Growing Up - Competition Entry
I watched him run across the sand to the water. He stopped where it met the sand and waited for another wave to run up the beach at him. Tentatively, he dabbed his foot on the wet sand, testing to see if it the water was warm enough. A wave broke around his skinny legs, legs the same as mine and he was off, running towards the deeper water, lifting his legs in a loping gait familiar to all beach lovers.
I continued watching him for a time as he ducked-dived under the waves before emerging again to swim confidently out to the break-line. I watched as he turned beach ward and stroked hard to catch the next swell. I watched as the sheer joy of the moment completely overtook his face, as he laughed and whooped while the wave carried him along. I continued to watch for some time. After a while, I went back to the newspaper on the towel in front of me. I tried to concentrate on it but news of the world wasn’t enough to keep my mind from going back to him.
I remember having similar joie de vivre, in the unbridled simple days of my childhood. However, something had happened to me at some point and I’d forgotten how to let go and allow myself to be in the moment. My father had often said one of the keys to living a happy life was allowing oneself the pleasure of taking enjoyment from simply being alive. He was the sort of man who practiced what he preached too. He would often drag my brother and me out of bed at some ridiculously early time in the morning to go to a favoured location just to watch the sun come up or to fish in a morning-still lake or hike up a hill, where he’d point out native plants and animals.
My brother and I would grumble and complain but he never took it the wrong way. He’d laugh and ruffle our hair and urge us on. My mother, never one to suffer anything she didn‘t like, would rarely accompany us on these ‘adventures’, as he liked to call them. I know she loved my father but there were times when I could see her rolling her eyes and wondering, for the nth time, what she’d do with him.
Water splashed onto the newspaper then cold drops sprayed all over me, breaking my reverie. A loud braying laugh sounded behind me and I turned to find him bouncing up and down, delighted at having caught me off guard. I frowned and tried to pretend I was angry but he reached out and ruffled my head, just as he used to do when I was a child. His humour was infectious and soon enough I was laughing with him.
I shook my head, looked up at him and said, “Oh, Dad, when will you grow up?”
He smiled down at me and replied, “Never, son, not if I can help it.”