Tomorrow I leave for vacation. We’re going to the same beach I went to my whole life. We haven’t been in 15 years. Man, I feel old. We’re meeting my father and stepmother there.
When I was growing up, vacation was the one time I got to bond with my father. Especially when I was little, he was always working, first in a big law firm and then, trying to establish his own practice. He ate dinner with us, but then often had to work afterwards. (Actually, come to think of it, Mr. Geeky follows the same pattern). He also worked on the weekends. But at the beach, I got my father to myself.
My dad liked to fish in the surf. My job was to catch bait for him. I would go out about thigh-deep and dip into the sand for the wiggly little burrowing crabs that he used for bait. I’d put my catch into the bait bucket and I’d sit next to him while he fished. Sometimes we talked, but a lot of times we just sat there enjoying each other’s company.
We also played in the pool together. He’d throw me, drive me around and generally encourage my budding swimming skills. And at night, the whole family would play hearts, and my dad and I were often on a team together.
Even into high school, I enjoyed hanging out with my dad at the beach. My first boyfriend broke up with me while we were on a beach trip and it was my dad who comforted me in the dark when it seemed like my world was falling apart. If he could have flown back home and beaten the guy up, I think he would have.
And the beach was where my taste in fine dining got started. We went to a very nice restaurant when I was 16 and my dad let me and me sister sit at a table by ourselves right next to him. We got to order our own food. I still remember the duck in mustard-brandy sauce from that night.
The last few years, we’ve either not gone on vacation at all, visited various relatives, or gone to the beach with friends. I like going to the beach with my friends, but there are so many kids and the whole trip feels more like a trip for grown ups rather than time to spend with your family. One of the things I liked about my family beach trips as a kid was that it was time our family got to just let go and be ourselves. The beach was where we formed inside jokes and created the stories that we still tell like the year my dad accidentally dropped an entire fish down the garbage disposal and we all started yelling “Bass-o-Matic! Bass-o-Matic!” That’s the kind of thing I want for my kids and I’m glad that this year, my dad gets to be a part of it.