The last time I saw my Grandfather he was walking along the beach with his metal detector. Actually it was not the last time I physically saw him, but it was the last time that I would see him and be able to talk to him person to person, eye to eye. I remember my surprise as I stood at the rail on the boardwalk looking down upon the steaming sand, noting nothing remarkable until, from the corner of my eye, I spied his figure.
He had a figure that I had grown up knowing in silhouette distinct in my mind – but not as his. It was the familiar figure of Alfred Hitchcock. Whenever I looked at Grandpa I saw that shadowy teller of tales from days gone by. But, as I knew that I was not seeing the grand master of mystery himself, I knew it could be, couldn’t it, why yes . . . it was, Grandpa. He was slowly searching the sand for buried treasure with his prized metal detector.
A hobby that he had adopted after retiring from the workaday world. Although I knew he lived somewhat close to Seaside, that was the first time that it occurred to me that I might actually run into him.
I suppose one never expects to run into their grandparents at the beach. I smiled silently for a moment as I watched that adorable man, donned in shorts, t-shirt. baseball cap and earphones studiously monitoring his valuable machine for blips or beeps.
But that moment passed quickly as I called out to him, “Grandpa, Grandpa” waving my hand furiously to draw his attention. He spied me yet seemed puzzled as to who I could possibly be. I was, after all, the only black haired granddaughter that he had. After a moment or two of contemplation I watched as he seemed to awaken. As he waved back I began to walk toward a place where hellos could become hugs. I brought him to the pizzeria where Kenny, my husband, worked and we fed and watered the old dear. We sat talking at a table for moments too swift, not knowing then that this would be the last time we would really have the chance.
We talked briefly of family matters that, in the big picture of things, seem not to have mattered enough for me to note them; of the wonderful treasures found beneath the sand thanks largely to his narrow, metal sidekick; of why Ken and I were in Seaside at all, and how long we planned to stay. Small talk filling a smaller moment in time. I asked him why he would want to wear that baseball cap, as I could not remember having seen him in one before, and he showed me the brilliance of the sunlight upon his naked head. I joked with him about not seeing me only feet away from where he was, and he explained his glaucoma operation that would be taking place that month. We embraced as I walked him out and said goodbye.
I may have just spent moments listening, but I was not hearing. He was not telling me about small items that day, he was telling me, I am old now and time is ticking away. He was warning me that he would not be here forever, yet I did not heed his warning. He was telling me goodbye that summer’s day and I was saying “Talk to you soon.” I was but a foolish child. As he walked away, the sun was taking a bow before fading away. I did not, until this day, see that something more blindingly beautiful had also taken their bow. As I yelled goodbye, at the moment the surf washed the sand back into its home – the sea, did he hear talk to you later or did he merely whisper, “Yes, goodbye.”