Jim Bishop: Gettin’ in beachtime, makin’ waves, mullin’ the future

Column by Jim Bishop
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“Sittin’ on the dock of the bay,
Watching the tide roll away . . .”
– Otis Redding (1968)

VIRGINIA BEACH – What could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning?

How about poolside in Virginia Beach on a sunny, warm afternoon, alternately splashing in the filtered water of the hotel’s funky-shaped pool, complete with waterfalls, or sitting in a beach chair, slurping a peach smoothie and reading favorite columnist Dave Barry’s latest tome, “I’ll Mature When I’m Dead” (hear! hear!)?

I can handle this, I think almost aloud, and then laugh out loud at Dave’s riotous “Open letter to a first-time father” chapter.

It’s hard to beat – relaxing on the beach or on the tiny balcony on 10th floor of our oceanfront hotel, watching the sun casting its early morning rays over the shimmering waters of the Atlantic as I sip my first robust coffee of the day.

A year ago today, wife Anna and I and another couple were coming down the home stretch of a carefully-planned, long anticipated visit to Alaska (“the last foreign country still friendly to Americans”), about to travel by railroad from Anchorage to Seward, drinking in more of the resplendent landscape of our 49th state. There were definitely fewer – albeit incredibly friendly – people in the Last Frontier than in the Tidewater area of Virginia.

In fact, we found ourselves yearning to trade the 97-degree temperatures that were grilling us on the cement parking lot known as I-64, inching along still several miles from the Hampton Roads tunnel, with Alaska’s 60-70 degree weather, even in late June.

Wouldn’t you like to deal with this as a daily commute to work, Anna asked aloud, rhetorically. About this time I was questioning my sanity of having the top down on the Miata, Old Sol barbecuing our lotion-lathered bodies.

But, we eventually arrived for our brief beach respite, checked in and immediately hit the hotel’s outdoor pool, memories of possible heat stroke dissolving as the refreshing water of the pool’s artificial waterfall breaks over and revives my weary body.

Life’s cares, distractions and daily obligations seem distant for a moment. I needed this; we all do. Everyone needs to get away on occasion from the daily routine, if only for a day or two, not even travel too far from home base if it’s not possible to do more for any number of reasons.

Looking back, I’m glad that we took at least one week of vacation every summer from day one as a family. We could scarcely afford it at times, but did anyway. And when I look back, these special times quickly spring to the fore, not how much overtime I put in at work.

With the surf pounding and children’s happy cries providing a pleasurable cacophonous background symphony, our beach conversation frequently turns to the realization that both of us are entering our final year at our respective workplaces.

We shouldn’t dwell on this realization, but it’s there, and we need to face and accept it squarely, this strange melancholic mixture of so many years devoted to careers in education but moving so quickly tinged with hopeful anticipation of the future unknown.

So how does one prepare for this eventuality? Sounds almost cliché-ridden to say, but sitting here in placid repose, the sands of time sifting through the hourglass, I resolve anew to make the most of each day, give my best effort to work and other endeavors, don’t obsess over mistakes and regrets and, as the 1971 song by Ocean (no pun intended) advises, to “put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water . . . ”

All too soon, after two-and-a-half days of refreshment, just the two of us, it’s time to pack up and motor back to the ‘Burg. Even though the horrific stop-and-go-traffic, complete with accidents (not involving us!) extended our return trip by two hours, we eventually arrive safely at home-sweet-home. Hairy feline, Avery, follows us around the house, scolding us for abandoning her. Ozzie the parakeet shrieks his welcome. Just good news messages on our answering machine. Everything seems in order here, and we are grateful.

Next thing I know, the Monday morning alarm goes off and it’s back to work. I’m rarin’ to go.


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