met over the years.  To be alone.  To be happy.  To be.

I step on the property and all is right with the world.  With me.

My last trip was stellar. Epic.  Best time ever. My friends made me smile more than ever.  Giggle more than I could stand. I came home exhausted.  With a smile on my face.

But, I haven't been back in three years.  Three LONG years.  Life.  It keeps you from living sometimes.  Sadly.

But, tomorrow, I go back home.

To my friends.  To my beach.  To my hammock.

To. My. Home.

To me.

Like every time, I will cry when the plane lands.  Like every time, I will cry when the plane takes off.

Like every time, I will be happy.

I will be me.

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