DAD-JA-VOUS

 

Introducing Dad, a giant of a man who grew up in Coney Island, fought in World War II, came home and met Mom and lassoed the moon!

He and Mom then had nine kids and we lassoed him.

Sorry Dad…     : )

As the June air intensifies, and the beach traffic increases, I think of Dad and recall a memory at Riis Park in Far Rockaway that seemed to recur until I was too big or too wise to enjoy the magic of childhood...

The ocean churned, foaming up the shoreline, and countless people, young and old, spoke to one another in muffled shouts. The coarse sand cinged the bottoms of my feet. I ran for relief, and the ice cold tide rushed up to meet me, covering my feet up to my ankles until they hurt. Then it withdrew, back to where it came from, sucking my ankles with it, while my feet were digested into holes in the gooey surface.

I plucked my feet from the quicksand and then oooh, aahh'd and ouched my way back to where Mom layed a blanket and bags and shoes were plopped in each corner. My brother, John, dug a pole into the sand and attempted to angle the umbrella, but it shaded very little. So Mom settled into a woven, aluminum beach chair, flipped her head back and let the sun kiss her face.

Not Dad. 

Dad was called to action. And though I knew the risk, I asked to go with him. He agreed. He always did, even if I had to wait my turn.

Three children were busy around a sand castle. One dug a trench to subvert the tide before it knocked down a wall. Another stretched the elastic of her bathing suit bottom and cried about sand, while the third ran with splashing buckets and gobs of sand to reinforce the structure.

I felt the chill of the ocean spray, watching a large woman whacked from behind by a wave, while a toddler-sized boy shot past, like a screaming bowling ball. His calm Dad scooped him up and wrapped him in a towel.

Dad picked me up when we were in almost up to our knees, and I felt powerful and secure. Even though he turned his body and braced himself to take the brunt of a rushing, curling wave, I felt its force as it hit. Then we forged on in, teammates, our faces dripping.

Oh gawd, we’re really doing this!

Exhilaration, fear, hope and trust flipped through me like a deck of cards, shuffled in the hands of a casino dealer. But I was not turning back, not on my life. This was living!

We dashed through the curling, breaking waves, and left a carnage of screaming children on the shore line. We bobbed comfortably among the quiet, glassy swells. It was not completely calm, but we were safe.  

Yeah, right.

There was a pull, and for the moment, Dad's feet were off the cool ocean floor. He was calm as we floated, and his hold was firm, he smiled his comfortable smile.

In the distance, a swell rose, different from the rest, like a sea monster, and it began a slow roll towards us, and as it grews closer, we began our ascent.

It is like we rode up an escalator, and as we did, we saw more of the shoreline, the blankets, the children running, splashing, pointing, screaming. And as it reached its peak, the top rolled over my head.

Dad boosted me up into the sunlight, and since I forgot to hold my nose, my nostrils emptied, burning. His eyes were red and squinted, but he laughed.

Certain that another wave was working its way in our direction, I rethought the adventure. 

I decided that it was time to eat a sun-drenched peanut butter sandwich and sip warm Kool Aid. It was the only time a breeze blew all day. I ate slow, crunching sand between my teeth as I thought about our adventure. But I didn't think for long.

When the largest wave I'd ever seen rolled in, Dad never loosened his hold on me. The system worked, so the decision was made: We were going to face the monsters together.

When he went back in, I decided, I was going, too, even if I had to wait my turn.

 ***

Perhaps Dad preferred to swim by himself.

Nine kids... fat chance.

I think sometimes about the courage it took for him to fight in a war, father nine children, to see his wife, our mother, through a terminal illness.

Over the course of a lifetime, I have learned that most men are wired to keep moving forward. They don't stop to ruminate or hash out feelings with a friend, at least not for long. Dad just put on his size fourteen shoes and kept going.

He is now ninety years old, experiencing the challenge of aging, perhaps the greatest challenge of all. And much like the monster wave, there is no perfect way to navigate it.

My prayer for Dad this Father's Day is that he will look over his life and see the ocean of goodness. I pray he will know that he is loved, experience peace in his body and soul, and know that the God he taught us about is with him, loves him, and will not let go of him.

To Dad, and to all the father's and role models out there, I want to say thank you.

Happy Father's Day!