Beachcombing with Dad

A favorite boyhood memory is walking with my Dad, Norman along the beach. My grandmother had a cottage at Breakwater Village in Point Judith, Rhode Island. For two weeks in July my family would call that little cottage home.

Each morning my Dad would wake me up and after a quick breakfast, invite me to walk with him on the beach. For me it was a favorite time to explore what the sea had tossed upon the beach and to be with my Dad. One morning I remember seeing fishermen’s raincoats and boots the result of a boat that had gone aground in a storm the night before. Each found item fired my imagination.

My Dad and I would walk and scan the beach for shells and interesting shaped rocks and driftwood. Often I would collect shells to take home. But as I look back I was collecting memories simply walking and talking with my father.

Photo of footprints on beach

A recent film (2013) ‘About Time’ written by Richard Curtis reminds me of those boyhood times. In this sweet film the main character Tim (actor Domhnall Gleeson),through the magic of Hollywood learns from his father (played by the wonderful actor Bill Nighy), that the men in their family are able to travel back in time. Specifically they are able to go back to any moment in their own life experience and relive it or alter it.

At first Tim dreams about accumulating money and fame. But his father who is a wise soul challenges him to use the gift to grow in matters of the heart, ‘that which is really of value’.

While the film is billed as a romantic comedy, with Tim’s love interest played by actress Rachel McAdams, it is especially about the gift of living well, the importance of relationships and the gift of memory. In one poignant scene as Bill Nighy’s character draws to the end of his life, he invites Tim to go back one last time to a beach where father and son can once again romp and play in the sand.

This beautiful film reminds us of what we know. That memory can continue to teach and restore us.

It has been 50 years since I walked on that beach with my Dad. ‘About Time’ reminds me that we too are time travelers and that in going back to our past we remember lessons that help us to live more fully in the present. Memories both happy and painful hold lessons to be learned. Even moments of grace.

The film resonates with parents (like me) for we too hope that our children will have good memories to return to, memories that bless and restore. To my Dad who passed away 14 years ago, I say: “Thanks Dad for taking me to the beach those early mornings. Thanks for listening to my questions, for being excited about what excited my eight year old heart. Thanks for encouraging me to continue looking with wonder at what the sea tosses upon the beach.”

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