Almost every little girl believes her father is a super-hero. Sadly, they out grow that feeling when they come to an age where the sun does not shine so brightly on their father any longer. For me I still thought that, at the age of 44, when my father passed away.
My father worked hard and had to travel a lot for work, it kept him away from home, each trip seemed like an eternity to me as a child. My mother was not one to do any of the fun things my dad liked to do. So I always waited anxiously for him to return from a trip to see what super adventure was to come.
I remember gorgeous sun sparking days wandering the deserted oceanfront in Westhampton. Balmy afternoons, digging for clams in Moriches Bay. Cold fall days bundled up, walking along the beach in East Hampton. Christmas break in front of the fire in Montauk listening to the waves crash upon the deserted shore. These memories burn radiantly in my mind, although captured by pictures that remind me of where and when, all I need to do is close my eyes and in an instant, I am transported back in time. Days of joy and laughter come flooding back to me.
By the time I was in high school we had left the chaotic stretch of West Hampton for the oceanfront of Amagansett. My dad was right, of course, this quiet stretch of beach was what we were looking for, miles of beach all to ourselves. I relished endless hours of walks along the beach hunting for treasure with my super-hero, these were some of the best days of my life.
There was never a summer, fall, winter or spring that we did not end up on the shores and in the towns of the east end. It was where we went. The fall months find so many clamoring toward New York City to holiday shop, not so for us, we shopped in the towns and villages of the east end, enjoying quiet afternoons and delicious lunches, finding treasures to bestow on those we loved for the holidays.
My children have grown up staying in the same house in Montauk on the Ocean each summer of their young lives. They bristle with excitement in the days leading up to our week and race into our house to stake their claim. During our week they know nothing else other then; early morning pajama walks along the beach, finding the perfect secluded piece of daily real estate along the shore, digging for hours in the sand, swimming and frolicking in the ocean, watching the sun set, and nightly bonfires. Pictures capture these days and nights, which strung together, tell a story my father wrote.
On an early morning walk, in 2007, along the ocean beach in Montauk, as we headed toward the not yet visible rising sun, my father told me he was terminally ill. He had ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. My mind spun, I felt the cold sand between my toes and the ocean breeze on my face, but at my core I was numb. I truly knew nothing about what he would face, other then he would succumb to it. As we walked toward the lighthouse I learned a lot about something I didn’t want to have to know about.
In August of 2009, my dad had lived past the time his doctors had given him. We as a family set out to our house for our week. This year the preparation was intense. I had to be sure hospice care was in place to come to the house. We needed, a folder of legal documents, a bag of medications, wheelchairs, breathing machines, walkers and various pieces of equipment so that we could keep him comfortable for the week and be prepared for an emergency. We set out so that he could have our week at our house this final time.
When we arrived at our house for our week, I was excited but nervous. Could we do this? We had relied on the support of our local hospice for months and now we had to trust new people with my precious fading super-hero. We quickly unpacked, with my father delegating from his power-wheelchair in the driveway. I carried the last of the items into the house and came out to find my children and my father racing down South Emerson Avenue, he in his wheelchair at high-speed them running behind, all three of them laughing with glee. My nervous feeling evaporated into the wind, a feeling of validation filled my heart, knowing this was the right thing to do and the only place we should be.