'This is the most fun I can remember.'
She’s been on the planet 74 years, living in the same house for half a century, and served her country during the Vietnam War. Countless, untraceable moments have led her to now, surfaces we barely scratch as we talk about where we came from. I guess I have my own countless moments, we all do. But she has more than me.
This particular moment belongs to both of us. I’m holding her outstretched hand as I dig my feet into the sand, leaning hard into the space behind me and trying to pull her from the churning whitewater. The confusion of the broken ocean is winning, though, and I’m going to need this moment to be shared with someone else.
Chris is the combat Marine featured in For The Sender: Love Letters from Vietnam. He’s why I’m here, why I’ve traveled to this sand from the mountains the last four summers, why our For The Sender shows sponsor these surf camps for veterans.
He usually runs these camps, and I usually lead one of the surf teams. But this year we’re in the water together, along with my nephew, who’s burning his last Saturday of summer before heading to his first fall in college. We have two veterans under our watch in the water, both with physical challenges that under ordinary circumstances would keep them on higher ground.
These aren’t ordinary circumstances. These are extraordinary circumstances, my favorite morning of the year, made possible by my favorite night of the year, when my favorite people get together on stage to sing songs and tell stories.
But this isn’t about me.
Which is kind of the point.
Chris shields her from the waves that would otherwise wash her to the beach, echoes of when he shielded his commander in chief in Afghanistan. George W. Bush there, a 74-year-old female veteran here, both safe behind his imposing frame.
A lull affords us a window to lift her on to the longboard. We slide her toward the tail to avoid nose-diving, push her into the next wall of water arriving on the wind, and set her free.
She barely gets to her knees before spilling into the waist-high whitewater. Chris and I lift her from the churning ocean, both of us anxious that she might be spitting up water.
No water, only words.
This is the most fun I can remember.