The same visual comes to mind every time I find myself sitting on a beach in the southeastern United States. It’s spring of 1972, and my parents have sprung me from school to spend two weeks in the Florida Keys. Dad, a biologist, is spending a one- year sabbatical studying marine biology at Florida Presbyterian (now Eckerd College). We’re camping at John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo. I see my dad sitting perfectly still on an aluminum and web chair on the beach. As I approach, he whispers to walk carefully. That’s when I see the blue crabs skittering in circles around his chair. He grins at me. I join him.
The memory ends there. I don’t think we caught any crabs — just sat and observed them.
Genetics were my dad’s thing and if he was around, I’d ask him a few questions. Sadly, he died after a two-year bout with cancer 16 years ago. For example, do genetics play any part in the fact that the minute I begin to smell the ocean, my heart slows and I feel instant relaxation? Is there something in my Pannabecker DNA that propels me to the beach at 5:30 a.m., where I will walk literally for hours at low tide?
During a recent vacation on Tybee Island, Georgia, I was walking along the beach early in the morning when I heard a dad talking with his young children about the blue crabs in their bucket. He saw me watching, grinned and beckoned me over to look. Suddenly, I was transported back to 1972 and there was Dad grinning at the blue crabs, his toes curling in excited anticipation.
Unfortunately, I had no camera with me on my walk on Tybee, so the blue crabs are just stored in my memory. But that same morning, I discovered my “find of the week” — a huge horseshoe crab, its insides having been devoured by some other ocean creature.
Genetics? Maybe. A simple case of inherited love for the sea? Probably. Whatever.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.