I recently returned from Vieques, Puerto Rico. I have had the blessing of being able to travel there for a week every year, a vacation with my sister, Dawn, sometimes with my niece and/or Mom. We have been heading there for the last 10 years. A treasure, as travel had been a challenge with Sean’s illness, my husband staying home so I could get away for a short time.
It is a beautiful place, lovely beaches, horses roaming free, it is as if time stood still for a few years or decades.
I thought Sean would love it here. Relaxed and carefree, I suspect he could have gotten along pretty well, at least for a while. The geographic cure can work, sometimes for a week, sometimes for years. Usually, though life and it’s complications catch up.
I once worked with a physician in New York, who after struggling with personal issues, made it to Vieques. He tended bar and made a new beginning. Life caught up with him there as well, his adventures now the subject of a book (autobiography)
One morning, our little gang (Mom, Dawn, niece and I) arrived at a remote beach. You have to travel a pretty challenging road, with a four- wheel drive to get to Navio beach. It is one of our favorites. An exposed beach, plenty of surf and caves to explore. One time, we met a young man, doing yoga on the beach. His beat- up van was nearby, likely his camp for the night. He was getting ready for the day, yoga and a swim. He had long hair, no clothing on, and seemed very relaxed and happy. My Mom said, “Wow, he is a great swimmer”. My sister and I looked at each other, smiled and thought “Sean”.
I didn’t want to bring Sean to Vieques, I thought he would be lost forever. A vagabond for good. I knew the medical facilities weren’t great, especially the mental health care. Sean spoke some Spanish, maybe enough to get around, I don’t know.
The idea of him being lost was terrifying. It was something I worked through in therapy, I could cope with him being out of contact with our family, if I knew he was well. I knew some people with substance use and mental health struggles needed to be away from their family of origin to become well. A chance to find a chosen family. It certainly was preferable to an overdose death.
So Sean lives on, in our hearts and minds, and in some, their real-life organs (his heart, liver and kidneys). A vagabond forever.