The Beach

A cold sea breeze knifed in across the beach, chilling their faces in the cadmium-red and yellow-ochre hues of a fading sun. The little girl in the wagon babbled incessantly, noting every detail of a world she had yet to explore, with no comprehension of life’s problems and their associated baggage. For her, this was the hour, the moment, and nothing else mattered much and offered merely passing relevance. She was only a few days beyond her first birthday, and thus it was so. Her father, however, had many things on his mind that day; it was a new job, a new world for him as well. Yet due to his responsibilities at the time, the importance of noting the beauty and timeless fashion of creation on display that day were lost, forgotten. The sea gulls tried to remind him with an ancient song as he pulled her wagon through the softly crunching sand during a balmy January evening now so many years ago.

The little girl was his world. When he looked into her blue eyes he saw hope. In her innocent smile he found a reason for wanting to be ‘better’ at life. There were quite a few evenings spent in this manner; a wagon, a leisurely stroll, and the timeless rushing of the tide with a sunset for a back drop. How many evening walks? Neither he nor she can remember, but he thinks today that there should have been more. He should have been paying much closer attention to the time as it quickly slipped away for the two of them. Childhood appears to last forever, as it shapes our lives, our desires, and our dreams. But in actuality it is brief, giving heed to the words penned by James as he wrote, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

The years, as they do, went by. Jobs changed, schools changed, there were divorces and funerals, weddings, birthday parties, new towns and even newer responsibilities. A veritable sea of change over the following twenty-four years for both of them. Through it all, I’d like to write within these pages that they remained close, but to do so would be less than honest on my part. A lack in closeness could never be equated with a deficiency of love, however, for she remained in his heart with each passing day, month, and year. He was always quick to share her pictures, or a story of her exploits and lists of accomplishments (which were many) with anyone that would listen. He was always proud of her, and others would note the obviousness of his smile whenever she was ‘down for a visit.’

On Friday the road will end. That afternoon he will take her hand and walk her down an aisle, much as he did so many times before during those winter-sunset-beach walks many years ago. He will place her hand as well as her heart into the hand of another, and he will let her go. Though it will not be easy, he will rest in the knowledge that due to her maturity and experience, her choice is sound and she will be fine. But a daddy can never be truthfully ecstatic when taking that particular walk with his daughter. It just doesn’t work that way - that’s not the cloth they are cut from, so to speak.

How ironic is it that she picked a beach town for the ceremony?

Her family, both new and old, as well as her friends will be on hand to witness the event and it will be a joyous occasion. It really will be, even for the father of the bride. Of course she will be beautiful – she has always been so. Her husband and future in-laws will welcome her into their family, and they are good folks. Her father trusts in them and believes in them; they will help the new couple whenever it is required. Above all, they will love her even as he does. No problem there. It provides him with not a little peace of mind.

This perfect daughter begins her married life under the best of circumstances; a young woman and her groom with the pages of their future open and ready to be written upon. The little girl is gone, replaced slowly over the years (thankfully) by a well-adjusted young lady ready to handle whatever life throws at her, and her daddy is very proud. But when the ceremony is over, and the last song at the reception has faded away, when the caterer arrives to clean away the festivities; he will still be there. Or maybe he won’t.

You might find him on the beach. Walking in the soft, cool sand and listening to the cacophony of sea gulls as the sun slowly sinks on the horizon.

Good luck, Bean - I love you and I'm SO proud of you!

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