Monday, July 02, 2007

Sea Shells and Gumbo

There is a basket of sea shells that sit on the bathroom vanity at my house. They have been there for years - so long in fact that I had almost taken them for granted. Something shifted in my perceptions and I saw them again which caused a flood of memories to come rushing back like an angry surf. I remember the day we collected the shells at Blue Mountain Beach near Sand Destin, Florida. It was New Year's Day 2000 and we were celebrating with our friends Kaye and Ron.
The weather was rough on New Year's Eve and we couldn't celebrate on the beach as we had planned so we stayed in, listened to music, talked, ate Ron's world famous seafood gumbo and swilled Champagne. I had a headache the next morning but as you probably know, fun ain't cheap.
After breakfast we decided to go for a walk on the beach. The sky still looked menacing but the breeze off of the gulf was unseasonably warm. We wore shorts and sweaters.
Walking down at the edge of surf, LOOK - Jilda exclaimed as she bent down to retrieve a very nice conch shell. All of a sudden it was like a bunch of kids at an Easter Egg hunt. We found smooth clam shells, cut-ribbed Arks, sharks eye, and tented cantharus. There were a lot of shells I couldn't name but I picked them up just the same. We left the ones that had living critters in them.
When we looked up and down the beach, there was no one in sight in either direction. It was like the Good Lord said "hey y'all, why don't you get some shells." We all were soooo excited and came home with baskets of very nice shells. We've never had that kind of luck shelling since.
We've known Kaye all our lives and she married Ron in college. When Jilda and I were married in 73, they were two of our very best friends. Ron had the same heart condition as Lewis Grizzard but he kept in good health through the years so the condition was kept in check. But later that year - the year we found all the shells, he had a sinus problem and I guess infection attacked the weakened valve.
We spent our vacation at the hospital with him. He seemed to stabilize so we came home. We had barely gotten home when we got the call that he had passed away. It seems a small blood clot broke loose in his system and he died leaving us all broken hearted.
So it is with mixed emotions that I sit here regarding these beautiful shells. They were a gift for which I am deeply grateful, but what I wouldn't give to have another cup of Ron's gumbo.

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