On a strangely sunny December day, I rode on Daddy's shoulders as he walked along the sand, heading for the sea. He had strong, gentle hands and wavy hair that shone with a blue iridescence when the sun hit it as only black hair can. He had olive skin, chalk-blue eyes in which a light of hope always shone, and a basso musical voice that made words sound like songs. "You have such a handsome face, you ought to be in pictures," his friends would say.
He called me his little Monk because I was so agile-the world was my gymnasium-before the rheumatic fever turned me into a falling-down girl.
Soon we would be skimming the waves, or he would pretend to be a whale by lying on his back and spitting water out of his mouth, straight up. Mom searched for a place to spread our picnic blanket, stopping to pick up pink shells the size of thumbnails and an occasional sand dollar or star fish.
Daddy turned around. A man in uniform was standing by our house on its cliff overlooking the water, and he continued speaking, "The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor. We are at war. Report for duty immediately."
To me the cliff rose immensely high, and the uniformed man seemed to tower up to the sky, looking down like a god in the corner of a world map, determining destinies as was his pleasure. Actually the cliff was quite small, and he might have been, too, but I had the perspective of a two year old.
Daddy hugged me tight, and he hugged Mom, saying,"Don't worry, darling Mary-Helen, everything will be all right."
He meant it; there were elements of a warm, uncomplicated boy is his reassuring tone.
Strong and loose, he darted up the path with his athlete's grace, stopped to exchange salutes with the officer, and disappeared into the house, while we trailed behind, Mom squeezing my hand so hard it hurt.
He dressed in his uniform, and Mom changed into a white dress with ribbons of color plus her black sling-back patten leather pumps. As always, she was careful to make sure the seams of her stockings were perfectly straight. She liked to compose outfits and change clothes, as does Jennifer; I don't.
"You look beautiful, Kiddoo," Daddy said, in his sociable, easy way, and he tickled her to make her laugh.
He kissed us good-bye, stroked my hair, and reported for duty.
Mom began to cry. I climbed onto her lap, and she put her arms around me, told me to go lie down and take a nap. Oh, Daddy, Mom. I can still see their faces before he went overseas: innocent, brave, unknowing, see the way they leaned toward each other when they walked along, in step to music only they could hear.
Causes Ann Seymour Supports
Achievement Rewards for College Scientists, Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, Lewa Conservancy, Kenya, UCSF stroke center, Academy of Sciences, san Francisco...