Testing the Waters
Nothing Like the Real Thing

Sunshowers and Starlight

Charlie boogie-boarding on a beautiful day at the ocean After a rainy beach Saturday, we went back down the Garden State Parkway just around noon on Sunday. The weather forecast promised sunshine and meteorologists were right.

They just didn't mention that sometimes it would be raining---even pouring---at the same time as the sun was beaming down. 

This happened both as we drove down and returned.  Charlie had (as he often does) dozed off in the back seat and Jim and I found ourselves casting furrowed eyebrow sort of looks towards the sky as we noted a big grey cloud overhead. Jim kept pointing left towards where the beach was, and where the sky was clear.

Indeed, for the time we were at the beach, it was all clear blue skies and sun. Charlie was as eager as ever to get in the water and led the way, boogie board held high in front of him. 

It was one of those days when the wind was coming from the ocean and there wasn't much of a current. We came at low tide, so it was possible to wade quite far out and still be in shallow water. Much further out we could see a line of waves that broke straight (well, seemingly straight) down, without a crest that curled out into foam. These latter sort of waves are what Charlie prefers, especially when the ocean is on the rougher side: He likes water with action.

It was waves of the former type that were long what I favored, when Charlie was younger and especially when he was still at the 'no, no!' stage of swimming in the ocean, the no's being uttered in genuine alarm whenever Jim and I let him go in water that was anything too deep by Charlie's then-standards. I was not not much of a swimmer in those days; every time I went in, I knew there'd be a moment when I wouldn't see a wave (sometimes because I was busy carrying Charlie) and I'd (sometimes, we'd) be knocked down and out under the water. Now it's the waves that crash and splat and pull and swirl hard around him that Charlie prefers. 

And the tricky thing about Sunday was that, to get to those waves, Charlie had to go way way out into the ocean. Way, way out. So that, the only way for Jim and me to get him to stay between the orange flags was to go out into the waves after him and then try, through a halting language of gestures and a few words, to direct him to where he should swim. He wasn't thrilled to find me swimming beside him; I suspected he assumed my being in the water meant he had to come back, and it was quite to the contrary. Jim got the same less than thrilled response from our boy in the ocean; Charlie tended to swim at the very edge of the imaginary line indicated by the lifeguards' flags (a spot he tends to place himself at, in rooms and when walking or riding his bike down the street) and thus was constantly on the verge of getting whistled at.

Negotiating independence with an adolescent ('developmental delays' or not) takes some effort.

Charlie was a in grumbling mode when, after 20 minutes, he came out of the water and ran up and down the beach to show his aggravation. Fortunately, being at the beach, we simply directed him to run back into the water, where he was able to swim out his annoyance and we ended up staying for quite a bit longer, with Charlie swimming under waves and going backwards headfirst under waves and generally acting like a dolphin.

Too bad there's not always an ocean around near our house for assuaging irritability!---guess we'll have to keep riding bikes and walking.

We did both Sunday evening. We'd left the beach early enough that we practically zipped home on the Parkway. Charlie smiled broadly for the most of the ride, then started crying in short, distressed bursts as we got closer to home---maybe his stomach, maybe (despite a liberal dousing of sunscreen) the effects of too much sun? 

Once we pulled up into our driveway, Charlie wanted a bike ride immediately and off he and Jim went. The three of us also went on a walk (after Charlie had had a quite big dinner). As we turned a corner onto a busy and very well-lit thoroughfare (to the point that you could read a book; it's that bright) and felt a bit of a breeze, I thought of how, during our past beach vacations, we used (until the past few years, when Charlie objected to such) to take long walks beside the ocean under the moon and stars. Last night, he walked at a steady and sure pace a few feet ahead of me, and sometimes when a streetlight shown on his face I could see that he was grinning.

Rain while the sun is out, and bright light under a night sky. 

I don't mean to wax all poetic on you but those oxymorons---paradoxes---are the stuff of our each and every day on the long road with Charlie.



Not to rain on Charlie's parade (yes, a terrible pun) but it is not safe to be in the water when there is the chance of a lightning strike. (You are forced to get out of municipal pools in event of a thunderstorm, for instance.) While it seems unlikely, there still is a chance of electrocution if lightning strikes within a 30-yard distance. It's probably a difficult concept to explain to Charlie once you've driven that far to get there.


I am in complete awe of your patience with Charlie and your willingness to dedicate what seems to be your entire lives to his happiness and continued peacefulness. It's almost like a life of spiritual vocation that I am reading here in your blog. In many ways, it seems obvious that it is.

Kristina Chew

Hi Louise,

Yes, a vocation it is, and one we more than embrace!

We're quite aware of that regarding lightning; thank you. There was no lightning Sunday at the particular beach we were at.

When Charlie was younger and liked to swim in the pool, we had many a long wait when he had to get out of it due to lightning.


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