Touching the water is a way for me to get back to him. There is a pulse there that slows my own pulse, and memories there that tranquilize the pain.
I'm setting off for Surfside Beach today. I'm returning to Bridge Harbor Marina, the place where I spent the summer Sundays of my sixth year, more than happy to be my father's captive audience. He'd work on his boat and I'd spend the day running up and down the long dock, making friends with whoever was there on their boats.
Hi, what's your name?
He'd holler out, Alison, don't bother anyone.
I'm not, Dad.
They'd holler back, She's fine Ed, we'll keep an eye on her.
Or I'd try to catch crabs off the side of the dock with string and a piece of bacon, or drag across the water my green plastic turtle tied to a string, creating all sorts of adventures for him. I spent endless hours in the world of those boats and that long dock.
And when I'd momentarily tire of it all, I'd return to our boat and check on Dad.
Hi Dad, what are you doing?
Hi Funny, are you having a good time?
I'd give him a report on what was going on along the dock, someone was going fishing, someone was returning from fishing, someone had brought their dog down. We'd share lunch, which at the time was the sardines and crackers he loved so much, and apparently I had not yet developed any tastebuds yet because I loved them as well.
When his work was done, we'd take the boat out for a run to the end of the jetties. I'd let my turtle bounce about in the wake behind us, absolutely positive that this was how it was and always would be in the world, Sundays with your Dad and boats and the water.
Before going home, he'd drive across the big bridge over the intercoastal canal to Surfside Beach. Right when we were at the top of the bridge, I'd sit up as high as I could to see the blue of the Gulf and the beach suddenly before us, and explode in excitement. He'd drive a bit on the beach and then we'd take a walk and pick up seashells. He'd talk to me of tides and magic dragons. Then we'd sing.
I'm going back there today. To the marina, to the beach, to these memories.