I paused at the bottom or the steps to the beach—nostrils flaring, I inhaled deeply, relishing the salt air as it filled me entire being.
Dad contemplated the watermarks on the wall. “Look how high the water reaches at high tide.” I’d heard the waves pounding at the sea wall the previous evening.
On our way towards the water line, I paused every so often to admire the well defined tracks I was creating in my wake.
We hesitated when we reached the water—to the left or right, cliffs or fishing boats? I shaded my eyes, looking both ways. “The cliffs look more interesting. We can explore the boats tomorrow.”
Gentle waves lapped at the shore, curved under at the forefront, leaving arcs of foam on the wet sand when they retreated. I glanced behind me—the water softened our footprints as it washed over them, once, twice, three times, until they faded altogether.
Tiny holes—“made by crabs,” Dad said—emitted small bubbles as the ocean drew the water back in. Wondering what happened to those crabs at high tide, I turned towards the sea wall. Dark wet sand faded into white. A few clusters of pockmarked rocks, more sand, and then the wall. A wide expanse of dry scrub grew beyond the wall.
Dad pointed further inland to towers made of what? Stone? Concrete? “German fortifications. From when the Nazis occupied the Channel Islands.”
Tiny silhouettes of a dog and his person ran along the top of the wall. Another dog ran in the scrub, weaving his way between the shrubs.
Dad suggested we explore the tide pools.
We scrambled over the rocks, searching for sea life in the pools. Dad smiled. “We used to do this with Granny. We usually found something, minnows, small crabs.”
The only evidence of life was seaweed swaying in the almost imperceptible current. Dad and I gave up after peering into half a dozen pools.
We trudged back towards the water, our feet sinking into the dry sand. Dad proposed that we head back to the hotel. Loath to end our time together, our easy companionship, I turned towards the cliffs. A black maw caught my eye, the entrance to a cave. “I bet we could climb up to it with no trouble.”
Dad hesitated. He had an odd look to his face. He seemed… reluctant? I was puzzled—the Dad I knew would have been eager to explore further, especially if it involved climbing rocks and investigating a cave. I looked at my watch—we had plenty of time before we had to get back for breakfast.
And then it clicked—he would have trouble with the climb.
I’d forgotten. He was in the advanced stages of macular degeneration—he’d reached the point when he could only see fuzzy shapes, colors and contrasts.