All I Got Was A Rock

I turned 43 last month, a fact that is completely irrelevant to this post other than the company I kept on the day the meter flipped.  I stopped celebrating birthdays years ago, when they began to be more of a source of stress than of joy, and this year would continue that trend.  I planned to walk on the beach, contemplating life, the world, and other oddball thoughts that popped into my brain.

And then, one of my friends stopped by with a gift.  I should mention that we're friends because he's been a good friend to me.  I'm a lousy friend:  I don't call; I don't write; I forget birthdays and anniversaries; I'm a hermit.  He's one of the few who has stuck around in spite of my flakiness.  I don't say this enough to those few, but I love them and appreciate all the little things they do for me even though I'm too much of a dolt to always acknowledge it.  Okay, time to get off this tangent!  My friend had the day off work, so he joined me on my little beach excursion.

As we sauntered along the sandy shore, we came upon cement piers rising out of the sand.  25 years ago, these columns penetrated what had been solid ground at the time.  Now, the pounding surf along the California coast has eroded away that soil, leaving only the columns and what's left of the building on top of them teetering on the edge of the jagged cliffs that are still disintegrating into the Pacific.

My friend with his (son's) hunk of clay
February 2010
My friend walked up to touch the crumbling ground under the columns, and a fairly large chunk of clay came off in his hands.  He left it on the beach as we continued on our way out, but on the way back, he picked it up again, thinking it would be a fun toy for his youngest child, who was learning about soil and rocks in school.  It was a bit on the heavy side, slightly awkward to hold, and a bit messy, but he carried it along the beach, and managed to keep hold of it as we scrambled back up the cliffs to the car.  The next week, he reported that his son had a ball turning that lump of clay into dust and mud.  An act of love from father to son.

It was a touching experience for me.  And it evoked a memory from my childhood about another rock.

I was with my parents on a fishing trip to the Smith River in Oregon.  The walk from our campsite to the river was fairly long, over rocky, unstable terrain.  On that particular day, I was with my mother.  As we walked to the river, she spotted a rock with a slightly different texture than the others.  At 9 inches long, 6 inches wide and 15 pounds, it was not exactly a light load for a 5'3" woman carrying fishing tackle.  But mom fell in love with that hunk of granite, so she picked it up and lugged it with her to every fishing spot that day.

While navigating over the rock field back to the campsite at the end of the day, mom's strength finally gave out.  The rock was heavy.  And with all her fishing tackle, it was also awkward to keep hold of.  And now, I have to admit I'm an even worse daughter than I am a friend.  I wasn't much help.  Okay, I wasn't any help.  In fact, at that point, I was probably whining about being tired and hungry and wasn't about to help carry either her gear or the rock. Yes, I was the dreaded spoiled brat, and to this day my only regrets in life have revolved around not being the daughter I should have been.  Reluctantly, mom set her rock down, hoping she might remember where it was, but doubtful she'd be able to find that particular rock again in the vast open sea of rocks.  She was disappointed, to say the least.

Piglet and my mom's rock
March 2010
We returned to the campsite sans rock, and mom started dinner, still a little sad about her rock.  Half an hour later, dad returned from his own day of fishing.

"Hey, look at this rock I found!"

There in his arms, was mom's rock.

Who can say whether he happened to pick up the same rock purely by chance, or if there had been some sort of "psychic" connection between my parents.  But I do know that the chances of two people walking the same route over a large stone field, and picking out the same rock in a sea of rocks are pretty slim.  30 years later, in my not-completely-objective memory, I'd like to believe my parents did have some sort of spiritual connection and his choice of bringing that stone back was an act of love from husband to wife.  In my delusional memory, I'd like to believe my dad's act absolved me of my brattiness that day, but that's probably stretching it!