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Vacationing with your Memory

[1]My family has been vacationing in Blue Point, New York for as long as I can remember.  My godparents have a house just yards from the beautiful Great South Bay, and have opened it up to us every single summer since I was born.  This is our home away from home – it is a place that brings out the best in us as a family.  We spend the days together sitting outside, swimming, fishing, boating, cooking and just enjoying each other’s company.  In the evening we make dinner together, and will usually go outside for conversation that stretches late into the night.

The sentimental connection I have with this place brings a flood of emotions every time I get there.  It is triggered by all of my senses; the feeling of the breeze off the bay, the smell of the salty air, the sight of beautiful stretches of water, the sounds of reggae playing from my godparents’ stereo, the taste of delicious food waiting for us every time we walk in the door.  I can only describe this emotional rush as “the feeling.”  The Blue Point feeling.

It’s a mix of excitement, contentment, relief, connection, and since my teenage years, a bit of an ache.  Like me, Blue Point was one of my dad’s favorite places in the world.  It doesn’t feel right to be there without him.

Vacation is a time to be with family, to appreciate each other, and to make up for lost time that slips away with the commitment of every day life.  When someone you love is so vividly associated with a place, you can’t help but feel their absence.  In Blue Point, nearly everything I taste, touch, smell, hear, and see is somehow associated with a memory of my dad.

The beautiful thing about going to a place saturated with so many memories is that I feel so connected to my dad every time I am there.  It’s also refreshing to spend time with people who knew him so well.

Since my dad died so long ago, there are few people in my life that knew him at all, let alone well enough to understand a story about his crazy personality, or reminisce about things he said, did, and taught us.  My godparents and their kids are among the few who knew him well – a situation that lends itself to constant story telling and revisiting of great memories.

It’s bittersweet for me.  Many of the things my dad loved to do on our vacations, we still do today.  My dad was always an enthusiast about our family fishing trips, and had this ridiculous chant that he claimed was “good luck” for catching fish.  My godfather will always start this nonsensical chant on our present-day fishing trips, and attributes every catch to my dad.

We sometimes boat across the bay to Fire Island, where I have memories of flying kites with my dad, building sand castles together, and him burying me in sand to “turn me into a mermaid.”  I can’t help but smile at all the Dads on Fire Island doing these same things with their daughters.

My dad always loved my godfather’s out-of-this-world bouillabaisse, and requested it as the main dish for a party that he threw for my dad when he completed his Ph.D.  Now, my godfather, Kevin, makes this bouillabaisse every year when we come.  I view sharing this meaningful meal together as a very special tribute to my dad.  His presence is felt by all of us in this very special place where we spent so many summers together.

The summer is coming to a close, and I’m sure I am not the only one who has this kind of experience while on vacation with my family.  With a holiday weekend coming up, I’m sure many people will share these sentiments over the next few days.  How are your vacations different after your loss?  Do you find them more difficult now, or do you find yourself reflecting on positive memories of your loved one?

Photo Credit. [2]