Harbingers? Or Hurdles?

I have returned to Sanibel. Getting here was not an easy journey.

First: I was not 100% sure I wanted or needed (like soul-deep needing, the way I felt last year) to come here. I worried it would not be the same, that the power and restoration of that time could not happen again (and I know myself pretty well; I’m not the type to buy season passes to anything because much of my joy is in the new, in the adventure).

Second/third/fourth, etc: there were and are SO MANY other things I could spend these 12 days and our money on, that didn’t feel quite so…selfish. Our house is aging – sewer line needs replacing, A/C and furnace might go kaput…I need a new(er) car…Sarah starts grad school in the fall. Not to mention all the charities, starving children in the world. I just found – as March arrived, and tax season intensified – that I could not NOT go. I found what felt like the right condo and the rental agency agreed to reduce the price for a shorter stay; I found 2 non-stop flights for $116 total (don’t get excited; keep reading); Sarah’s graduation tucked in neatly at the end, right after I return. Seemed like the stars aligned. But I kept feeling…off. Not really excited.

I invited a couple of friends to join me, thinking maybe I need to share this space, this joy.  Neither, ultimately, could make the trip.

And then June died. Sweet, wonderful June – a woman from church who I’ve known most of my life. She became sick seemingly overnight; the news of terminal liver cancer shocked our entire God family. Her funeral was at 1pm, 3 days ago, when I was to be at the airport preparing to board my plane. I was reassured that it was OK to go to Sanibel, that June’s family would be well-supported. It just felt wrong, and I was uncomfortably aware that I missed Tippy’s funeral last year in the same way. God – am I just really, really off-base?

Steve dropped me at the airport at 12:30, on his way to the funeral. I breezed through security (the security guard asked me my birth year. I said, “why does it matter?” and he said if you’re ‘a certain age’ [looking at my grey hair and then my now-bare feet] you don’t have to take off your shoes.” Gee THANK YOU. That’s ageism!) and plopped down in a chair by the gate, only to hear the flight attendant’s crackly voice over the loudspeaker: “This flight is delayed due to a maintenance issue; new departure time is 5pm.”

I approached the desk. “Can I count on that new departure time? I’m missing a funeral nearby and would like to go if I’ve got 4 hours to wait.” Both of the men standing there shook their heads – sometimes planes get fixed sooner. Best to stay put.


So I texted some girlfriends and whined. I texted Steve and whined (he didn’t answer, of course, being AT THE FUNERAL WHERE I BELONGED). I got some good advice: relax! Go get a drink, for God’s sake. Beth O suggested I “stay in the present,” because perhaps there was a reason for all this, or at least something to be gained? So after reading for a while, and balancing my checkbook (yes, I am that person), I wandered down to the bar at the end of the wing and got a spicy Bloody Mary and a late lunch.

It wasn’t until 6:45 that we finally took off (after the plane arrived at the gate for us to board, the pilot went MIA. I am not making this up. They had to find someone else to fly the plane). By that point I was relaxed and finding my sense of humor again. What else could go wrong? Bring it on.

I’d reserved a Hertz rental car via Priceline via Kayak.com. Changing the reservation to reflect my later arrival left me realizing I will never do that again – three layers of bureaucracy to wade through. I arrived at 9:25pm, tired.

“Where’s my cute little subcompact?”
“All we have left is a minivan.”

Yay. How appropriate.

My usual trip, en route to the island, to the grocery story to stock up (all planned out…just like last year!) didn’t happen. Everything shuts at 10pm, apparently. So, I drove to my condo, unpacked and went to bed.

Sunday didn’t really “dawn” so much as reveal itself in a grey shroud. Rain. Yippee. But after I got a LARGE cup of coffee and an apple and some peanut butter at the mini-mart nearby, I was ready to move ahead. I packed up my grocery list and a better attitude and drove to Captiva to go to the same little Chapel by the Sea, for church.

Sitting under the same awning, listening to the sermon while being highly entertained by a tiny lizard poufing out his gloriously psychedelic neck pouch to show other lizards who’s boss… I watched the cloud cover thin and then: glorious peeks of deep, deep blue. After the service, instead of scuttling off to my car, I had a fascinating, long chat with another Emily, an older woman with no sense of personal space but a heckuva lot of style, confidence and conversational skill. I hope I can be like her.

I drove to Target on the mainland, to do my grocery shopping. Had a lovely long phone conversation, sitting in the parking lot, with my sister-in-law, Colleen. A part of me was banging on the window at myself as I lounged in the driver’s seat: HURRY UP! YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR CHIT-CHAT! But the other part of me was, like, whatever. Staying in the now.

Loading my groceries into the back of the van over an hour later: a nickel waited there. Ha! Hi Mark. My sister exulted, via text, “that was why you didn’t get the cute car!”

Returning to the island, via the bridge, with the sun shining down on water the most amazing shade of blue. Yes.

A few hours later, after walking on the beach and feeling the awe (and the Ah!) of nature once again, I shed the minivan and picked up my bike.


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