Yesterday was the lowest tide of the year in our area.
The boys and I went on a tide walk hosted by an organization dedicated to educating the public about marine wildlife and preservation of our beaches. The gentleman who heading up the tour was an older man, a retired university professor and a specialist in marine biology. He was energetic and genuinely excited to be there to share his knowledge with adults and children alike. He reminded me of my dad.
We got there an hour early as we had been informed that parking at that narrow stretch of beach was tricky and filled up fast during one of Ernie’s talks. We parked easily, accidently meeting up with Ernie and his small group of helpers as they were collecting specimens in large white buckets. We joined in the search: sand dollars both alive and dead, crabs of many varieties, small fish, clams, jingle coins, chitons, sun stars, whatever sparked an interest in the gatherers.
As our collection grew, Ernie spun tales of laboratory experiments and would give out little tidbits of information. He suggested to the tisk-tisking parents trying to keep their kids from walking in the water to let the beach water overflow their children’s boots, “Let their boots fill with water early so you don’t have to worry about it the whole time.”
There was a spark in his eyes as he talked and I felt my own eyes sting as I fought back the tears from memories of my dad giving similar talks on similar beaches.
We saw some amazing sea critters, a non-scientific term my dad was fond of using. We met some great people and we had a wonderful time. It was strangely hard for me to say good-bye to Ernie as we thanked him and prepared to head home. The wind picked up as we walked away and Cody and Carter started calling out good-bye to the various sea life we had seen. Good-bye sea stars! Good-bye crabs! Good-bye sea anemones! Good-bye sand dollars!
I dumped the Puget Sound out of the boys boots and stripped them of their wet pants. As I was buckling Cody into his car seat he told me that it was the best day of his life. When I asked him why he told me because we get to ride home in our underwear!
One other thing, if you don’t mind. Last night I had a dream about my dad. It was vivid. It was the first time I had dreamed of him since his death in February. He was standing in the middle of a stream in the woods and he had a twinkle in his pale blue eyes. He was wearing his tall black boots, jeans, and a faded blue long sleeve button-up shirt with a white undershirt peeking out from the top. His John Deer cap was slightly askew on his head and he was smiling. He had found something of interest in the water and wanted to show it to me. It was the first time my memory had given me such a clear image of my dad that had not been of him on his deathbed. It was wonderful.
I do not hold dreams up to be something otherworldly nor do I try to read meaning in them but I think that our tide walk helped me remember him during the good times, the healthy days before Alzheimer’s. I have been struggling with this. It feels sometimes as though the image of his frail and failing body has taken hold of my mind and has squeezed out the hundreds of thousands of good images from all the years before. It was nice to have such a solid and lovely image of my dad this morning.