We're about to set off for 10 days in the Cévennes to recharge our batteries. I'm looking forward to this special time in family, just the four of us.
For as far back as I can remember, I have always been like that. As a kid, I have always enjoyed our family vacations in the South of France, in the Alps or in Cornwall. We use to leave in the middle of the night to avoid the holiday season traffic jams, stop for breakfast in some pretty little village, and drive on for hours on hours, singing, playing games, or simply looking out of the car's window. When we owned a station wagon, mum and dad use to store all the luggage on the roof and leave the available boot space for my sister and me to sleep in. We had beds setup and could watch the stars through the rear window half asleep dreaming about the wonders of our final destination.
Times were different. Parents smoked in the car, wore hair laque, didn't wear seat belts and drove the windows open. Petrol wasn't unleaded and you didn't need a degree in computer engineering to understand (or explain) how a car worked.
I was mostly my dad who drove, or at least until I got my driving license when he shared the steering wheel with me.
He's that kind of dad.
The kind who spends time with his children, plays with them and builds sandcastles on the beach. He entered as much our world as he invited us in his.
I have fond memories of our sandcastles. They were elaborate, extensive, almost engineered. They were inspiring, with a story to tell. They stood up to time and tide, and we fought together to resist the repeated assaults of the waves.
My dad was a strong man in those days, dark hair, broad shoulders, and large tanned hands that smelt of brown tobacco. He always greeted you with a wide smile and dark shining eyes. Nothing was impossible for me and my dad.
He's that kind of dad.
Now, I build sandcastles with my children, try to spend as much time with them as I can, slip into their world when they let me in, but strap them in the car. No luggage on the roof or free roaming around the car while driving on the motorways.
I spent a couple of weeks at mum's early July, and I drove over to visit my dad, something that sadly don't happen often enough. Dad isn't well, and doesn't like talking about it. Over the phone he tries to make out that all is as well as it can be, but when you meet up you see that it isn't.
My dad had a bad turn during my last visit, we called the emergencies, an ambulance was sent out, paramedics swarmed the house. I held my dad's hand that seemed to have shrunk and lost its strength, while I softly whispered to him that all would be okay, that I was there.
Time has worn out my dad in the same way the tide waves wore out our sandcastles. And it's difficult to accept. He's still the strong and shiny sandcastle, with several layers of carefully crafted outer walls and lots of decorative shells, bravely resisting the tide waves.
Modern medecine has tried to patch his ailment these last years, but to no avail, it's taking its toll.
We define ourselves throughout our lives by our actions and choices, by what we try to accomplish, by who we love and care for, by our dreams and generosity.
Live your life fully, today, here and now. Be generous with others and with yourself. Model your sandcastle to your dreams.