Tag Archives: Father’s Day

What DNA might have to do with a love for the sea…

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. IMG_0514[1]IMG_0515[1]

IMG_0534[1]IMG_0529[1]None of my other finds during the week quite measured up to the crab, and I’m wise enough not to pick up a jellyfish. And what’s a trip to the beach without a search for the perfect pretty shell?

Genetics? Maybe. A simple case of inherited love for the sea? Probably. Whatever.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

A wet sonnet for Dad…straight from the pool

My brother, Tom, and I celebrated Father’s Day today in the one way we’re sure our dad would have loved. Swimming. One of Dad’s favorite things to do. We took Tom’s daughter, Kendra, to the local pool, and chased each other around for awhile. We were going to teach her to play underwater tea party, just as Dad did with us, but we ran out of time and energy. I wonder why Dad never seemed to wear out of energy with us. Maybe he was younger.

Dad loved to swim and made sure we all learned to swim well. He was a college professor, so often went with us to the pool/quarry when we were younger. 

He was one of the few dads who spent time at the pool back then. The other dads must have been working, although a bunch of my friends’ dads taught at the college so had summers off, too. Maybe they didn’t like to swim.  

Dad would spend hours playing games with us, laying flat on the bottom of the pool so long, we were sure he couldn’t be breathing. We’d go down and tug and tug at him until he’d finally submerge, spewing water through the gap in his front teeth. We were so envious — he had his own built-in squirtgun.

One day, I was messing around on the ladder, trying to figure out if I could fit my big toe into one of the holes on the rung. Of course. It fit in perfectly. I just couldn’t get it out. There I was, hanging on for dear life, trying to figure out how to gracefully pull out my toe before Dad came over. I didn’t. He did.

He must have had infinite patience. As a scientist, he understood the reasoning behind my experiments. If I insert toe, what will happen? The old if…then. Rather than pointing out the stupidity of my experiment, he tried a few things before calling over Steve Sudermeister, the head guard. Apparently, they found a solution, because my 10 toes are intact. 

Later…when I was in high school, spending my days at the quarry (the pool was only for those who couldn’t swim)…I remember him showing up late afternoon in that faded blue suit and terry cloth cover-up. He’d dive off the low board and slowly, but steadily swim out to the ropes. Then he’d do laps, back and forth along the ropes, grinning at me when I waved.

Dad, today Tom and I swam laps for you during rest break. Slow and steady. Just like you taught us.