Summer on the island could be divided in two halves: BEFORE DEBBY – calm, breezy, beautiful, plenty of nice kids for my nice kids to play with. AFTER DEBBY: hot, sticky, muddy, not enough kids for my kids to play with.
Then, there was DURING DEBBY. It was predicted to rain a little and go toward Texas, right? RIGHT. We played cards with this great family while the rain poured down and the power flickered on and off, just riding it out. We made pina colodas and nachos and had a blast. All good. THEN, I left the island on Sunday to pick up Mom at the Sarasota airport. Small craft advisory X1. Choppy water, decided I couldn’t get Mom and the kids back over in that water, decided to stay in Sarasota over night. Wise decision because DEBBY sat down and chose to VISIT. You have to hand it to Mom. She is the only person I know to have ever spent two days in France and have a migraine the entire time she was there. She has the worst travel luck. So, this time, she flew into a tropical storm that is being called, in retrospect, a disorganizedstorm, reminiscent of the 1985 Hurricane Elena because it sat around for so long before moving. While hovering, it messed up the power on the island. Three days in a one-room hotel with three kids and mom complaining about our musty-smelling boat ponchos. Thanks for the memories, DEBBY. On day three, there was a rumor that power had been restored to the island, so we braved the white caps in our flats boat, got soaked and trudged five days worth of groceries across to find there was still no power due to two snapped power poles. Sounded serious. Helicopters would be needed to fix this one. Our fridge had been without power for THREE days. Our house smelled like the fish we had in the freezer. Mom was exhausted. Kids super cranky, un-enthused about leaving the island again and all the take-out food was not agreeing with our tummies. In addition, the water on the island was not working, either. We shuffled bags, grabbed the two lap-tops still in the house, emptied fridge and freezer and set out to cross the white caps again.
Me to Hubs in text: “There is NO power on the island until Sunday. I NEED a Residence Inn near the beach please. Trashing smelly stuff from fridge. Managing people. Have diarrhea. Top torn off boat. Made it across okay but half island under water. Have to go back to mainland with six bags of trash. Boat tossed & turned everywhere.” On the way back, due to the waves being so high, the motor got flooded and cut out on me three times in Charlotte Harbor, but we made it back to the marina – white knuckles and all. Come to find out the ferry had quit running because the waves were so rough. Oh, well. Some things have to be done, whether there is a small craft advisory or not.
Text to hubs: “Motor cut out 3X. But we are here. Still have diarrhea. I am woman hear me roar.”
He got me a condo. On the beach.
So, now that brings us to the wave that almost killed me. I am privileged to be the mother of a 14 year old boy which means he only does things if there is an element of slacking, humor or danger involved. So, a few days later when the gulf died down to a hyper-up Atlantic state/ Pacific coast-on-acid style waves, my son decided it was time for us to body surf. I, wanting ANY quality time with him, foolishly accepted, obviously having forgotten our latest saltwater cowgirl experience with previously stated small craft advisory and whitecaps. I go into the gulf. And he follows. We’re knocked down within five seconds, proving that this is going to be fantastic. We give each other a grin, one of those – oh, yeah – one of us is losing a bathing suit and it isn’t going to be me – grins. We try to walk out past the breakers, but every time we take a step another waves knocks our feet out from under us.
The thing about a storm like Debby is, it doesn’t just mess with the water, it moves the sand, too. So, when you step, sometimes the ocean floor is solid, but every few feet or so, you step into a deep hole, maybe three feet deeper than where you just stood. If you are hit by a wave, it can push you in and out of one of those, toss you and you don’t know up from down. I grew up on the Atlantic at New Smyrna Beach riding waves with my dad. This gulf stuff is nothing, unless there’s a storm. We finally get out past the breakers and wait for the pull of the waves to tell us whether they’re good enough to ride or not. And they are. Very good. They take you all the way in, past the deep holes, over the rough shells. The waves push you all the way to the little tide pool and scrape you knees on the scallop shells. We catch a few. The ones we don’t catch, push us to the bottom, flip us over and push sand into the crevices of our behinds, then pop us out and roar, “NEXT.”
The particular waves that takes me under gets me as I am trying to stand, from a previous wave where my feet had come out of the water over my head and I had said to my son, “Okay, one more and that’s it. I’m tired.” DEMON WAVE hits me in the side of the head, flips me over, skids my head along the bottom one-two-three like Fred Flinstone dragging Wilma. My feet scramble to find the bottom. One thing I taught my kids is that when a wave knocks you down, stand up as fast as you can because there’s always another one coming.
My concern is that if DEMON WAVE did this to 150 lb, 5’8″ me, what has it done to my 90 lb, 5’4″ son? My arms are flying around, but all I feel is water, except my head which is still skidding along the bottom every now and then, burning like crazy. I kick my leg and break the surface. Flipping my self over, I stand up, looking for my son. He’s standing right next to me. His hair isn’t wet. Not recently anyway. “What happened to you?” he asks, as I gasp for breath, thankful he is standing. “You were down for like, EVER. I think two waves hit you or something. You didn’t stand up like you were supposed to.” In my recounting of the story, I tell him I think I lost some hair to DEMON WAVE. I actually do have a spot on my head that stayed swollen for two or three days which concerned my mom. (Thanks, Mom.)
We get out of the water, much to my son’s chagrin, but I was dizzy, rubbing the lump on my head. That wave made me feel completely paranoid, especially when my younger kids started saying, “Why does HE get to go out and WE don’t?” Yeah, there’s no way I could keep up with all three of them when I was getting spun around like that.
I haven’t been taken down like that in twenty years. Quite a wave. I stuck by the pool, where there was clear water and a large, grumpy woman from Illinois who fussed if my kids splashed her Cooking Light magazine. There was once a beer commercial (Anheuser Busch) called “Know when to say when”. I believe after that wave hit me, I had reached that point with Debby. Because once the waves died down, Debby brought in seaweed with nasty jelly fish just to prove one more time she was still in charge.
The water wasn’t the same for about two weeks and I am an island girl, believe me, I love the gulf. But Debby, she ruled those weeks and it has been nothing but a hot mess since. Nothing but rain mixed with the smell of dead coquinas and no fish and mud and down pours every day and I surrender, Girl.
But I would still rather be no where else.