My Uncle Charlie is my Mom’s only sibling. Divorced and childless, my brothers and I have always been really close with him. Uncle Charlie is less than technologically-savvy; it’s mine and my brothers’ job to help him with questions concerning his phone, to put music on his iPod, and to explain how to find a video on Youtube. In his home in Linden, a tiny two family, two bedroom apartment he bought from my parents (after my youngest brother was born and it was decided one bedroom for three kids was much too small a space), my uncle doesn’t have a computer. So when I saw him last week, he pulled me aside after dinner and asked me if I would be able to look up houses down the shore, so that he could look into renting one for the summer. This would be a house, he said, that he could spend his summer weekends at, that my parents could take two or three weeks off and go down the shore, that my brothers and I could bring friends down to spend some time at the beach.
Since before I can remember, my Grandma used to rent a house in Ortley Beach for the whole summer. She was a lunch lady at the elementary school her children had attended, and so had off while school was out. My family would spend a full week and the occasional weekend there during the summer; cousins from my Dad’s side of the family would travel down to Ortley for a day trip to the beach. When we went to Grandma’s beach house, it was an event. It was a place for both sides of my family to gather, loved and welcomed by my maternal grandmother, along with my Mom and Uncle Charlie’s friends, and—as we got older—mine and my brothers’ friends too.
My Grandma stopped going down the shore for the full summer when Pop-pop’s Parkinson’s progressed to the point where it was unsafe for him to drive, and, after his death, she didn’t ever get back into the habit. A couple of times over those years when Grandma didn’t rent the beach house, my mom suggested we take our family vacations in Cape Cod, we could go hiking, we could take a road trip to the National Parks out west. But she was always shouted down by the rest of my family; we always vacationed down the shore! It doesn’t matter that Grandma isn’t there, she can come stay with us for the week, it’s tradition!
A couple of times, my Mom won the debate. One summer, we spent three weeks in the car, driving to California and back. We talked a bit about renting a house for a week this summer, but Sandy wrecked most of the shore, totally destroying Ortley Beach. It would take a lot of work to find a house.
Our Mrs. Ramsay, my Grandma Dolores, passed away this past November, and I think it’s fitting that Uncle Charlie wants to get a house once again this summer. Time has passed.