2011-09-23 / Commentary

Waves bring back memories

I’m just saying...
Julia Rogers Hook

My husband and I recently spent a week at the beach for our final summer getaway. It was a great week of fun in the sun. Every morning we’d go walking on the beach and play in the surf and look for sea shells.

On one of those walks as I watched the frothy waves rolling across the sand and then rushing back to the ocean, I was propelled back in time to another beach in another time that my father had taken me to.

I was a little girl, maybe three or four, and it was the first time I’d ever seen the ocean. I remember standing in the hot sand, digging my freshly painted pink toes into its dampness and clinging to my Daddy’s leg in awe. I was both terrified and mesmerized by the waves as they broke, and other kids were using boards and tubes to ride them to shore.

My father picked me up and slowly walked me into the water. I clung to him with all my might and pleaded for him to hold me tight.

He promised not to let go and slowly and patiently, he would dip me in the breaking waves starting with my feet and then my legs and then all the way to my neck. And he never let go.

Pretty soon I was squirming to get down and jump in the salty water myself, but all the while knowing Daddy was beside me. He stood between me and the ocean and together we would jump the waves.

It must have been quite the sight, this former army sergeant standing in knee deep water playing with a little redhaired girl all decked out in her little yellow bathing suit and big floppy hat with a big glob of Coppertone on her nose. Every time I’d jump a wave, I’d yell out in glee.

“Watch me Daddy! Watch me!”

And he’d clap and yell out bravos and words of encouragement.

That was a long time ago.

It was before I had to dissect a dogfish shark in high school biology and then spent months being certain that sooner or later that shark’s relatives would find me somewhere in the lapping waves of Myrtle Beach.

It was years before Peter Benchley would horrify me with his shark tale, Jaws. For years, every time I’d go into the sea, I’d hear the theme song in my head.

Dun-da-dun-da-dunda dun-da.

As time went by, Hollywood and I had an ongoing battle over the ocean. I’d risk snorkeling, and Hollywood came out with a new shark movie. I went scuba diving, and Hollywood came out with meaner or smarter sharks. When they came out with the monsters that lived in sand on the beach, I wised up.

Hollywood was not going to keep me off the beach or out of the ocean.

And besides, that little girl of long ago still believes in her Daddy’s ability to watch over her. Daddy is gone, but that little girl knows that he is in heaven, and I figure he’s still watching out for me so that beats anything Hollywood can dish up.

September 17 would have been my father’s 95th birthday. Walking on that beach seemed to bring him closer to me.

Just like I did on that beach so long ago, the grownup me looked up and whispered “Watch me Daddy. Watch me.”

Somewhere over the ocean’s roaring and the wind’s lilting song with the smell of Coppertone on my skin, I heard him clap and once again yell “Bravo baby. Bravo.”

I clung to him and his love all of his life and I still cling to his love today. He isn’t gone. He will live in my heart forever. I’m just saying……

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