I Credit My Father
As punctual as daybreak, as constant as the tides, it is a memory that returns to me every single time I walk along a lonely beach at twilight. The wonderfully reliable recollection floods my senses and I find that, once again, it takes no effort to see myself as I once was - a little girl, holding the hand of my father, trying without success to match his stride in the sand as we strolled along in the light of a setting seaside sun. We would stand with our eyes on the dark stripe of horizon as the sea stole the sand away beneath our bare feet, grain by grain, as though in an hourglass, causing us to sidestep to firmer footing every minute or so. The wind would whip and whisper. And my Father would tell me stories.
“Look”, he’d say. “Way out there. As far as you can see, and then a bit more. Can you see it?”
“See what?”, I’d ask, my little eyes squinting as they stared at that mysterious place where sea becomes sky.
“Oh, there’s so much to see”, he’d reply. “There are creatures, way down in the water, creatures taller than buildings, creatures that can fill up the sky. Monsters and heroes, angels and witches, good things and bad things.”
“Dogs?”, I would ask, hopefully.
“Maybe, “ came the reply.
And I would stare and stare, my eyes stinging, with my little heart throbbing halfway in hope and halfway in fear. And just the night took over the day, I would squeal....”I think I can see it, Daddy! I see someone walking out over the sea! Someone really big! Can you see him??”
“Of course I can, Squirt. You bet I can.”
Sometimes at night when Edward lays quietly beside me as I read before bed, I catch him looking up at me, his big brown eyes a mirror of his devoted soul, and I’m almost certain he’s getting ready to speak. There is a part of me that would not be at all surprised. I watch the crowds in airports, wondering which of these people might be in disguise. Which ones are angels? Who is here from a different time? I think the owls speak in a lyrical language I have yet to learn. I think there just might be those around me I cannot see, busying themselves in work of which I know nothing. I don’t have to talk myself into this way of seeing the world; it is as much as part of me as breathing. And of course, I credit my Father.
My imagination was awakened on those seaside walks when I was little. My Father told me stories that erased a flat and monochrome world forever, stories that sparked and crackled as they opened door after door in the halls of my mind, doors that, once opened, can never be closed. When I weary of a world too often as insipid as it is cruel, it is to these rooms that I flee, finding comfort in the colour inside them - the light, the knowledge, the joy.
A couple of weeks ago, I stood again by the sea in the blue black light of approaching darkness. My Father has been gone from this world seven years now, but just as he taught me all those years ago, I watched the horizon - staring hard, eyes stinging - in anticipation, hope, and a little bit of fear. And just as the stars began to prick through the blue velvet sky, I could see him. Walking along the ribbon of night - as tall as a giant, as solid as a rainbow.
“Do you see him, Daddy?
“You bet I do, honey. You bet I do.”