The Place by Jerry McGowan - HTML preview
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A gift from the other side!
Beverly and I were married by a justice of the peace a month after our ceremony in the woods. Sadly, the State of Massachusetts would not acknowledge our marriage by Ed; however, the day Ed married us will always be considered our anniversary. As we celebrate that date each year, we think of Ed with deep appreciation for helping to make our union so very special.
Every day of our walk as a couple has been a joyful one. We continue to work hard together, but we never lose focus of what is important.
After ten years of marriage, we still had not taken time for a honeymoon. It was not that we didn’t want to, but circumstances simply didn’t allow for it. But that was all about to change. I had done some work for a friend of mine who called me out of the blue and offered me the use of his time-share condominium in Mexico. I was thrilled. Finally, I could take Beverly on the honeymoon she deserved!
We spent several weeks planning what we would do while we were there, and we grew more excited as the departure date drew near. There were so many options, and for people who had not been away since they first met, the options were almost as exciting as being there! It finally became reality with the purchase of our plane tickets. Barring any unforeseen interruptions, we were heading to Mexico.
I have to chuckle as I remember our shopping adventures before the trip. Living in Montana doesn’t offer many opportunities to find the appropriate clothes for a vacation in Mexico, especially in February, and I was still dressed in full winter garb! We did find a few stores who were catering to the cruise trade, but for the most part, we had very little luck.
We finally decided on a few pairs of shorts, some sandals, and a couple of bathing suits. If we needed any more than that, we were going to the wrong place on vacation!
“We can certainly get things there if we need them,” Beverly responded. I agreed, and at that point I was ready to get on a beach and relax.
We planned our vacation to be flexible. We made a list before we left of all the things that interested us. Each morning we would decide what we would do on that particular day. The resort we were going to had everything you could imagine, and making reservations was as easy as calling the front desk.
The flight from Missoula went through Salt Lake City, and we arrived at Cabo in no time. We made our way through customs and on to the sun-filled Mexican outdoors. We grabbed a bus to our hotel but stopped on the way for the usual tequila stop. It seems all buses make that stop because it gives the liquor trade some business.
The resort was right out of a picture book. The bougainvillea were beautiful with all their various colors of reds and purples. The buildings were all built with white stucco, and the small walkways were lined with flowers and small shrubs. It was all simply beautiful. After we checked in, we walked along several small outdoor corridors past the beautiful trees and colorful bushes that led to our room.
I quickly placed our bags on the bed and opened the curtains to take in the view. I slid open the glass doors and walked outside. I was standing on a sandy beach looking out at the Pacific Ocean, and it took my breath away. Beverly joined me, and we spent the longest time staring at the scene that lay before us. We hugged one another because we were both so very grateful to have this time together.
The next morning we decided to drive up the coast to a marine park, where we would spend the day snorkeling. It was a beautiful ride, and the scenery was very different from Montana. When we arrived at the park, I placed my valuables, including my driver’s license, keys to the rental car, money, wallet, and passports, in a plastic bag and then stuffed it into the pocket of my bathing suit. The water was glorious, and the coral reef and colorful fish were everywhere.
We swam for about an hour, then returned to the beach. I reached into my pocket for the bag with our money so we could get something to eat for lunch. The bag was gone! I was not in a panic, but I knew the loss of that bag would create a major hassle if I couldn’t find it. We looked everywhere. I spent half an hour back in the water looking for it, but to no avail. I turned to Beverly and smiled.
“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” I said, thinking to myself that no keys meant we couldn’t drive the sixty miles back to the resort. No money meant major hassles, and our passports would make getting back into the States difficult at best. I kept smiling.
After retracing our swim several more times, we presumed that the bag was hopelessly lost. I went back to the shack where we rented our snorkeling equipment and told the attendant what had happened. “If you lost it out there, you can consider it gone,” he began. “That current is very swift, and things like that disappear out to sea very quickly.” My hopes for finding it were now completely dashed.
“If you want to watch my place, I will try to find it for you. I know how these currents run.”
“I can’t thank you enough,” I replied, and moved behind the counter. I waited half an hour, and when he returned, he was empty-handed. My heart sank.
“I did the best I could, Señor, but it was nowhere to be found.”
I thanked him for his efforts and went back to join my wife. I told her what happened, and we decided the best thing to do was simply enjoy the rest of the day.
We went back into the water and never stopped looking for the bag. I was swimming in the shallows for half an hour or so looking for shells on the golden sandy bottom, when I suddenly felt the presence of my mother, who had passed on the year before. It was such a strong feeling; I knew she was right there with me. I could feel her love like I did when I was a child, so I spoke to her.
“Mom, I know this is just another challenge, and we will get through it like we always do. But if you could help me out, I would appreciate it. This is our first vacation, and I wanted it to be special for Beverly. I love you, Mom, and I miss you very much. Thanks!”
About twenty minutes went by when I suddenly felt a tapping on my shoulder. I stood up out of the water to find Beverly standing next to me in the water. There was a man in a wetsuit standing behind her.
“Jerry,” she began, “this is Paulo.”
I walked past Beverly to where he was standing and reached out my hand. “Very nice to meet you, Paulo,” I said.
“Are you Mr. Gerard?” he asked.
“Yes, I am Gerard,” I answered. I watched as he slowly opened the zipper to his wetsuit and reached inside. He carefully withdrew the small plastic bag I had lost several hours earlier.
“Where did you find this?” I asked, excitedly.
He turned and pointed to a large pirate ship with three tall masts, anchored about a half mile off shore. “Do you see that ship?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied, anxious to see where this was going.
“She is mine,” he said proudly. “I take the tourists out to look at the fish in the water over the reef every day. Before I let them snorkel, I put on my scuba gear and go into the water to make sure there are no sharks. I was swimming about a quarter mile from my ship in about sixty feet of water when this bag came floating by me.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Beverly looked at me with a questioning stare as if to say, “That’s just not possible!”
I let Paulo continue. “I thought perhaps it belonged to one of my customers, so I brought it back to my ship. I showed everyone on board, but no one claimed it. I saw the rental car keys, so I called the company from my ship. They told me I was mistaken since the car with that registration number was in Arizona.”
I laughed to myself, wondering what kind of company rents cars and doesn’t know where they are.
“After they gave me this information, someone on deck looked toward the beach and pointed to you and said, ‘That looks like the man on the license.’ So I am here, and clearly this is yours,” he said, smiling.
I took the bag from him and said, “I just can’t believe that in this whole ocean, you were at the one place and at the exact time when this went floating by!”
“Si, Señor. In our country we would call this a miracle!”
I had to agree. I smiled and looked skyward and thanked my mother out loud. As I did so, Paulo blessed himself and said, “Si, Mother Mary looks after you.”
I smiled openly because The Blessed Mother was my mother’s favorite entity to pray to. I can remember many a night going to church as a family for a novena to the Blessed Virgin. It appears she listens, and so does my mom!
I removed all the money from my wallet and handed it to him, happy to do so because our vacation was saved. “No, señor,” he replied. “I cannot take this. It was our Blessed Mother who gave this back to you. You should thank her.”
I smiled and asked what I could do for him in return. “Next time you visit, please come on my ship for a sail and swim with us.” I promised him that I would, and he simply put his mask on and swam back to his ship.
I turned to Beverly and related the conversation I had with my mother not half an hour earlier.
“Did I ever tell you that my mother prayed every day to the Blessed Mother and never missed a day in her life?”
“Faith like your mother’s is a wonderful thing,” said Beverly. “Clearly, she loves you still.”
I smiled as a tear filled my eye, for I knew she was holding me in the palm of her hand at that very moment.