Yesterday was my third attempt at surfing. (For more on this see “Lise’s Crazy Day in the Sun” below). And it was awesome. Thanks to an amazing lesson from my neighbor’s daughter (who has been teaching at Surf Diva all summer), a much better fitting wet suit and the seal that swam by us, it was one of those experiences where things work like magic. No traffic, easy parking, mild waves, warm water. Right board, right instruction, right wave. “Up!” Amanda coached, as she pushed my board in front of the wave and presto – I’m up. “Paddle, paddle, paddle, up!” and presto – I’m up. And it was beyond cool.
What I didn’t expect from surfing were to have memories of my life come cascading like the waves crashing to shore. Yesterday, I showered and peeled off my wet suit – put on sweats and jumped into the car. While doing so, I had this odd deja-vu of being a college student showering at the beach, putting on dry clothes and jumping into the car. And then my thoughts turned to my dad on and off all day.
I’m not certain the connection expect that Amanda, my neighbor’s daughter was such a good teacher and so was my dad. Each time I caught a wave, she thumb upped me, a big smile on her face. I remember my dad thumb upping me. Timing me on the track; coaching me for the 440 relay and half-mile. I remember my dad spending time with me. I remember my dad taking me to the beach.
My relationship with my father was as complicated as the one I had with my mother. I adored him and he was good to me but in so many ways he set me up for heartache. A classic narcissist, the world revolved around him. When you were the golden child and an extension of him, that meant the world revolved around you too and in many ways I was treated like a royal princess. But when you become an individual in your own right, the narcissist ultimately stops seeing you and rejects you. Mix that in with drug abuse that toppled my dad’s law career and intensified his brilliant mind and you get trouble. And a little girl lost her father and her sense of orientation.
I have been swimming my way back to shore for years. And how funny that as I do, the land that surfaces in the distance is the undying love I still feel for my father. How strong those bonds are and how deep the imprint of an adult who can attend to and teach a child. “Up!” Amanda coached. And I rode the wave.
This week I had my recurring dream that my father’s three story house was back in the family and I would be inheriting it. I woke up to remember that he is dead and that we lost the house twenty years ago. But somehow the dream always feels a little like restoring Zion. A piece of my internal house reclaimed. I have a similar dream where I’m near the Big Sur and must pilgrimage there.
How fitting that as I drove away from work last night, Jackson Browne’s song “The Pretender” played on the radio. I listen to KPRi – they don’t typically play “The Pretender.” Dad’s favorite song. That became about him. “Are you there? Say a prayer. For the pretender. Who started out so young and strong. Only to surrender…. Say a prayer for the pretender.”