It’s instinctive. The first place I go when I make
my yearly pilgrimmage to Rockport is the Eden Road house.
That’s what we did then. That’s what I do
now. I exhale a suppressed breath and internally exclaim, “Ah,
now you are Home!” Formerly my paternal grandfather's
summer home and now the sole property of my cousins,
the 7-bedroom Eden Road house is a Clark institution.
I have never actually lived in the Eden Road house yet
it is Home more than any house, apartment or flat I’ve
lived in over a span of more than forty years.
Thacher Island, also known as Twin
Lights, is less than a mile out to shore from the Eden
Road house. I stand
on the wooden porch that stretches the length of the
back of the house, and look straight ahead. First, I
see The Rocks. It’s low tide. I see my favorite
tidal pools, and at water’s edge, rocks draped
with different varieties of seaweed in green, brown and
amber hues. My brother Nicky used to swim off The Rocks
with my cousin Johnny at high tide. They would come up
for air with a shriek that accentuated the water’s
icy temperature. Actually, it was rarely a swim; it was
a dip. That was the trouble with The Rocks. It was hard
to get in unless you dove but even harder to get OUT … especially
as your extremities grew increasingly numb with the chill.
Nicky, Johnny and my older cousins used to challenge
each other to swim out to Thacher Island and back but
I don’t think it ever happened. A more realistic
challenge on a rare day when the water’s temperature
was more tolerable was to swim out to the closest lobster
buoy and back.
I wonder where Nicky is swimming today.
I believe Thacher’s is the only island in the
world that has “Twin Lights,” two lighthouses
on its small expanse … not more than a mile in
length. I’m told there is nothing much there but
the two lighthouses, sub-standard housing for their keeper,
and a modest dock for the occasional boating visitor.
Today, only one light is in operation but the two towers
still stand. The foghorn still blows … a lot. I
take another picture of Thacher’s to add to my
growing collection. Thacher’s is and always has
been just plain THERE; the backdrop to our sailing and
swimming families. I would love to take a walk on Thacher
Island. I bet Nicky would have liked that too.
||Instead, I walk
a short distance down Eden Road toward Loblolly
Cove, where Margie O’Grady and I used to
go to collect beach glass … those white,
brown, green, aquamarine and prized blue bits of
sea-weathered glass. But I’m not searching
for beach glass today. I walk past Loblolly Cove
to the jumble of rocks further out on the point … Sullivan’s
Point. Thacher Island is still everpresent, anchoring
me. I am on my way out to the spot where Nicky’s
ashes were scattered into the water, according
to his wishes, on a bitter, cold day in November
of ‘96. Mom, sister Margo and her teenaged
children, Danielle and Charlie, and I all traipsed
out to a spot that, in retrospect, is not very
accessible. We chose it because it was as close
to Thacher’s as we could get. The water that
day seemed as grey as the sky above us and Nick’s
white-grey cremains were swallowed up by the lapping
tide swiftly. We spontaneously sang Cat Stevens’ “Morning
Has Broken,” which had played at Nicky’s
Memorial Service, on our way back to the warmth
of the car
| Watercolor by Martha's
father, Geoffrey Clark
Three years later, I sit
by the water’s edge,
watch the waves and tide having a life of their own,
and feel like I can’t get any closer to Nicky without
jumping in the water. I am silent. Thoughts, feelings,
and memories are swishing through my head, heart and
soul at a meandering, undirected pace. I feel peaceful
and calm, quiet and sad. I’m annoyed with myself
because this year, I forgot to bring some flowers to
throw to him in the ocean. As I walk away from “Nicky’s
Spot,” I start humming the song that he had sung
in a summer theater production of Cabaret.
How the world can change,
It can change like that,
Due to one little word ….
See a palace rise,
From a two-room flat,
Due to one little word …
And the old despair,
That was often there,
Suddenly ceases to be.
For you wake one day,
Look around and say,
Somebody wonderful married me.
Bill & Martha
Boy, could he sing. I hum this song
because it reminds me of Nicky. I hum this song to tell
him about my second
marriage to Bill. I so wish Nicky could have been at
our wedding. He would have been there despite ill health
unless he were hospitalized. Nicky could have sung that
song which two friends sang in duet at our wedding reception.
That was the closest I could get to having Nicky there.
But he sent me a message that day; I’m sure of
it. Just as candles were lit to remember those who could
not be with us on our wedding day, and the congregation
relished a moment of silence, a leaf from the tree just
above me fell and landed on my shoulder. On my shoulder.
I knew that was Nicky. He was there. I felt like I was
Home. And this time, I wasn’t in Rockport.
I hum this song out at Nicky’s Rock for a third
reason … to honor how deeply he loved the woman
he married and the hopes he had for that union. Up until
the day she suddenly left their 11-year marriage, I think
he would have sung this song about Susan and his life
with her. Nicky’s 4-page autopsy report attributes
his death to nasty complications arising from a heart
transplant in 1985 and a kidney transplant from Margo
in November of 1995. I think he died of a broken heart.
me to know that the last words he heard from
me, by telephone, were “I love you.” If
I could somehow patch up and repair that broken
heart, I would. By scattering his ashes in Rockport,
I hope we brought him back to a happier era … hanging
out with cousin Johnny, playing Little League
baseball in the Meadow, diving off the Rocks,
caddying at the Golf Course, sailing in one of
the Clarks’ boats, and dreams of swimming
out to Thacher Island one day.
I wonder where he’s swimming
today. May the Twin Lights be his beacon.
|Martha & Nicky