On a sultry June day in 1984, I made a deal with God. Or at least I thought I did. I tried to. It wasn’t much of a deal, really. I got everything and offered very little in return. That day I asked Him to save my life in exchange for a 13-year-old’s version of devotion. He’d save me and my offering would be me. But I was a wreck, not a prize.
To be a kid who grew up around water, I was a little slow to
the pool party. And when I arrived to the pool party, I was always looking for
a floatation device. My little friends all had inflatable floaties on their
arms. That was like having their own personal swim instructor attached to them in
tandem. They would move through the water fluidly and without fear, albeit
vertically, while I was trying to wedge myself into a half-deflated donut on
St. Teresa was my childhood Utopia; a little slice of the Florida panhandle that hugged the Gulf of Mexico just south of Tallahassee. In the summer of 1985, we planned to spend a couple of weeks at our cottage with a few weekends thrown in on the side. I was 14 that summer. We usually split the week-long stays with time at home. Anything longer than a week forced us to the washeteria in Carrabelle. My mother was fundamentally against going to Carrabelle for anything other than ice cream. I tended to agree.
As I’ve already mentioned, and clearly bear scars from, I didn’t like to shower at the beach. I would do almost anything to avoid it. But there was no avoiding it ultimately. I mean, I was a kid. When a parent told me I had to shower, I had to shower. And sometimes, the salt gumming up in my arm hairs was motivation enough.
My granddaddy was a grocer. He owned White’s IGA on the corner of Tennessee Street across from Leon High School in Tallahassee. By the time I was old enough to be curious, that IGA had become a coin collector’s business and my granddaddy was long gone. He died when I was 2. I’m told that I walked around to every relative who would look my direction and asked “where’s Granddaddy?” when we were back in town for his funeral. Talk about salt in a wound. I never did know when to shut up. I still don’t.