“To those who stand on empty shores and spit against the wind
and those who wait forever for ships that don’t come in.”
Joe Diffie recorded these words written by Paul Nelson and Dave Gibson in 1992 and I hear them several times a week on my favorite country legends radio station. Each time I listen to them I am transported to the 1950s to vivid childhood memories of my maternal grandmother who told me all the things we would do when her ship came in. We would take wonderful trips from our little town in Grimes County, Texas to exotic far-away places like Maryland to visit her brother Arnold and his wife Amelia and California to visit her favorite sister Orrie in Los Angeles. We would stop at the See’s Candy store in Los Angeles and buy all the chocolates we could eat. We could travel whenever we wanted to because she wouldn’t have to clerk at Mr. Witt’s General Store any more. She would buy my mother a new piano and my dad a new car. She would buy me anything I wanted. Life would be good.
I will be seven years younger this Sunday than she was when she was buried on my birthday in 1972 at the age of seventy-four. She believed her ship never came in, and I understand why. Much of her life she stood on empty shores and must have felt she was spitting against the wind. Powerless in the face of poverty and its constraints. Overwhelming loneliness when my mother and dad and I moved out of her home in 1958. Severe depression with sporadic primitive treatments and debilitating medications. Spitting against the wind.
Yet for me, life with her was a ship that did come in. The love I felt from her was as steadfast as the love I feel from my dogs, and they adore me regardless of what I say or do. The fun we shared when I was growing up was worth far more than a trip to Maryland or California could ever bring. My time with her was priceless.
Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate another year under our belts which need to be notched a little looser these days. For those of us who choose to reflect, birthdays are a godsend. We can ponder and ponder the meaning of life and whether we think our life is well-lived. At my age I can also mull over my legacy. I’d like to think I have one.
As for ships, well, I’ve had my share come into shores. Some have stayed longer than others and some are still with me, but all the ones that came in left their imprints in my sand. Life is good.