My body is in Destin, Florida on vacation with other family members, but my mind has been transported back to childhood and the boating escapades I shared with my father on the Delaware River and the Atlantic coast. I am with him again, sitting on the bow of his boat, singing into the wind. We were buddies then. He was the captain and I his first mate--eager and ready to do any job he might assign me. Looking back, I believe the water brought out the best and most sensitive qualities in my father.
I have a photo of him on the bow of his boat, looking out at the Chesapeake Bay. It was taken during the time my mother was dying. Those were difficult days for my father which probably makes this photo more poignant. It is the look of peace and sensitivity to his surroundings that always gets to me. He is obviously involved in his own dream or perhaps his memory of a sweeter time. My father was never a patient man, but somehow the water changed him--calmed the worry and anger his war injuries caused. I've come to believe there are many things we don't know about our parents until we experience them as an adult with children of our own.
Today, more than five decades later, I remember a childhood on the river with my father. I remember fishing, learning to bait a hook, the first "monster" I caught which turned out to be a crab and the way he laughed as he removed it from the hook. I remembered our early morning stops at "Bloody Mary's" for blood worms and the way we laughed over her bloody hands and missing teeth. (It's a wonder I don't write horror novels).
As I stare out at the Gulf of Mexico, I feel grateful to my father for the times we shared on the water and for his patience with me as I learned to drop anchor, fish, dock a boat and water ski. All those things have come back to me as I watch my adult son play in the sand with his small children. I hope that one summer day in their adult lives, their memories of him will be as fond and warm as mine are of my father today. I wonder if either of them will feel compelled to record those memories. Somehow, I hope they do.
And now that I've given my memory a voice, I'm free to romp in the waves with my grandchildren. It's been a long time since anyone buried me in the sand. Am I up for it? You bet.