Fifty years. That’s a long time. Its actually a lifetime.
I have been wondering what has been up with me this week. I just haven’t been normal. Well, I’m not really ever normal anyway, but I I’ll say what passes for normal with me.
I finally figured it out tonight. I had a premonition. Something which never, ever happens to me. But…as I was taking a photo of the sunset….round, huge and pink tonight… I felt a pang and a pain deep inside. It was as if I had seen this view before. This exact view. It touched me as a sadness, almost as a real physical push as I watched the sun sink all the way down into the ocean. I will never see this again. Perhaps I deduced why.
I had been here, on this beach, near this exact spot, fifty years ago almost to the week…perhaps even to the week, watching the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico. It was my first trip ever to the ocean in June 1966…
School had let out the last part of May. Daddy and Tom Brown had decided to get together with our two families and go to Panama City beach. They had gotten out the maps and plotted the course down old highway 27.
My cousin Judy had never been to the beach either, so she came along with us.
I don’t remember much about the ride except that it was long. The service stations were few and far between, and if you drank too much coke or water and had to pee…well you just had to hold it. So my brother Mike and I did. Hold it, that is.
We stayed at the “Sea Breeze” motel. It was a run down kind of place. They had a “kitchenette” in the place, and when Momma found roaches in it, both she and Daddy hit the ceiling. Daddy went to the front desk and raised t mortal hell with the manager, who immediately sent us down to a little hamburger joint at his expense, while he fumigated the room. It smelled bad when we got back, but there were no more cockroaches. I gotta tell you that’s one thing Florida was famous for back then…the three inch roaches, and there were plenty of them…just not in our room anymore.
With that problem solved, things seemed to go OK from there on out. We stayed five days as I recall.
I was in awe of the ocean. I still am. I couldn’t get over it at first. I finally took my eyes off of it long enough to go to check out the local “game” spot with my buddy Michael Brown. We both bought t shirts with our beach money, which said “Budweiser” across the front. With those shirts on, and with both of us being quite large for our age..we passed ourselves off to the girls who were there as High School seniors. That’s another story for another day….
On the deep sea fishing trip that my Daddy and Mr. Brown had been planning for ages, we caught a mess of red snapper, and I snagged a 33 pound Red grouper which won the “dollar pot” for the largest fish. Forty six dollars! I went and bought a hat and another t-shirt! It was a great trip. I could write a book about that trip…that summer. But the happiness faded. Mom and Dad got into an awful fight when we got home, over of all things…those damn frozen red snapper. I don’t remember the exacts…but it was a bad one.
We never went back to the beach again as a “nuclear” family…just the four of us, although there were plenty of trips in later years after the grandchildren came along.
The next time I went to the ocean, was after I was married. It was in the spring of 1972, when Paula and and I went with some friends to St. Augustine. That was the year Kirsten was born..in August.
So, June of 1966 to June of 2016. Fifty years give or take a few days. I’ve got the pictures from sixty-six to prove I was here. One in the Budweiser shirt. One with the fish. One by the ocean. Got some goofy photos of Mike that he made in one of those fifty cent photo booths. Got a postcard of the “Seabreeze” motel,..minus cockroaches. Don’t have all the people left though.
All the Brown family are gone. Tom, Tommi, Lynn, Michael B. Mom and Dad…Gaines and Evie. That makes six out of the nine who came, and I have transformed from fifteen to sixty five in the blink of an eye………
Except when I was shooting that sunset earlier tonight and I felt my Dad “push” me like he would do back then. That little playful shove…and then go into his little boxing crouch, like “whatcha gonna do about it”. That’s when I remembered where I was, and when I had been here before. And I had the feeling that when I leave here this time, I will not be back to this magical spot again. Not this same spot.
Fifty years is a long time. It’s a lifetime really.