GENDUSA COLUMN: The magic of ocean time

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, July 27, 2022

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It has been a few years since our entire blended family gathered at the beach for a vacation. Let me just say, to achieve such a feat is nothing short of miraculous. Sixteen folks ranging from age three to me and every stage in-between reunited for a week.  Four little ones, two teenagers, eight middle-agers and a couple of juvenile old-timers are packed into one large house that may need some repair today.

When I first saw the ocean, I was heading to Florida from Tennessee with my parents and brother. The car was hot, and the salty air flowing through the open windows did little to cool us down.

“Daddy, are we there yet?” I asked so many times, causing my father to burn hotter by the minute.

When my eyes widened to finally view the expanse of water, the waves crashing onto the shore, and the sun glistening on the blue sea, the misery of traveling hundreds of miles faded away. It was the most spectacular sight my six-year-old eyes had ever seen.

My older brother taught me to swim in the motel pool during our vacation while Mama basked in the sun and Daddy conversed with anyone who would listen.

I remember nearly everything about those magical days when the sound of the ocean calmed the soul and gave a family immense joy.

As a teenager near the same age as those two teens vacationing today, a group of girls set out for Panama City accompanied by two brave sets of parents.  As teens, we were more interested in “where the boys were” instead of the blue of the sea. My friend, Ree, whose father could stand amidst the waves far from shore because of his towering height, provided plenty of fun. He put us on canvas rafts to let us ride a long way in the surf while we laughed ourselves even sillier.

Today, as I recall such delight, I glimpse old friends who once walked along the water’s edge, wondering about our future lives and soaking up youth’s splendor and friendship’s happiness.

When my children were small and I was approaching middle age, I returned to the sea numerous times. We searched for the perfect seashells and built sandcastles, and even though I wasn’t as tall as Ree’s dad, I sent them sailing on a raft to the shore.

When I watched them play in the surf and shriek as the waves knocked them down, I prayed their futures would hold such sweet, lovely moments.

I understand that everything changes with time. Children grow, dreams are altered, and lives end, but the ocean stays as it has always been. A place for play, refuge, wonderment and extraordinary beauty.

Now, I am entering the days when one realizes our time will one day end, and the memories we created for others are all that will remain.

Today, I play with the kids in the pool and help them swim, as my brother taught me. I watch my teen granddaughter with her friend strolling in the white sand, wondering “where the boys are” and what their futures hold.  I see my son far from shore, pushing a child on a board to catch the waves. My son-in-law is laughing at the shrieking laughter of his little boy as a wave knocks him down.

Daddy, Mama, my brother, and Ree’s towering father are all in heaven today but because each produced special moments for many, they remain alive in my heart. The friends I once walked with on the shore are still strolling. We have cried and laughed and lived to see the future. We scattered in all directions, triumphed over life’s hardships, and now wonder what the future holds for those little ones who play by the ocean.

Time is precious and fleeting for all of us. What we do with our hours is what will make a difference for those we love. Do we build joy and teach the ones who follow us the value of family and friends? Are we afraid of tomorrow, or are we embracing the remaining moments?

God was gracious enough to bless us with memories as well as create all that we see and those we love. We should all comprehend the magical sound of the ocean that calms the soul and brings us all great joy is a gift … just like our time.