June 11, 1983
“Who’s he talking to?” Dad asked.
“Why don’t you get off your beach towel and go ask him?” Mom replied.
Here we are. It’s the first Saturday after the last day of school. We drove almost two whole hours to the lake. Not just any lake…Lake Michigan. It reminds Grandpa of the ocean…except there are no dolphins, no jellyfish, no hermit crabs, no salty taste, and no crashing waves.
“I’m not asking him anything,” Dad said.
I hear the ocean is cleaner than any lake. I don’t know. I have never been to the ocean.
“Oh, that’s right…you don’t talk to your father,” Mom said.
Lake Michigan is cold but the sun is warm. We all smell like sun tan lotion.
“He started it,” Dad replied.
Mom looked around the beach like she was searching for someone. “Hmmm…so that explains it,” she said.
As a Ladybug landed on my notebook a Sea Gull swooped over my head trying to grab the melting Kit Kat out of my hand. I was confused. I thought to myself, ‘Explains what?’
“Explains what?” Dad asked.
Mom smiled, put her big sunglasses on and laid back down on her beach towel. Grandpa kept staring over the water, mumbling to himself. Shelby was showing off her gymnastics as she walked by him…on her hands. Grandpa and me 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.”
Rob stayed at home. He and his teenage band, the Death Row Bodines, are busy looking for a new garage or basement to practice in. They are just loud enough that none of the band members’ parents want to listen to them anymore.
Grandpa appeared to be mumbling to himself as he stared at the Great Lake for over an hour. When his conversation with the wind was over he walked up and down the beach until it was time to drive back home. Shelby kept annoying me by kicking sand on my blanket and my journal and my Kit Kat as she did cartwheels near my head.
With or without annoying sisters, I like the beach at Lake Michigan. I’m not the only one. Lady Bugs love the beach. Sea Gulls who, like me, have never been to the sea…love the beach. But it’s possible Grandpa loves the beach more than any of us, more than the Lady Bugs or even the Sea Gulls. At least I hope that’s love in his glaring eyes. The look in his glass eye as it reflects Lake Michigan sure looks like love. But his good eye…I’m not so sure. It could be love, or it could be fear. Either way, I have never seen love or fear that deep in a good eye.
Grandpa might be looking for something carried in by the waves. Or he might be remembering someone beyond the horizon. Maybe he’s doing both. But nothing floats to shore again this year. The only shadows beyond the waves are those of Sea Gulls swooping towards us like fighter planes, sea gulls who have never seen the sea.
"Ooooh, look at the birdie," Shelby 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 could.
Grandpa finally spoke up. "That's a strafing pattern."