Friday, June 5, 2009
Last May my mom and brother Dennis came out to Oregon for us to take a trip up and around the Olympic Peninsula. We went up to Port Townsend and fantasized about what our lives could be in such a quaint place. I bought a lot of old photographs, we checked out the huge redwood forests along the coast and stopped to dip our feet in the ocean as many times as possible. We saw giant purple studded starfish and anemones which my mother and I made jokes about looking like testicles when the tide receded. My brother was embarrassed and refused to speak to us until we stopped talking about them. I found a small weathered plastic dog on one of these beaches which continues to be one of my most prized tidbits. Dennis and I kept imploring my mother to move up there upon retirement so that we could visit her there. At first she consistently and politely changed the subject, but upon further prodding we discovered that my mother is existentially fearful of tsunamis, an oceanic possibility unfamiliar to her as someone who grew up in the small beach town of Center Moriches, Long Island on the Atlantic seaboard. She told us how she had read a sensationalist story written in the aftermath of the tsunami occurring off the coast of Indonesia in 2005. In the story some peasant fishermen recounted sitting in their small wooden dinghies as they bobbed over the rounded cap of the wave which they then watched peak and wash over their homes and families inside of them. My mother told us that her greatest fear was not to be one of the people washed away, but to be one of those who had to watch it happen. We were driving in the car up scenic Highway 101 and without further discussion conceded that perhaps our parents could just retire to Vermont instead.