I'm not sure when I realized that my father was a person that you would call, accident prone but I think it was shortly after a few events in the British Virgin Islands.
As I described in my last blog, these accidents seem to take place on or near a beach.
A memorable day in particular was again on the island of Tortola at a glorious, deserted, white sand paradise called, Elizabeth Bay. Unfortunately, now there is a large resort, but when we used to visit, there was only two small cabins which always seemed deserted. This story also occurs before my wee boy came into this world, his whereabouts evident by the enormous pink dress I had to wear (only piece of clothing that would house me). Ugh! not a fan of pink, but my daughter, Alana loved it.
Anyway, Alana and her friend, my visiting father, our dog, Una and I drove the zig zaggy road over the brow of the hill, down towards the perfect palm treed beach, a dreamy sanctuary of a place. This is where we were to enjoy our picnic. As I suspected, we were the only occupants. The girls peeled off their dresses, and began to construct sand castles decorated with pastel coloured seashells found littered along the seashore. All very idealistic, but that's the way it was. I savour these delicious moments of my life.
The swells at Elizabeth beach should have been a surfer's dream but as far as I knew, the waves remained undiscovered.
My father in his captain's hat, bright blue shorts, navy shirt and up market flip flops, decided to take a stroll; a natural desire in a perfect place on a perfect sunny day. The surf was strong and my Dad assured me that he would not be swimming. The girls and I stayed within the shade of the palms and they chatted happily inventing their make believe world.
What seemed like a short time, Alana stopped in her play and pointed down the beach, "Look Mummy, Grandaddy has just gone under."
"What?" I turned in his direction but failed to see him. Waddling as fast as I could as the girls ran ahead with Una who bounded along happy to be on a walk, I found one of Dad's flip flops about to be carried away with the flow of a receding wave. Alana then shouted, "There he is!"
All I saw was an outstretched arm rising above the crest of a wave, reaching towards the heavens.
Struggling with the idea of rescue, with my pregnant belly and leaving 2 four year olds on the beach to try and save a man over seventy, did not seem like a prospect with a positive outcome. So I reluctantly decided to stay and watch. Soon he breached like a whale spouting water and body surfed amateurishly into shore. He landed practically at my feet on his belly. "Grandaddy, can you do that again?"
Stunned, I helped him up and he stumbled, but managed to reply, "No, I don't think so dear." He removed his cap which miraculously was still on his head and we made our way back to the picnic site.
Peanut butter and banana as well as cheese and tomato sandwiches were consumed and I poured Dad his British tea from a flask. "Dad what the hell happened? I thought you were a goner."
He stood holding his one flip flop, gulped his tea, then said, "Well the sea snatched one of my shoes and I decided to go after it, but I couldn't find it. I think I'll walk down again and see if it's washed up."
"No Dad, we're going in a minute and the waves are getting rougher."
"But Lass, I bought them especially for this trip!"
"Crikey Dad, you nearly drowned. We're going now." I started to gather up all our stuff, I was afraid, he'd go off again, as he could be very stubborn.
He sat down on his folding deck chair, gazing out to the horizon, his gray hair stiff with saltwater, plastered to the side of his head. The girls happily cooperated with the news we would go in the pool once we returned and we loaded up the jeep along with Una who jumped in and sat on the folded blanket.
"Come on Dad, we're going." The children were strapped into their seats.
I started up the engine and he slowly got up, folding his chair, stowing it, and climbed into the passenger seat and then he made one more long plea to go and look for his flip flop.
"Dad, will you stop going on about your damned flip flop. It's gone, just accept it!"
He sighed deeply as if he'd lost a good friend and reached for his breast pocket, took out his pack of cigarettes, retrieved one and placed it between his lips, as he fumbled to find his lighter. The cigarette drooped to his chin in its sogginess and I suppressed my laughter as he looked even sadder.
Alana, who always knew what to say, (and still does) said, "Poor Grandaddy, can't even smoke anymore." Then she pulled off her one of her own flip flops and offered to him as a gift. "Here you go Grandaddy, you can have my shoe."
I stared at him, worried as he could sometimes turn a small situation into a gloomy mood that could last for hours, but he looked at his grand daughter and smiled then finally began to laugh.
She scolded, "You're good at surfing, but next time you shouldn't wear all your clothes."
"You're right darling!" and he laughed again, throwing his cigarette out the window.
Photo on the Day, before he went under.
And because this is the 10th Anniversary of my Father's Death, here's another one of him in Tortola, I miss you Dad.
A Survivor of WW II and the surf at Elizabeth Beach.