This week I did something I have never done before. I took myself on a mini-retreat in search of a breath of fresh air, time to think, remember, create, and rest. Everyone is busy, not just caregivers, but there is a daily weariness that I experience that is hard to explain. The idea of leaving Gary for a couple of days, was not appealing until recently. A couple of years ago, he would have been confused about my absence, but now he is unaware of the passing of time, or who it is that is caring for him. Things have been much harder in 2014 and my attention is diverted in many directions in addition to the sad decline in Gary. So, for several weeks I've been planning to take a couple of days off, and let the Lord take care of me. I packed a good book, my watercolors, and my Bible.
Sunday morning, Gary's caregivers arrived and I said good-bye. It began with a beautiful drive. I enjoy driving when there is no traffic, beautiful vistas and Keith Green's music playing. Two of my favorite's are The Prodigal Suite, and Stained Glass. I was surprised how many times I was reminded of former times, and in a way, Gary came along with me. We were dating when we first heard Keith Green at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. His worship music was a big part of our early years, and still is.
I arrived at 3:00 at Moonstone Beach in Cambria on the Central Coast. Gary and I have stayed in several different hotels here, but The Fogcatcher Inn is our favorite.
My adventures began with a brisk walk along the boardwalk along the bluff. It was quite windy, and cool, but very refreshing. How often I had walked hand in hand with Gary on the same boards. But this time I was alone and it was ok.
I took tons of photos. Tried some "selfies," and shot scenes for painting reference and of course capturing the views to help my own memories.
I walked along the beach too, scoping out a good location to paint the next day, and found a 3 pebbles to save. Each time we went to Moonstone Beach, Gary and I would gather "theme" pebbles. One year he'd look for jelly bean shapes and colors. Another, it was all white, or all green or all brown. They sit in jars in our sun room. I must confess, it's not as fun gathering them, without someone to show your special "find" to.
Back at the room, I worked on a sketch for the beach painting to be done the next day. It is an amazing thing to have uninterrupted time. Throughout my retreat, I kept thinking, "What? It's ONLY 5:00?" instead of the typical "What? It's 5:00 ALREADY?" Here's a preview of the scene I was planning to paint "plein air" (outdoors).
At dinner time I got a Tri-tip Sandwich to go at the Main Street Grill in Cambria and brought it to my room and saved half for lunch the next day.
The evening's entertainment was the film, "Miss Potter" about Beatrix Potter starring Rene Zellweger. I've seen it before, but somehow it seemed fitting for this occasion. One of her comments as she was anticipating the publishing of her Peter Rabbit book was "We shall look upon it as an 'adventure'. It is a very sweet story, and I related on many levels; especially her love of watercolors, and the outdoors and her losses.
One of the reasons we love the Fogcatcher is the complementary breakfast! It is not just danish rolls, mind you, it is the real deal, complete with sausage, eggs, waffles, and pastries. Peets coffee and a tray to take it to your room if you want. Now, about the room...Cozy, and facing the ocean, the view from here was better than the nicest restaurant.
I had brought along "The Glory of Heaven" by our pastor, John MacArthur because I decided to focus my thoughts on Heaven this week. I want to think about Gary's future (and mine). A couple of thoughts on this...Since, as Christians, our "citizenship is in Heaven," (Phil. 3;20), we already belong there. It's where we are going one day and we can benefit partially now, from all the bounty of Heaven. Something else...To be "absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord!" So when we're in our earthly bodies, we are not at home with the Lord. We are walking by faith not by sight. One day, Gary will shut his eyes for the last time, and when he passes into eternal life, he will walk by sight, not by faith. His faith will become sight!
I spent the rest of the morning painting the view out my window. I'm only including one tree because I'm allowed to do it however I want! :) Here's the start of it.
The afternoon was spent browsing the gift shops and galleries in town. This might seem odd, but it reminded me of Gary too. He enjoyed looking in all the "cute little shops" as he called them. We never came to the Central Coast without coming home with a new plant from a local nursery. One favorite place in town, is an old house, complete with gardens in back, and each room in the house is a showroom. The mud room is for gardening related gifts, and the kitchen is where they sell herbs, essential oils, and potpourri. Out back there is a 'fairy' garden with cute displays. This is where we first saw a Newport Fairy Rose bush. It is an aggressive rose, and gets really big. Gary bought one 15 years ago, at the same shoppe and planted it by out arbor out back. in no time it covered the big arbor and was beautiful. It was one of the things I hated to leave when we moved. Seeing it again, made me miss Gary.
In the late afternoon, the lighting was just right and the tide was low enough to go back and paint the outdoor scene. I got set up in just the right spot, on the sand, and began the fun challenge of capturing the beauty and feeling of the place, while keeping up a pace to beat the encroaching waves and mist as the wind began to pick up. I suppose I was out there for 90 minutes before snapping a couple more photos and calling it quits, planning to finish it up later.
The day ended with another long walk and a good dinner. This time, Asian Chicken Salad.
Breakfast. Reading about Heaven. Prayer. Painting. Frequently I would start to think of doing something...such as going for a coffee refill and ask myself "Will Gary be ok if I go downstairs and get the coffee?" "Oh, yea, he's not here. Go ahead and get the coffee." It's a big adjustment being 'on my own.' One thing caught me really off guard and hit me hard. I decided to wash the windows before heading out. As I did, it reminded me how Gary loved to do that whenever we were getting ready to travel. He took great pride in getting them streak free. Silly, what makes you get emotional, but I really missed him right then, washing my car windows in the hotel parking lot.
I stopped for one last long look at the ocean at the south end of the beach on my way out, and had a snack there. I decided that I would like to do this again, maybe next year. It would be nice to look forward to. I was able to go to the same places Gary and I shared together, and enjoy myself. It was a happy/sad time, but I know he would want me to be doing these things and that makes me feel bold about venturing out a little.
Driving home, normal anticipation of being with my love again was clouded by the knowledge that he wouldn't be able to participate in my joy. But in a weird way he does. We are 'one flesh.' My joy or sadness is his, and his is mine. On the way home, I stopped for a late lunch in Solvang, which was OUR first stop on our honeymoon road trip 39 1/2 years ago. I was facing more memories, and again, It was ok. When I got home and greeted Gary I wish I could say he responded but he didn't. I told him all about my time, away and maybe he caught some of it, but I couldn't tell. I put the 3 pebbles in his hand, and helped him hold them for a minute. Hopefully it brought back a good feeling for him like it did for me.