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Back from two weeks at the ocean, at least my body is, my head is still watching the sun rise over dunes, listening to bird calls that are different from home at 5 am. Last minute changes in who could come resulted in bringing my mother and my recently widowed sister-in-law. With their health problems combined, I was slightly worried about the 24 steps, including a landing halfway, that must be climbed to reach the top half of the place where we stay. My sister-in-law is 23 years sober and very active in AA, so on all of our outings we used the "one day at a time" motto, modified to "one step at a time." My mother breezed up and down the stairs like she was an aerobics instructor, didn't even get out of breath. She was probably praying as she went, as well.

The two of them instantly formed this sisterhood of the travelling widows, which was hilarious. Whether it was math or physics or some sea magic, the two positives definitely counteracted my dear pessimistic husband. Day one, a gorgeous Saturday, after the cars are unloaded, food is put away, beds are made, he sees a cloud and declares it's not going to be a good day, weatherwise. If I had any energy left, I would have bonked him on the head with the nearest husband-bonker. However, his younger sister (70) looks up from some food she has already started preparing for dinner in advance and says, "You've got to stop looking at the world like it's half-empty. It's always half-full. And that should be enough for you." Dang, I could hug her, which I do later. In fact, we all hugged her because she said she needed a lot of hugs.

The only bad things that first week included two phone calls. First one was from my oncologist's office, in which I learned the ten year clinical trial for breast cancer I had agreed to be part of, was actually for the rest of my life, or as the apologetic nurse on the phone put it, "until you die." She called late on Monday afternoon, so I was already quite relaxed and half-mermaid by then. I laughed and thanked her, although it was like a song you can't get out of your head. The second phone call was during a beautiful thunder and lightning storm from my sister who for whatever reasons has not been exactly helpful with my mother. I listened to her various attempts to control things, "so that you can relax". After she said, "ordinarily I wouldn't dream of calling anyone on their vacation" about eight times, I told her not to worry and if she wanted to really be helpful, she could complete getting the military marker for our Dad's grave, as in get it done and pay for it, like she had promised to do. I mumbled something about thunder and the electricity going out, then hung up.

Highlights of the week included: taking the sisterhood of the travelling wildly positive widows to an Episcopal church and Ladies' Night Out at the only AA meeting on the island, which is still in before-tourist-season mode. Right now, what happened in church and the AA meeting stays there. What I will say is that the theme of both was acceptance. Quite powerful. For myself, I walked on the beach twice a day, took photographs, built temporary sand monuments with broken shells, feathers, and found objects. I work on them until I feel hot, tired, or hungry then leave them for others to add to, or for the ocean to reclaim it all. There's something about the lack of words and walking away from something you made, detachment.

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