The Perfect Shell – The Second Best Conversation I’ve Ever Had

28 Sep

“The Perfect Shell” – The Second Best Conversation I’ve Ever Had …
Originally Posted on Facebook on October 23, 2011 at 2:09am

Author: Me


I posted back in 2009 about the best conversation I’d ever had with an elderly man on the bus from Downtown Disney to the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World. What is it about some people that make a conversation so fascinating and insightful, thoughtful, emotional? It’s their experience and the fact that they’re speaking realistically, from the heart.

A couple of days ago, I decided to do something I NEVER do, wake up early and walk on the beach just after sun up. Those of you that know me know that morning and I are not friends, we are mortal enemies. Morning to me, should come around 3pm. Whoever came up with this whole morning concept just sucks or at least they did until last Wednesday morning. I dragged myself out of my nice warm covers, threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt, walked out into the crisp cold fall air and drove to Ft. Macon, my favorite spot for shelling and solitude. There are high sand dunes, a historic military fort, crashing waves, sand and the sound of seagulls and rarely any people on the beach this early in the off season. I got out of the car and started my long morning walk and time alone with my thoughts. I was absorbed in my thoughts about finding a job, missing my friends, wishing I had someone to share this kind of time with and hating the loneliness of being a 41 year old single woman when someone walked up behind me and scared the hooey out of me. I turned around and there was this smiling woman, with skin that was starting to show it’s age and her expressions of years past, and there a friendly light in her eyes. She was maybe around 70. She apologized for making me jump out of my skin, grabbed my hand, introduced herself as “Barbara” and asked me if I’d found any good shells yet. I showed her the two, one that was an angel wing that had a few barnacles attached to it. She took the shell and told me how to get them off of the shell without harming the surface. She said she had been coming to Ft. Macon shelling every day for years. You know how some people just tell you their stories whether you want to hear them or not? This was one I wanted to hear and she obviously wanted to tell it so I asked her to walk with me. As we searched the sand for treasures washed up from the ocean, she would tell me that “Ron”, her husband, used to walk this same path with her, doing the same thing. It was their “morning togetherness routine”, not to find shells, but to find each other. I asked her to tell me more about Ron, he seemed like a wonderful man from the glimmer in her eyes at the mere mention of his name and the excitement that was obviously in her heart that someone would express interest in her memories of her longtime love.

Barbara told me that they met on the beach years ago. She had been out doing just this very thing, collecting shells, when he came walking from the other direction. He smiled at her and introduced himself and asked to see what she’d found. He’d just moved here and wanted to know where the best place to look for shells was, his sister was an avid shell collector and would be visiting soon. She told me they parted ways on the beach and when she looked back over her shoulder to see where he was, he was turned around looking back at her. He walked back, got her contact information and said he would be in touch, maybe they could spend some time getting to know each other a little more. Little did she know that a year later, they’d be married in a small Beaufort, NC church and having a family a year later with the birth of a daughter, Mary. It was a wonderful romantic story, one that I was surprised she was telling a perfect stranger, but it made her happy to recall the good times so I let her continue with the story. She told me she never expected to meet someone here, she had moved here to start over and put some bad things behind her. She didn’t specify what those things were and I didn’t ask. She asked if I was married or dating anyone and you know me, I rolled my eyes and said no, haven’t been that lucky and went on to explain how when it comes to love and that kinda thing, I’m not really good at it and can’t seem to have good luck and have pretty much resigned myself to being the single crazy old lady with her dog. She told me she felt the same way when she met Ron in a totally random unexpected way. She said she certainly wasn’t ready to get married, or so she thought. She had written romance out of the picture, felt she was “past her time”. Apparently time found her and she said it would find me too. She used the analogy of shell collecting, said when I am least expecting it, I will look down and find my perfect shell, the one I’ve been looking for, one that’s perfect in my eyes and is exactly what I was hoping to find, that one of a kind shell that washes up once in a rare while. It really made me see things alot differently. I guess most single women my age probably think the same things – what’s wrong with me? Why am I always good enough to be someone’s best friend but no more than that? Why can’t someone see what’s so great about me? Am I not pretty enough? You know, the same questions we all ask ourselves at one time or another. Blah blah blah. She’s right, it’s not me, it’s just not the right time. The ocean decides when it’s the right time to push that perfect shell onto the shore and it’s God’s decision as to when it’s the right time to push the perfect person into my path just as Ron had walked across her path at the right time. He passed away from pancreatic cancer. She told him before he passed that she would still walk the beach everyday and thank God for letting her find her “perfect shell”. We reached the pavillion and parking area and Barbara said this is where she was parked and it was time for her to meet Mary for breakfast, that she enjoyed our talk and hoped to meet again on the beach. I thanked her for giving me something to think about and we waved goodbye. Will I ever see her again, probably not. The more I think about it, was she even a real person or was she possibly an angel? The Lord works in some mighty mysterious ways and you can’t help but wonder … we’ll see. Until then, I’ll keep going out and looking for that elusive, perfect shell.


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