by Allan D. Harris [USA]
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“Who does he think he’s talking to?” Dad asked.
“Why don’t you get off your beach towel and ask him?” Mom replied.
It’s the first Saturday of summer. We drove an hour to get to the lake. But it’s not just any lake, it’s Lake Michigan. The endless water somehow reminds Grandpa of the ocean.
“I’m not asking the old man anything,” Dad said. “He hasn’t started a conversation with me since the day I was born. Why should I be any different from him?
I hear the ocean is cleaner than any lake. I don’t know. I’m probably the only 12 year old that’s never seen the sea. Grandpa’s been to shores all over the world, places with funny names like Iwo Jima and Ford Island.
“Oh, that’s right, talking to fathers doesn’t run in your family,” Mom said.
Lake Michigan was cold but the sun sure felt warm. We all smelled like sun tan lotion.
“He started that tradition,” Dad replied.
Mom looked around the beach like she was searching for someone. “Hmmm, tradition, eh? So that explains it.”
As a ladybug landed on my nose, a sea gull swooped over my head trying to grab a granola bar right out of my hand. As Mom and Dad talked I thought to myself, Explains what?
“Explains what?” Dad asked.
Mom smiled, put her big sunglasses on and stretched out on her towel. Grandpa kept staring at the water, mumbling to himself. My little sister was showing off her stupid gymnastics as she walked by him—on her hands. Grandpa and I ignored her.
“Stop ignoring me,” Dad said to Mom. “Explains what?”
Mom answered as the sunshine lit up her face. “It explains why your oldest son is not here to enjoy the beach—with his father.”
My older brother stayed at home again this year. He never goes with us to the beach. He pretty much never goes on any family outings—unless Dad stays home.
Grandpa mumbled to himself as he looked out over the water. He stood at the shoreline for a good hour. When his conversation with the wind wrapped up, he walked up and down the beach until it was about time to drive back home. To further prove how annoying she can be, especially at the beach, my sister kicked sand all over my towel and granola bar. Cartwheels in the sand are just a messy way to show off.
But with or without little sisters, I love the beach at Lake Michigan—and I’m not the only one. Ladybugs love the beach. Sea gulls, who have never seen the sea, love the beach. But it’s possible that Grandpa loves the beach more than any of us. The look in his glass eye, as it reflected Lake Michigan, sure looked to me like love. But whatever I saw in his good eye made me cautious. Twelve year olds might not be right all the time. What I saw coulda been love or it mighta been fear. Either way, I’ve never seen love nor fear that deep in a good eye.
Maybe he was looking for something that was supposed to wash up on shore. Or he might just of been remembering something or someone just beyond the horizon—maybe both. But nothing floated to shore. Nothing ever did. The only shadows upon the waves belonged to sea gulls swooping towards us like fighter planes.
“Ooooh, look at the birdie,” my sister pointed out with her toes as she stood on her head.
A sea gull swooped in low from the water right at her.
“That’s a sea gull, Stupid,” I said, as politely as a big brother can.
Grandpa squinted with his good eye as though he had recognized something—something he’d been waiting for. Standing bravely before the sea gull’s descent, Grandpa finally spoke up.
“That’s a strafing pattern,” he said softly.
“What’s a chafing pattern?” my sister asked. But Grandpa didn’t answer. He looked over at Dad, then the rest of us. He looked around at the ladybugs, sea gulls and once again at the waves crawling across the peaceful sand—advancing on our position.
He saw all he wanted to see of Lake Michigan, finally turning his back to the beach. As Grandpa watched the sky in all directions before he carefully headed for the safety of the parking lot.