Off Season? Never Heard of It
Though Sunday was a grey day, we went, as noted above by Charlie, to the ocean. If you've read my blogging from the days when I wrote My Son Has Autism, Charlie is in his natural element at the ocean, near the water and waves and the sand and all that open space and sky. Hence for almost year since Charlie was a baby we've vacationed for two weeks at the same spot on the Jersey Shore, renting a series of beach houses.
This winter has been the first time we've ventured "down the shore" (Jersey-speak that I, a native California, have gladly added to my vocabulary) in the off season. The swimming season being from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the "on season" isn't really that long. Jim—who spent his boyhood summers at the same place on the shore—starts counting down the time we'll return "for two weeks in August" virtually from the day we return home.
And it's finally occurred to us, the beach knows no seasons. You're probably not going to gambol on the sands in nary but a swimsuit in late January, but the ocean is always there, with the waves and the sand. Indeed, out on the beach today, we found it quite pleasant to walk on the clayey surface in boots and black shoes, well-bundled up against the wind.
Of course, in the off season, we also get the beach pretty much to ourselves. Sure, you have to poke around to find something to eat, but it's not exactly hard to find a place that makes hamburgers or a convenience store in New Jersey. Many of the stop lights are set to blinking yellow on the main streets, so we can drive around without frequent stops and the music-blasting, fun-party-trouble seeking throngs are nowhere to be seen. It's a relaxing experience for all of us to be there.
Especially when Charlie was younger, his love for the beach was equalled, if not often overwhelmed, by the pain of having to leave it. Our vacations have always been a thorough mix of sheer joy at seeing Charlie in the place he loves (and that Jim and I love), and deep anxiety, as Charlie's worries about leaving the beach—manifested as often severe neurological storms—have been ever present, and especially on and after leaving the beach. Even the promise of "we'll be back" could do nothing to assuage Charlie's sorrow. Consequently, we have not cared or dared to visit it in the off season. Too, when Charlie was younger, his main interest was to get himself into the waves, no matter what—that is, no matter the temperature of the water, or whether or not he was fully clothed.
Charlie now not inclined to go into the cold water and, indeed, kept a respectful distance up on the sand, out of the waves.
And after a walking up and down the beach (against the wind on the return trip), Charlie told us he wanted to go "home," rather than driving more around the beach, so home we went. He and Jim finished off the day with a walk around our neighborhood, before dinner, computer time, and bed.
I think Charlie understands that when we say "we'll be back," we're not funning him.
And Jim and I agree: For Charlie and for the three of us, it's always the season to be at the beach; on the waterfront.