Starting Point
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Issue Date:  August 11, 2006

Starting Point


I walk the beach with my daughter, a bucket of ocean in tow. Looking to the waves, a man is teaching his son to bodysurf, and I catch of glimpse of my past and my future.

As a child, there was no missing my 6-foot-4 father standing in his yellow bathing suit amid the waves. Eyeing the waves, he would find the one he wanted, wait for the precise moment and then dive. I would look on in awe as his shiny, pale body sped through the sea. Arms outstretched in front of him, he didn’t surface until his stomach began to scrape against the sand up past the lifeguard stand. My father, the word’s best bodysurfer!

With patience and time, my father taught his seven sons the secrets and the art of bodysurfing. How to pick the right wave. When to dive. How to position your hands.

More than technique, however, I remember the secrets behind the technique: patience, practice, encouragement, fun, and most important, faith. With these ideals instilled in me by my father, I remember the first time I truly caught a wave.

Jumping just as the wave began to crash, I, too, became one with the wave and water rushed around me with unimaginable force. My body shook, tempting me to pull up. I had faith, though, and resisted. Still underwater, racing at an exhilarating speed and somehow smiling to myself the entire way, nothing but the wave existed. When I finally did stop, I looked up and found myself next to the lifeguard stand. I jumped up in excitement and looked at where I had started. Dad stood in the water, holding out a great big thumbs-up. I raced into the water, ready to do it again.

I look down at my daughter as her tiny footprints sink into the sand. As the years go by, I hope she has similar memories. Not in reliving my life, but in sharing the family secrets: patience, practice, encouragement, fun and faith.

Michael T. Dolan writes from West Chester, Pa. His first novel, Walden, was released in July by Conversari House.

National Catholic Reporter, August 11, 2006

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