My Friend, The Enemy

Written By: Marie  Rossi

My Friend, The Enemy There is something about the lure of the ocean, the sound of waves breaking on the shore. Soothing yet intimidating. As a child, I developed my love of the water, conquering fear as it pulled at my legs, met the challenge of leaving the shore and swimming back to safety zones of the Long Island Sound. Then I went to Montauk and met a whole new challenge with walls of water, and the thunder of waves. Each year beginning in the 70’s, my young daughters and I rented a unit at the Maisonettes on the dunes. Owned by the Pisarski’s, a lovely Polish couple who made us feel like family, we settled in, opened the door and stepped out on to the beach. It was idyllic. We walked and collected beach glass and shells and challenged the waves. We loved the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, trembled a bit when winds howled and lit candles to soften the tension. We marveled at the debris the ocean threw up after a storm reminding us of our offenses in the treatment of this awesome part of the earth. It left the impression that its belly is never satisfied. I remember one afternoon being knee deep in the water on the Maisonettes beach holding my 6 year old daughter Laura’s hand as we “rode the waves” and then, as quickly as it often does, the water pulled us out and down. I held Laura’s hand in a vise-like grip, fearful that we would be separated and washed out to sea. The wave subsided and we came up gulping and gasping not sure what had happened – it was all so fast. With sand in our suits and mouths, I tried to laugh so Laura would not be frightened by what just happened. But she could tell it was not a joke. We had come close to losing each other. As we sat at the edge of the water, catching our breaths, smoothing hair and “rinsing” our suits to loosen the sand, my heart was still in my mouth. My first thought was “Is this what it is like to drown?” So fast, so full, so overwhelming? And I came closer to understanding, with my second thought, how my husband might have felt in the last, swift moments of his life before he drowned, thousands of miles away in the Tyrrhenian Sea in the spring of 1966. The change in current, the wind, and it was over. The boat went down with five men, one of whom survived to tell about the strangeness of the event. It sounded like a description of a Bermuda Triangle…the boat sucked into the vortex and gone – with no trace. One person thrown beyond the force of the water to safety to live to tell the tale. Yet, the same water soothes, calms, goes to the inner core. There is something primeval about the relationship between humans and water. We need it, we abuse it, and we try to tame it. It offers a mysterious message not always clear. “Honor me, respect me, and celebrate me.” We have celebrated Thanksgiving every year for the past 40 years in Montauk. We rent cottages at Lenhart’s and rejoice in being together. It started with just my two girls and me the year after my Mom passed away .I felt the need to be near the water. It has since expanded to include fiancés, then husbands, and now as each October rolls around, my joy is hearing my grandchildren announcing “We are on the countdown to Montauk!” Thanksgiving – gratefully together counting our blessings, listening to the breaking of the waves, collecting shells, rocks and driftwood, respecting the ocean. My Friend, the Enemy. By Marie Rossi June 2014