KEVIN TATE: Sandcastles and footprints mark fleeting nature of life

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Avery, my daughter who took over our home nine years ago this week, is growing up and, though I’m very proud of the young lady she’s becoming, it makes me sad to say goodbye to the little girl she leaves behind.
It seems odd because, while she’s grown, I don’t feel I’ve aged at all. At my last birthday they told me I was 40, but I feel like the same guy I was when I graduated high school. Now, after less time than it takes for me to wear out and retire a shirt, my little girl is becoming a different person.
Suddenly she weighs in with her own opinions about what she wears, and she has her own taste in music. Just yesterday, it seems, she was a tiny sprout learning to walk, one who wore little one-piece togs and listened to me sing Jimmy Buffett tunes as I rocked her to sleep each night. There was a special bond forged between us back then that remains, but each day I have to look harder to see it.
This is no slow transition, either, but abrupt, like taking off a heavy coat on the first warm day of spring and hanging it in the back of the hall closet, returning to the light moments later all different and new. But this coat is one she won’t be putting on again. Once it’s off, it’s on the hanger for good, no matter how cold the world gets outside.
Last month we went to the beach to touch the wind and the water and the sand, elements that have ironed the wrinkles out of my soul all my life. The kids Avery’s age are all in transition, too, soon to be far too cool to hang out with their Dads. She looks to me less and hangs with them more. I know she sees the transition that’s afoot but, for her, it’s all one of excitement and potential. Still, sometimes I think she misses what’s fading behind.
One afternoon she asked me to build a sandcastle with her, and we walked down to the shore together. She played in the surf and helped a little, but mainly she just wanted me to be there.
I completed the job after she lost interest. She came by later, looked at it, said it was nice, thanked me for doing it. Then we went inside for lunch.
A little while later she and her mom went off to do grown-up girl things and I went back down to the beach to take a picture of what “we” had done because, at the rate this is going, there may not be any more sandcastles for us. Next summer’s Avery may be appalled at the idea. As I picked up the digging toys and got ready to leave, I noticed hundreds of little bird tracks where we’d worked. They’d visited when we were gone, checked out what had been done, then left, taking one of the last days of my little girl’s childhood with them. I’m certain part of my heart flew away as well.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.

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