Friday, February 29, 2008

On Boogie Boards

For those of you who are faithful readers of this blog you know that almost from day one of my ALS diagnosis I have planned to go boogie boarding. The idea was that of all the things I want to do this one was going to slip out of my grasp sooner than all the others – hence the haste. So while I have many many great Mexico tales to tell, they must wait for future blogs since the question about boogie boarding hangs in the air and must be answered.

First some background. The first time I went boogie boarding was during the last century in Waikiki. I found myself compelled to paddle out to the giant surfer’s waves despite being a mediocre swimmer at best. They were huge, formidable in fact. Not Maverick level but daunting still. I caught the first wave and hung on for dear life as the water propelled me into near flight and threw me rather unceremoniously to the shore. I was hooked.

Now I hate the cold, so most of my water sports are reserved for unseasonably warm days or tropical vacations so there were large spells between each of my boogie board adventures. Still it remained one of my favorite things to do. I tried surfing but even the triumph of standing ( barely) on the board has nothing on the weightlessness and utter surrender of boogie boarding.

So let me set the scene: My board is outfitted with Velcro (thanks Christopher, Wendy and Ali!) and I wear a Velcro glove to hold my bad hand to the board. The weather is stunning, the waves high. It really does look like a movie set – South Pacific with Bloody Mary singing Bali H’ai or the opening credits of Hawaii 5-O. Each day subsequent to boogie board day, the water seems more and more stunning, more vividly turquoise. Was it that beautiful? Did I just not see?

Maclen helps me down the stairs to the beach and I use my cane to get down the slope of sand to the water’s edge. Downhill is tough for me. Now comes the tricky part. We’ve gone from movie musical with Mitzi Gaynor to “plucky underdog film.” Think Bad News Bears but in swimsuits. I need to stand (now without the cane) in the water to get out deep enough to paddle out. Mac is holding me steady but I keep falling over onto him. Or onto my astonishingly white ass. Once I’m deep enough, I don’t have the arm strength to get my arms on either side of the board and Velcro the hand because the waves are still crashing me this way and that. I end up under the board, to the side of the board, on my knees with the fucking board still velcroed to me – everywhere but belly on the board pointed in the right direction. The Velcro works very well but I realize we never figured out a solution for the legs. Duh! Mac is doing his best but it is very new to him to have his mom hurled at him at gale force.

After one particularly undignified attempt a woman comes up and tells me I’m doing this wrong and do I want some tips. I explain that I know what to do, I just can’t. She presses me and I have no choice but to tell her the whole truth to which she replies without skipping a beat “I’m so proud of you.” I admire and envy her. I think I would have been able to express admiration in that situation but not pride – it requires one to be married to the whole human struggle – to take pride in all of us – the whole mess.

Anyway she leaves us alone to tilt at our windmills and I try some more, joking with Mac ( for him or for me? I’m not sure) by doing my best Ben Stiller imitation “they must have ripped the Qs out of my dictionary cuz I don’t know the meaning of the word quit!” But at a certain point a realization washes over Mac and me like a wave: it’s already too late. It’s not going to happen. We have planned for months and flown to a small town in Mexico known for it’s waves so I can boogie board before I end up in a wheelchair and it’s not going to happen.

Here’s where the movie goes from Hollywood blockbuster to Canadian independent film. Without a word passing between us, Mac and I start to laugh. We laugh and laugh until our bellies ache and time stands still and it’s just the two of us, doing what we do best together and damn it, I’m happy. I really am. I’m happy because I’m laughing in warm water in the sun with my beautiful boy. When we come up for air I say “did I say boogie boarding? I meant cockfighting!” And that was that.

We staged a photo (Mission Accomplished?) for all of our loved ones who helped make the trip possible with me riding the surfer’s sloppy second wave at shoreline and then we went about our day. There were no tears – what would be the point? No 11th hour intervention in the form of a taught-bodied stud coming to my rescue– it’s not that kind of movie after all. Just another lesson – we are only guaranteed this one moment and nothing more.

As we are drifting off to sleep that night, Mac says to me: “I wouldn’t be surprised if I come back here on my own some day during Sayulita days.” I hope he does.

And yes – we did go to the cockfights. I’ll leave you in suspense about that little adventure.


dFenton said...

Hi Carla,

So great that you are doing all of this and sharing it with your son.

Here's to an amazing journey for you!

David Fenton

Anonymous said...

oops! guess we forgot to stick the velcro to your belly too! and maybe your legs? suddenly I see a vision of david letterman in my head...?!?
love, wen xo

Anonymous said...

While you and Mac were away I envisioned the two of you happily riding the waves. Thank you for replacing that fantasy with the messy, beautiful truth. My new vision of the two of you laughing in the waves is so heartwarming -- I can't thank you enough for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

exquisite writing. what a story! you are one to make all of us proud.

with love and admiration...

Alison said...

Oh Carla,

What a great moment--you and Mac laughing and happy in the middle of the full catastrophe. I am laughing along with you--and feeling it too. I love your beautiful amazingly white ass and most of all your courageous heart.