It was my 29th birthday when Dad and I took a private motorboat across the Nantucket Sound to Monomoy Island.
“The blue fish are jumping,” Dad declared, his face sunburned and his fishing hat on backwards like an eager school boy armed with a fishing pole and a day full of possibilities. We loaded up the boat with Dad’s wicker tackle box, a cooler of lunch-meat sandwiches and soda cans wrapped in aluminum foil to keep extra cool and my blanket and beach bag stuffed with an Elle magazine, books, pens and paper to write with.
The boat bounced and leaped over wave crests, my auburn wavy hair and Dad’s white wavy hair whipped and flipped in the sea air.
I was eager to spend the day on the eleven mile sandbar with Dad. I always saw the strip of land from the shores of Chatham. Dad promised I’d see seals and plenty of Piping Plover, a bird the state of Massachusetts preserved and protected like precious jewels.
I wish I could recall what we talked about or the specifics of what was happening in our lives at the time. Dad was retired, and my career was just taking off, literally. I spent too many hours in airports from D.C. to Wichita, whacking my shins on the wheels of my carry-on bag, my high heels clicking and clacking into Hampton Inn lobbies from Manassas to Pittsburgh. All I can remember was the feeling of that day off and the precious moments with Dad.
The boat anchored a few feet from the island’s sandy beach, swaying up and down as the two of us carefully jumped into shallow, refreshing water and waded to shore arm and arm. We set up base camp and Dad headed over a dune to cast for some blues while I plopped on my sunhat and studied the landscape, listening to the long sea grass swooshing behind me.
Throughout the day, Dad would swing by and visit with me. We nibbled on our sandwiches and chatted. I was still single while my three sisters had paired off with husbands and steadies. I suspected Dad was worried I was reaching spinster territory. Little did we know it would be another six years before I married with many more worrisome conversations with Dad about how to unload various free loaders and ne’er-do-wells.
I joined Dad as he fished. While he cast, I would walk beside the lapping shoreline, looking at Cape Cod in the distance and hoping to come across a few seals sunbathing.
The sky was bright blue and as the day slowly waned the sun began to lower into an amazing fire ball that practically sizzled as it sunk into the ocean’s horizon.
As we left Monomoy on the returning motorboat, Dad admired the pink sky and cheered, “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors’ warning.”
Even a fishless fishing day like our day on Monomoy didn’t deter Dad’s enthusiasm for another day and the promise that day would bring.
Dad passed away a week before the start of summer this year. Since that day, the sunsets in my backyard have been as beautiful as the sunset on Monomoy nearly twenty years ago. I’d like to think its Dad telling me he wished he could have one more day with me and Monomoy.