tagNon-EroticA Day at the Beach

A Day at the Beach


We drove north, always north through countless towns and burgs, arriving at the beach a little before noon. I offered him a hand, helping him get out of the car. I handed my mother a mass of beach towels, assigned carrying the cooler to my fiancée and off we went, trekking down the slopes to the water. I took his arm as we walked, slowly, very slowly, toward the beach. Each little bit of the way, we stopped giving him a chance to catch his breath, to take in the view, to regain his balance, and then we would proceed on, slowly, very slowly. The air was warm and fresh, filled with the hum of summertime insects and the cries of gulls. As we got closer, the sounds from the surf reached our ears, carried by that gentle summertime breeze. The sand slid its way through the weave of my sandals feeling rough against the soles of my feet. Our progress was slower now, he held onto me tightly fighting to keep his balance in the gleaming, hot, sugary, white sand.

At last we found a perfect resting place, away from the droves of scantily clad sunbathers, far enough away from the hoards of playing children, yet close enough for him to see them and hear them. Our view of the water was unobstructed; blue-green, the gentle rocking waves adorned with white. Overhead the gulls circled round singing their shrill songs, their feathers as white as the clouds, splashes of gray decorating them. A lawn chair for my mother, a lawn chair for him, and a tattered blanket for us; exhausted from the drive, he sank into the chair and I onto the blanket.

I felt the hot sun as it sank into my depths, its warmth, the scent of the lake, the clean, fresh air, the cries of gulls and children at play revive me. I hefted myself up, unpacking the cooler, divvying out cokes and sandwiches. I handed him a sandwich, his bony fingers gnarled with age brushing mine as he took it. Hungrily, I munched on my own, downing it with great gulps of Diet Coke. Mother was happily sipping on a coke; John was already digging tunnels in the sand, busily burying his feet and shins. Our meager lunch began to attract the attention of the gulls; they circled us, gray and white like clouds. I tossed tiny pieces of bread onto the sand, watching them as they fought over the scraps. He laughed and shook his head as he watched the gulls, occasionally taking bits of his sandwich and tossing them onto the sand. John, his ferreting interrupted, grabbed a handful of chips and joined us.

The gulls surrounded us now like an army, the hungry ones inching closer and closer. The more scraps we threw, the more that came. They would descend from the air, creep closer to us and wait for the stray morsels to fall. When a piece of bread or a chip would land in the sand, a handful of them would swoop on it, crying out their shrill cries, trying to best one another for the prize. Finally, out of food, the gulls lost interest, descending on others at the beach in hopes of acquiring a meal.

Bored, I rose from my blanket and began to walk toward the water. The sand near the water’s edge was hard and crusty, the tiny pebbles which lined the edge of the sand nipped into the tender soles of my feet. The water lapped at my toes, although the summer days had been hot and humid, the water was still frigid. Gingerly, I proceeded out a little further, the cold water sending chills up my spine. My body was rocked back and forth with the rhythm of the waves, I felt my toes and calves tingling from the cold, the bottom of the lake felt soft and velvety under my feet. When I could stand no more, I made my way along the beach, my footprints erased by the gentle tide.

I returned to my blanket, my feet caked with sand, flopping gracelessly down; I asked him if he needed anything. His wrinkled cheeks were rosy red; I lovingly applied sun block to them. We talked for a while about nothing; watching the children play, watching the gulls fly to and fro, and watching the waves as they gently lapped at their sandy confines.

I walked the beach for a while with John and then for a while with my mother, he sat watching us. I thought for a while about things, and then I remembered the one thing I had forgotten, I hadn’t worried all day. All that mattered, all that was important to me was this one moment, this one day, how odd that was to feel that sense of release, how unlike me not to be so consumed with worry that it overshadowed even the best of times. I exhaled, staring at the city across the lake, the city was little more than a pin point in the hazy distance, like all of my worries and troubles, seemingly so far away.

The noon hour had passed and the sun was starting its westerly trek, soon we would have to get going. I offered him my hand, he accepted and I helped him onto his feet. Hand in hand we walked on the beach, now my hands were big and strong, and his fragile and weak, but at that moment, I was a little girl and he was my grandpa. I was looking up at him, so big and strong, my tiny hand clasped tightly in his. We entered the water slowly, the waves lapping at his pale, slender legs. He shivered against the cold, but didn’t complain. We went a little farther out, the waves making his shorts damp. We didn’t talk; we waved to my mother, who was seated on the beach. We waved at John; he looked up from his sand tunnel, waving back. I wonder who they saw?

Me, the little girl with my grandpa, or my grandpa, much older now, clinging to me the adult, the woman, trying to keep his balance against the waves. It didn’t matter, we knew who we were, we knew we were happy, glad to be there in the lake, hand in hand, clinging to each other. A rogue wave, created by a passing fishing boat, almost toppled him head first into the chilly water; I grabbed him tightly around the waist, righting him. He laughed, laughing at himself for almost falling, we looked at each other; it was time for him to go back to his seat on the beach.

The rest of the day passed quickly, the sun was getting lower and lower into the western sky, it was time to pack up and go. We stopped at the beach house, trying to remove the bits of stray sand from our clothes before we got back in the car. On our way out, we waved to the gate attendant and proceeded south towards home. On the drive home, I sat and contemplated the events of the day.

I thought about my grandpa, when did he grow old? When did I grow up? When did his hair turn gray, his face become wrinkled? I thought about the lines on his face, carved by time; countless moments of joy such as this one, countless heartaches and pains, events of his past that I would never know. I thought about what he had told me of his childhood, the little boy playing in the stream, romping through the tall Kentucky blue grass. I thought about the first time he saw my grandmother, young and beautiful. I thought about the first time he held my mother, so tiny and fragile in his big, strong, arms. I thought about how he used to hold me in his lap and rock me when I was a little girl, how safe and loved it made me feel. How could so much time pass in so quickly? I didn’t know how much time we had left together, none of us ever do. I know that I was grateful for it, however long it was meant to be, and it wouldn’t be enough.

Everyone was a little tired, but happy. I thought about how fortunate I was to have these people, my family with me to enjoy such a time. I thought about how many times we could have done things together, but life always seemed to get in the way; there was always work, chores, shopping, always something to be done, always someplace to go. None of it seemed important now; the only thing that mattered was these people, this singular second in the infinity of time. I was with people who loved me, with people I loved; everything else didn’t seem important, maybe it never really was.

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