“Papa, I’ll be at the beach, pick me up when you’re ready.”
The ocean was an exciting place in my youth. Later I discovered how it beneficially impacted my life physically, mentally, and spiritually.
However, moving from a dry semi-desert region to the coast to start high school was depressing leaving behind life-long friends, could I make more?
I joined the cross country team and new friendships started. Running along the hard, wet sand provided a firm foundation and kept our feet nice and cool. The air was fresh and clean and we’d hope for a gentle breeze at our backs. In the movie Chariots of Fire there is a scene where athletes run along a beach, the expressions on their faces related well the freedom we, too, felt.
We quickly learned to check the tide charts before planning a run. High tides meant little hard, cool sand. Dry, soft sand made running difficult, slowing the runs and exhausting us. The sand was also hot, often too hot to go barefoot. If it wasn’t too hot it still “sandpapered” our feet. There were no expressions of freedom and contentment during these runs.
Along the shore we ran close to the waves, dashing to “safety” before they got us. Occasionally a wave would be slightly bigger than expected, getting us wet. It didn’t bother us because we knew we would dry out and cheerfully forget about it.
Almost every summer the newspapers carried a story about an immense wave that snuck up on the unwary and swept them out to sea. Seldom did anyone escape. “How sad” was the common expression but few ever talked about or watched for them.
When not running, beachcombing was a favorite pastime. It was relaxing to stroll along the beach, ideally hand-in-hand with a girlfriend, looking for “something special” whether it was a shell, driftwood, or a prized glass fishing float. Some became pieces of art hung on walls, used in landscaping, or perhaps a nice planter.
Many beachcombing souvenirs, though, were just stored until reaching their final destination – the dumpster, any pleasant memories might be tossed in too.
Girls loved to see their names or initials inside a heart drawn in the sand, especially when coupled with some hunk’s. Watching the heart and letters melt away as the tide came in apparently held some special meaning, as if sealing the “eternal” relationship by the waves engulfing the heart. This might be followed by a hug or even a sweet kiss!
Some girls thought it silly. No hug or kiss and they didn’t come to the beach with me again.
Building sandcastles was inviting. Creativity being the name of the game; all were different. Some were large and detailed others small and simple. Each was fun while taking some thought and work to accomplish.
Footprints along the beach, hearts with initials, and sandcastles all vanish with the tide; evidences of my brief presence gone. Those beach treasures and memories, will any of them be as cherished as they were under my watch?
Today I have difficulty remembering those girlfriends’ names; except one – my wife’s. It is the only name I want to remember and go with me into eternity!
Recently I hit 60; rather I should say 60 hit me - hard. For the first time I can really feel growing older. The strength, speed, balance and endurance I once had confidence in is now but a shadow. What time has taken away leaves me with thoughts of what could have been if the talents God gave me had been used more for His kingdom’s sake and not to feed my own pride.
Yet I am left feeling thankful that none of those little waves in life I flirted with became an immense wave to wash me away.
I feel the tide is coming in on my life. The castles I’ve built will be washed away along with footprints I made, names once dear to me will be forgotten, and all those “prizes” I’ve collected along the way will be someone else’s to do with as they wish.
When my tide comes in, and it will, may I be like the little child who as he sees everything he’s built be washed away, claps and laughs with joy, looks up, and takes his father’s hand and goes home.
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