I was about six years old, in a hotel swimming pool. I felt the water ripple over my mouth and rise up to my nose, all while I struggled to stand a little taller.
I was trying to see how far I could go, if I could get closer to my teenage siblings who were playing just a few feet away. All of sudden, my dad was there, reaching for me, guiding me back to where it was safe. Years later, he would tell of how he was upstairs in the hotel room and had a feeling I was in trouble. That was the connection we had.
I lost my dad at the end of March, after he suffered a massive stroke and died just two weeks later. Today, when we’re at his summer place on the same Long Island Sound beach he summered as a boy, I’ll find a way to be near him.
My father led an amazing life — he had six kids, became a lawyer and then a judge — but watching him in water, that was always where he seemed most comfortable, most happy. Even last summer, in his early 80s, he could swim for an hour easily. Standing on the shore, we would look for his distinctive, easy stroke, to try and spot him far out in the distance.
I remember going fishing with him as a little girl, and catching my first fish in his stow boat. He had been a lifeguard before he married my mom. On one of their dates, he took her out in a rowboat. He said he never wanted her to be afraid — so he told her was going to capsize the boat. Then he did. He was like that — he taught us how to master things, by his competent, capable example. A few years ago, we were snorkeling in the Caribbean. The current changed and the two of us started getting pulled out. He looked at me and gestured to swim first parallel and then at a diagonal back to shore. I remember feeling safe and strong as we made it back safely, not just because he was there, but because he had prepared me for moments like this, and he believed in me.
I miss you Dad. I miss knowing you’ll always have my back. I miss the one person, who like me, was easily moved to tears by what’s beautiful in life.
My daughter, your granddaughter, says Grandpa isn’t gone. He’s in the air, he’s in trees, she says to me, beautifully, like only a nine-year-old can. Today, like her, I believe you’ll be there, in the water, and we’ll find a way to be with you again, remembering what you loved best.