Last week, my nine-year-old son Caleb asked me to cook some crab legs and lobster tails.
He was six the last time I offered him crab legs. We were at a friend’s house for a feast of King Crabs. Caleb took one suspicious look at the giant spiny legs and refused.
I reminded him of this, but also admitted that it took me a long time to try new foods. Everyone in Beaufort thought I was crazy not to love seafood!
I launched into my narration: “I was 19 when I first ate crab legs and lobster! Your dad took me to Red Lobster…” I smiled with memories, and I wish he could see and hear his dad like I can.
Flashback: Summer of 2004. I was 19.
Jason and I spent the day on the river, then rushed back to his house to get cleaned up. We were completely exhausted from sun and swimming, but also starving.
“How fast can you get ready?” he asked. “All that time on the water makes me want seafood. Let’s go to Savannah!”
There wasn’t enough time to blowdry my hair, so I curled it around my hand and let it dry by the open windows of Jason’s Sport Trac.
Looking back on it now, I think of how spontaneous we were. I’ve never been one to take anything for granted. I enjoyed every minute of that day on the boat and our mad rush to get ready. I remember how the fading sunshine felt on my skin and the balmy air as we sped down the highway. My love was singing along to the radio beside me.
Jason ordered the Ultimate Seafood Platter and rolled his shirt back to three-quarter sleeves. At his insistence, I tried a bite of lobster dipped in melted butter. Next, he taught me how to crack open the crab legs.
Delicious! I quickly lost interest in my shrimp pasta.
He was so eager and generous about sharing something he loves. I think that made our meal all the more romantic and intimate.
I counted it as One of the Best Days I’ve Ever Had. I still do.
I didn’t know that it would still be so fresh in my mind this many years later. That I would talk about it over and over again. That I would tell our son the same story. Although it’s not really a story. It was just a day.
Fulfilling a Family Tradition
Fast forward to the past weekend:
Everyone in the Lowcountry will write off Red Lobster as a chain restaurant, but for me, it was like fulfilling a family tradition. We ordered Jason’s go-to dish—the Ultimate Seafood Platter.
The waitress asked if Caleb had ever eaten crab legs, then gave him an expert demonstration. She cracked it open and pulled the first intact piece from its shell. Caleb’s eyes were huge, and he tore into the feast until there were only a few fried shrimp leftover.
He declared that we should have a seafood night every weekend. I see a few lazy afternoons of crabbing in our future, and I realized that I’m in a good place.
When Caleb discovers something new, I’m happy to share stories of his dad. The pain of the past is leaving me, and I look forward to making new memories with our son.
Healing Over Time
You can’t force grief out of your memories. You can’t fast forward emotionally.
I spent so much time feeling like I was anchored in a sea of pain. Every day I drove across Lemon Island, but my memories were clouded with the knowledge of a hopeless future.
Instead of swimming with him beside the boat, we were drowning. The boat was sinking. I was suffocating.
One day you will find your windshield wipers—something to whisk away the rain that stole the joy of your memories.
For me, part of it was time. Time has been healing for me, no matter how cliche that might sound.
Thankfully, I have much more than time. I have our son. His enthusiasm helps me to see the past, untainted.
Find Your Symbol of Happiness
Now, I pull up the rope and watch the pain—the water—filter through the netting. All that’s left is a crab, a little symbol of happiness.
…Jason leaning toward me with a bite of lobster on his fork. He cups his other hand under it, to catch the dripping butter.
…Caleb holding a crab leg under his nose like it’s a mustache. I push his sleeve back to his elbow, and he holds up his other arm so I can roll back the left side. I place the cloth napkin on his lap.
Healing comes when you are ready. I will keep my eyes open for more opportunities to re-create family traditions, to share stories about Jason.