A smooth stone...
I'm writing this on Christmas Day. All the wrapping has been torn. The church at the end of my street has put Jesus in the manger. My wife liked her gifts, and we had a huge Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, blood pudding, beans, toast and strong tea.
My mother died last February. My wife's mother died in October. We are both only children, and are much more "only" now. Both of our fathers are dead.
It is all right. Everyone thinks their own pain is unique, but the truth is, we are all cliches. There are only so many kinds of pain, and they are all common.
After the presents, after the huge Irish breakfast, after we watched the "Downton Abbey" movie, I went to the beach. I went by myself.
The beach, a small one, is maybe 30 minutes from my house, just over the line into Rhode Island. I live in Massachusetts.
Leaving my house, I picked up a fist-sized rock from the border of my yard, and put it in my jacket pocket.
The beach I went to is in a country town that has nearly completed the transition to suburb. My mother grew up there, when there were cows in the fields and tractors on the roads.
That beach was my mother's favorite place in the world. We moved quite a bit when I was a kid. When we came home on vacation, she would go to that beach before she went to see her own family. She'd walk the tideline, suck in the tangy air and sigh.
"I love the way the ocean smells," she'd say.
Long after she and my father retired to Massachusetts, long after he died, long after she was frail and no longer drove, I could always get her out of her apartment with the promise of a ride to that beach. She didn't walk the tideline anymore, but she'd open the window in my truck, suck in the tangy air and sigh.