“Are we there yet, Daddy?” asked little four-year old Charlie from his car seat.
My son had asked the question many times on our drive to the beach. As I pulled into the parking lot, I could finally reply, “Yes, Charlie, we’re here!”
My wife Heather and I grabbed all of the beach gear out of the back of the car. We could hear the massive ocean waves crashing in the distance.
Heather coated Charlie in several thick layers of sunscreen, while I set up the chairs and umbrella beside the already established camp of Charlie’s Aunt Shannon and Grandpa Joe.
“Wow, check out those waves!” called out Joe. Charlie was already wandering towards the shore.
I grabbed Charlie and jogged into the surf and put him onto my shoulders as the first big wave hit.
I jumped up, so both of us just barely kept our heads above water. Charlie yelled in delight, “Here comes another, Daddy!” We bobbed again, and I had to hold my legs sturdy to keep from getting us both knocked over.
I was starting to get tired from fighting the waves with Charlie on my shoulders, so I took him down, holding him in my arms, and turned to get to a shallower spot.
I looked towards our umbrella back on the shore, hoping to see Charlie’s mom, Aunt Shannon, and Grandpa Joe watching us have such a fine time playing. All three were waving frantically at us. They were yelling something, but I couldn’t hear them over the roar of the breakers.
“Dad, look out!” yelled Charlie. He smiled up at me, his face full of sunshine, his hair glistening with salt water.
The colossal wave hit hard, smashing me down and into the sand, scraping my knees and elbows into rocks and sharp shells. Charlie’s hand jerked out of mine as I tumbled several times beneath the chaos of the crashing wave.
I had no idea where I was.
I had no idea where he was.
I scrambled frantically in the water, tossing my arms in every direction trying to make contact with lost Charlie. The current was still swirling around me and my grasps were empty.
Another wave crashed into us and something bumped into my wrist and then was gone. I pushed towards where it had been and felt it again, too soft to be a rock, too tough to be seaweed, and I knew I had just for one moment grabbed Charlie’s arm with my left hand. I reached out again and got hold of his arm and pulled him close and surfaced.
Charlie was laughing hysterically. He looked me in the eyes and yelled, “Let’s do that again, Daddy!”