My surfboard is gone. No, it wasn’t stolen. No, I didn’t sell it. I’m not quite sure what happened to it, but it’s gone. I’m not delusional or amnesic. I had the surfboard for over 20 years. I had bought it on the west coast in the late 90s. It came east in the back of a pickup truck.
Living in a small New York apartment, there was no room for a surfboard where I was living. I am also in UPstate New York, which is landlocked. Of course, you can surf the Great Lakes during hurricane season when the wake is good and the water so cold you even freeze in a wet suit. However, it’s not good to do it with an ocean long board. The waves on the Great Lakes are nothing like the ocean. They are best handled by a short board.
The ocean long surfboard lived in the garage at my girlfriend’s house on Cape Cod. It was there for decades. Every time I went to the Cape, I would stop by, trade vehicles, and take my board out for some waves. I did some wind surfing too, depending on which beach I was at on the Cape.
So, what happened to it? Well, I’m pretty sure it’s been gone for over a year now.
So you’re going to write a story about a missing surfboard? Sounds pretty boring to me.
Wait! Don’t leave yet. It’s not just the surfboard. There’s a person too and a 20 year love affair.
Sit back down. Stay with me here.
For this story, we need to start with the end. I know, stories usually start at the beginning. This one starts at the end. We will get to the beginning. The middle is pretty good too (the best, I think). Think of this as a surfer version of Pulp Fiction without guns.
The phone rang at almost 3 am. My phone was set on night, so if it was ringing, then that meant it could only be one of two people. Suddenly, I was very awake.
“Are you ok?” I didn’t even say hello. I knew something was wrong.
Lily (*names have been changed to protect those living and dead) choked back a sob. “Mom’s in the hospital.”
It was very early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lily’s mom, like mine, was in her 60s. With everything having shutdown in March 2020, Lily decided to leave Cape Cod and go to her mom’s house to help out. At the time, everyone was about helping the most vulnerable. Lily figured she could do the grocery shopping and errands for her mom. So she packed up her Prius and went back to Worchester to help her mom.
At the time of the phone call, Lily had been at her mom’s house less than a week. This was before masks and before we fully realized that COVID is airborne.
I listened to Lily’s sobs and did the best I could to support her by phone. She was able to visit her mom in the hospital once before she passed. They had not yet stopped visitation of hospital patients.
Her mom was only in the hospital for about 2 days before she died. Her dad died when she was little. So the only family she had left was a brother and his two young children. The four days after Lily’s mom’s death were so rough on her. We talked every day. We facetimed. She was also talking to her brother trying to make arrangements for her mom. Here she had come home to help, only to be too late.
It was about five days after Lily’s mom died that she didn’t feel well either.
You know, this is hard to write.
That’s why we are starting at the end of the story. We will get the hard stuff out of the way first so that we can get to the good stuff.
Well, Lily also died of COVID less than 2 weeks after her mom. Her brother called to tell me. I was one of the last people to speak to her. We facetimed while she was in ICU within 24 hours of her death. COVID is a painful way to die.
I just lost my best friend.
Lily was cremated. In August, her brother held a scattering of ashes ceremony. I “participated” by phone. This was August 2020. Her brother ended up having to take care of everything both for their mom and for Lily.
Lily’s house was sold. So, I’m pretty sure my surfboard was sold too. I’m not sure. I didn’t think about the surfboard until this year. I’m not going to ask. Without Lily there on the Cape, it’s inconsequential.
It’s the memories attached to that surfboard that need to keep living.
I only thought about the surfboard this year because Lily’s brother kept in touch with me. He had two small children under age 10. He had a girl and a boy, ages 6 and 8. They both died of COVID this year.
So, the ending is the hardest part. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun.
You know what they say about the dates on a tombstone? The birth and death dates? It’s that dash in the middle that is the important part. It’s the life you lived in the middle of your birth and your death.
Now that the hard part is over, part 2 will look at the beginning of the story. Or maybe the middle? That’s where the good stuff lies. When you just ride the waves. There is a love story in that dash.
To be continued …