In all my sixty five years, it never really occurred to me that I might want to live by the sea. If you asked me, “Ocean or Mountains?” I would invariably have picked the latter. In fact, I spent nearly two years in the mountains of Colorado and chose to leave it all behind and drive a rickety old Rambler cross-country to the city of Boston (so maybe not Mountains?). At the time there was no more purpose for leaving than to get away from the upscale image of living in Aspen that did not suit me particularly well. As for the East Coast destination, it was no more strategic than the dim thought of a girl I once knew. As pinballs go, I’d say I’ve had my share of sporadic, course-altering bounces from very active bumpers.
But if you asked my wife the same either/or question, she wouldn’t hesitate to jump in the sea. As a kid, she summered in Manomet, an out-of-the-way stretch of tiny bungalows in the dunes south of Plymouth and its been in her blood ever since. As for the mountains, her perspective was fatally formed in 2018 when she and I visited Breckenridge, Colorado and she was blasted with altitude sickness. “I was meant to be at sea level,” she told me later.
As we began to settle into retirement, thoughts of a new chapter in our lives started creeping in. The house we raised our kids in was getting bigger everyday and staying there felt like a burden. Even so, we didn’t plan on living near the water. That was too out of our price range to be realistic.
And then there was Onset. Oddly enough, I had seen a map of Onset years ago and thought all the little coves and inlets looked really interesting. I sort of thought at the time, wouldn’t it be cool to live someplace like that? And then, out of nowhere, Barb sees a Zillow notice for a little house in Onset. There’s an Open House and we go. But its not right. So we drive around a bit.
And there it is. Not a cottage. A house. Sort of a craftsman type place. For sale. It looks out over a marina. You can see Onset Bay. No cars in the driveway, so we get out and look in the windows. Very, very cool. We get back in the car. We find it on Zillow. Holy shit, we can afford it! So (leaving out all the complicated offer/negotiation/mortgage headaches and bullshit) we buy it.
So here we are. Barb’s dream come true. Water views. Walk to the beach. During the winter, we hang out at the local bar, meet people, learn about our new community. In the summer we meet more people at the beach, make new friends (all the while keeping our other friends close). We kayak around the bay. We are living life at the ocean. A beach town life.
Different. Good. Very good. But still, different.
Because I can’t help but think, how did we get here? We never really thought we could be someplace like this. How did we end up here? I keep thinking of the word, “blessed,” but I can’t help but wonder if we belong. What did we do to deserve this?
But then I think, what did we do to deserve the last eighteen years of Barb’s breast cancer? Of the last four years since it metastasized to her liver and kidney? What did we do to deserve the ten days in the ICU in a coma when her immunotherapy shut down every organ and Bridget called me in a panic, that the doctors are saying she’s critical and “circling the drain?” Two more months of rehab just to swallow and walk again. And still she’s as fragile as ribbon candy.
And then, what did we do to deserve the collateral fact that her cancer has disappeared? Gone. No evidence of disease. For three years. Without any treatment whatsoever.
I suppose its possible that somewhere, something may or may not have been done to deserve some or all of what we’ve gotten along the way. Or maybe its just more sporadic bounces from bumpers and flippers beyond our grasp to understand. We all know there are still plenty of bounces yet to come. But if we could roll with the hard times that kept coming at us for all those years, I’m sure we can let ourselves belong in Onset.