Father on the Beach

Written on my alphasmart down at the beach…

My first true day of vacation, a slow start, as is fitting for vacation, though it was interrupted by a call from work. Nothing too important, though.

The day is partially cloudy, with the forecast calling for a 30 percent chance of rain today, 20% tomorrow, with temperatures in the mid 60s. Sitting on the beach, should I ever do it, could be on the cool side of things.


On the beach, which in spite of the forecasts, is actually quite sunny, warm, and wind-free. We brought down two green plastic garden chairs, setting ourselves down near a little river in the sand, clusters of families spread out across the beach… couples walking, most our age or older.

My mind is rarely at ease, even on the best of days, the clarity of Buddha mind mostly far beyond my reach, my mind unsettled. I wish it weren’t so, but total happiness always seems around the next corner, my mood most often labeled as a seven out of ten. Total depression is rare.

At the beach my mind drifts back to the past, mostly the distant memories of my youth on the Oregon coast. I see ghosts of my past in the families, in the dogs, in the children playing in the sand. I look for clues in the slow walk of the fathers and mothers walking by, mostly the fathers, and in them I see hints of the feelings my father must of had as he searched the beach for agates while I played in the sand, oblivious to any thoughts of my father having any feelings at all. He’d spend countless hours looking, at the time I thought for clear rocks, but now I think he was looking for a little peace, and perhaps some sort of explanation as to how his life had gone the way it had, and how he could nudge it in a new direction.

But life gets away from you. Those agates he collected and carted home in our run-down 1960 Plymouth Valiant? He saved them through the years in a cardboard box in the garage, clearly with some sort of plan for their use, perhaps in a mosaic in the cement of some garden walkway. They were there in that box when he died at age 62, tucked away in the corner of a garage he’d built, next to the house he’d built, his biggest source of pride, other than his family.

Within a few years of his death it was all gone, the house, the garage, the box of agates, all destroyed by the destructive forces of time and progress. Actually, virtually every tree, every twig, is gone now, his home and his property clear-cut by a rich pilot building his mega-mansion, leaving no stone unturned, no shred of the lives of those who came before, no knowledge, memories, or thought of the two generations who lived and died before. My father once found what he claimed was an arrowhead from island residents a hundred years or more before us. So many have come before us, gone now with hardly a trace. Even the prized arrowhead is missing. The name of the family before ours died with my parents, just as ours will die to the family there now, if it hasn’t already.

So this all began with agates, memories of time at the beach so long ago, summers at Oceanside, Oregon, time at a small cabin called The Gitchy Goomie. Memories that run both warm and chillingly cold.

Karen’s memory of the beach? It’s of our time here with our family, including time with Alex after his surguries, memories of him running to the ocean with the antiseptic goo in his hair, oozing from the incision and stitches running across his head from ear to ear. Her memory is one of renewal, of a young boy and his frightened parents coming alive again on a carefree, sunny day at the beach, dreams of the future replacing nightmares of the past.

The beach is certainly a place of renewal.

I glance up at the clusters of families about us. Grab those memories, change will come, time will pass.

More later.


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