Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Cape Week

The winds of change blew over our beloved Cape Cod beach. They blew across the dunes we traversed each day for 31 years. Across the back porch of our neighbors, the family that annually gifted us free reign over their beach toys. Past the driveway filled this year with someone else’s cars. They blew all the way to northern Rhode Island, gently caressing our matriarch, my Mom, as she lay in bed, no longer able to make even a brief ceremonial visit to sit with us in the sand.

After 31 years the winds of change have finally closed the doors of the house and the cottage we called home during Cape Week.

Can you imagine? 31 years! Over time we’ve met a handful of other families with similar stories (including one of the docs I work with), but only a handful. Today would be the day that I would usually re-cap Cape Week, parsing this year’s edition. After year 25 things had changed. Dad had died. The grandchildren had busy lives with jobs that kept them away for some, or all of the week. Great-grandchildren added to the mix to create a joyful obstacle to travel, further winnowing down the size of our group. For the better part of 6 years of so we’d been able to handle the crew with only the main house and the occasional room at the Lighthouse Inn.

It was clear last year that when we finished cleaning the house and closed the front door that year 31 would be the last. The 50 yard trek to the beach had become insurmountable for Mom, even with the comically capable balloon-tire equipped off-road wheelchair we found. Tears streamed down my face as I bent down to kiss the beach in thanks for another year, a ritual I’d begun in year 2. Those tears had been tears of sadness in year 25 as I mourned the passing of what I’ve come to think of as “Cape Week Classic”, those years when our family of 20 mostly attended en masse. My tears last year had a touch of sadness, for sure, but they were really as much tears of joy, thankful tears shed upon the sand that had brought such joy to our families. Like the tears that I am struggling to see through as I write today.

What could have been a time of melancholy was transformed into a joyous adventure. One night after dinner last summer my sister Tracey and Beth were chatting about trips they wished to go on. Tracey’s family has been on a quest to visit national parks, and the parks of Alaska were next on her list. As it turned out, Alaska was one of the two remaining states for Beth to visit to finish her 50-state lifetime list. Would we like to go together the following summer? When my other siblings and their spouses caught wind of the idea Alaska 2023 became a real thing. 4 of the cousins (and 3 of their significant others) signed on, and here I am on the first Sunday after what would have been Cape Week, writing.

About Cape Week v3.0, Alaska!

I’m not really going to write about Alaska today. It was a really big trip, a big deal all on its own and it deserves of my “musings…” attention all by itself. What makes it special today, though, is that my siblings and I, and our spouses, once again chose to spend a week together. If you’ve read my stuff over the years you’ll recall the Cape Week backstory; please forgive me for recounting it yet again for those who may not.

Beth and I are both firstborns, and as such we did all of the standard-issue life stuff first. First to marry, and therefore the first to acquire in-laws and all that pertains. We had children, sent them to school, married them off and welcomed grandchildren first. Holidays had become a challenge as we all tried to balance our desires to spend time with our expanded families. Cape Week was born as a way for the extended White family to convene at least once every year. And so we have, with the exception of illness each year, now for 32 years.

What will become of Cape Week? I sure don’t know. What could have been a week of melancholy filled with the emptiness of loss turned into something else entirely. The winds of change blew us thousands of miles across North America, about as far from Cape Cod as you can get and still be in the United States. We are all bathing in the glow of an epic collection of family adventures, each one capped by dinner together aboard the huge “floating hotel” we sailed between ports. The best part of Cape Week, the part that stayed most the same over those 31 years, came with us to Alaska. Each night we met for drinks somewhere on board on our way to the restaurant where we dined together, just like we’d done every night in the Big House at the beach. It was all really quite lovely.

Mom and Dad would have been so very happy.

Who knows where we go from here. Perhaps the “Super 8”, as one of my sisters dubbed us, will find a way to do something together each summer around the time of Cape Week. Perhaps some of our children will come along like this year. Or not. Maybe this was it. Maybe this was Cape Week bowing out with a bang, giving us the trip of a lifetime as the cold winds of Alaska usher in the end of an era. We will know soon enough.

What I do know is how very fortunate we have all been these last 32 years. And how grateful I am for each of them. My deepest thanks to Beth, Joanne, Steve and Jimmy, our spouses, for making this all possible. Without your collective “OK”, and more than that, without your continued willingness to make the herculean effort necessary to pull this off for the sake of someone else’s family, we don’t get past year 2. Likewise, thank you Dan, Megan, Randy Pat, Darric, David, Tim, Jen, Nick, Mathew, and Ryan for giving up a week of your summer for so many years and spend it with your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It would have been fun if just the “Super 8” had gathered, but with the 10 of you around it was just a blast!

Especially after you all got your driver’s licenses and brought Sundae School treats back to the house for “the adults” every night!

And finally, thank you Randall, Tracey, and Kerstin for, well, everything. I can barely see my screen right now, but if I close my eyes I can see each of you, all of us, on the beach and beyond. There we are on all of the many beaches of our lives, together. There we are, with all of the kids, surrounding Mom and Dad on the porch at the Cape. Close your eyes and look with me. Look at the smiles on Mom and Dad’s faces. So many years; so many smiles.

Thank you all for Cape Week. May the winds of change continue to blow us ever together…

One Response to “Cape Week”

  1. August 6th, 2023 at 8:41 pm

    Maureen says:

    I felt like I was there. Tenderly written, while opening a door to all the memories made during Cape Week. Sounds like it will always be etched into your soul. How wonderful is that?

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