Sunday, 21 December 2008

Journey - a story in 16 parts. J4 BODY SURFING

Having mastered the basics, next came catching “shoots” - swimming onto unbroken waves and riding them to the shore arms by our sides travelling like missiles. We followed the advice dad offered and body surfing seemed to come naturally.
We two brothers would practice, always measuring our skills against each other. Catch the same wave; punch the air and whoop in triumph even when only a matter of inches and some dodgy practices separated us; race back through the lines of white surging towards us, smashing our chests into each and being slapped in the face by nature for our impudence, to do it all again.

Meanwhile dad would have disappeared “out back” for what seemed like hours. Mum certainly felt the hours. Ever faithful, she would sit, read, doze under the brolly patiently waiting for the return of her man. His role was to be the water hero; hers was to apply sunscreen, pass out hats, keep us hydrated, break up fights and at regular intervals wander to the shallows where she would spend time bobbing. She was never a surfer. She was a suburban Sydney girl from the inner western suburbs.

My father, who’d never had a swimming lesson in his life but had grown up on the banks of the Richmond River knew the secret. We watched him. He watched us. We strived to beat him and eventually did. We’d learnt from an expert.

It was on one of these beach holidays that I had my first inkling that my father was not immortal. Inexplicably he declined an invitation to join us boys in tackling a pretty decent surf. The ear plugs he’d used as his only artificial aid in his years of surfing lay unused in the side pocket of the beach bag. He never ventured beyond the broken surf again. He was probably only sixty. Still a young man in my eyes despite the years.

The final photo in this collection would see an old man wobbling across the same stretch of sand, supported on either side by a son and his daughter-in-law, making his last pilgrimage to his beloved Currumbin. Everyone in the photo knows the truth. If you look closely at the photo you can see the pain in their eyes - knowing what they all know and not wanting to speak about it.


Zen Quill said...

This was lovely - very vivid imagery for me and a tugging of the heart strings in the closing paragraph for sure.

Leithal said...

Such beautiful writing again Steve. All your Journey stories have reminded me of events in my past I hadn't thought about for so long. Thank you for that. The last paragraph. A huge tug of the heartstrings.

Alex Daw said...

Mums who don't swim....I think this is worth Mum wasn't keen on swimming either....also from inner western suburbs of Sydney....never liked to put her head under water....I kept her one pair of blackwatch tartan ....very decorous ....bathers for quite a few years after she died until I realised how ridiculous it was to keep them...swimming - what is it? it's a submission isn't it? giving up to nature's forces...nothing used to make me more weepy than taking the kids to learn to swim at John Carew - I'd walk in the door, hear the echoy voices, smell the chlorine and my throat would start to constrict with emotion.....bloody useless git that I am