Plum Presence


There are certain places that seem to be linked forever to special people, and one of these is Plum Island, Massachusetts. I'm thinking about it now, because the person who will always live there in my mind is my mother-in-law, Rita, and she is dying. A vital woman, active, attractive, and efficient, she has tragically disappeared into Alzheimer's over the past few years, robbed of identity and memory, but watched over safely and lovingly by her daughter and family in Tennessee. Now she is fading quickly, and it seems it won't be long before her spirit returns to this wild and beautiful barrier island. She brought her kids here when they were growing up, and then brought her grandkids during Mémé's Summer Camp, an annual ritual that all the off-duty parents appreciated. She loved to pick the wild plums the island is named for (before it became a federal wildlife refuge and picking was forbidden), and her delicious beach plum jam delighted any recipient. And most of all she loved to take long winter walks there with her husband of 60 years when the beach was deserted. No visitor could stop at their house nearby without being urged to take a walk there. They knew it was their treasure. If I get back next summer, I'll look for her among the plum bushes behind the dunes. It wouldn't surprise me to catch her sneaking some illegal fruit for her next batch of jam.