His eyes are like seashells; they seem as if there was something alive in them before, only now they're all hollow. I call him “Dad”, or “Daddy” when I forget. Now that I’m 8, I’m too old for “Daddy”.
Today around noontime, Dad came to the house. Grandpa stood with me at the front door. He opened it only wide enough for me to walk through. Grandpa said, “Be sure you get her back here on time.”
Dad said “I will, I promise.”
I raced ahead of him, out to the car, where the side door was already open for me. Dad climbed in beside me. Then, as he drove down the road, he said, “Would you like to go to the ocean?”
“I'd love to!”
“Good, I'm glad,” he said. “I packed us a picnic basket with grapes, raspberries, lemonade and tuna fish sandwiches. You still like tuna, don’t you?”
“Right,” I said. “It’s my favorite.”
At the beach, we ate our lunch, and then Dad said, “Would you like to take a stroll towards the waves?”
“That sounds great.” I reached out and took his hand. That made him smile, but his eyes still looked sad.
“Bring your pail,” he said. “That way we can fill it with shells and stones which hold some sense of the ocean. Then, when you look at them, you can remember this afternoon we both enjoyed with each other.”
After a few steps, I felt the cold sea spray on my toes.
“I used to be scared of sea water,” I said.
“I don't need to be anymore, because you said it was OK to be scared, as long as I was careful, and knew I could go back to the shore whenever I wanted to. Besides, I always feel safe when I'm with you, Daddy.”
He said, “That makes me happy.”
I asked, “Then why are you crying?”
“Because at the same time it makes me sad.”
Gripping my hand a bit tighter, he said, “Please, I need you to listen right now. We don't have much time left. Tomorrow I will need to go to a place far away from here.”
“Can I go there with you?”
“If you knew what sort of place it is, you would never want to. This will not be Oz or Wonderland, pet. It is a horror called rehab."
“How long will you stay there, Daddy?”
“I can't feel sure”
“Can I visit you there?”
“I hope so, in time. First I must earn that privilege. Meantime, please send me whatever you can-things you've molded out of clay, shaped from crepe paper or driftwood-anything that tells me, you still think about Daddy.”
“I will, I promise.”
Somehow I will. Now, in bed at home, I keep thinking about all the things he said.
I’m not good at making things with my hands. Still, I can find pretty things he might like and send them to him. Grandma and Grandpa won't go to a beach. They only like to sit near the pond in their front garden. Still, even if it means I need to run off by myself, out towards the ocean and into the sea, I will find Seashells for Daddy.