water, allowing me to feel the swells, to sense the depth of water beneath us.
Then we returned to shore. “If you let it,” he told me, “the water will support
you.” It was the only lesson, on the subject of trust, I ever had. But that said
it all. He demonstrated his premise by swimming out and turning on his back
He floated effortlessly on the surface, gently rocking in the swells.
With this preparation, swimming came easily. My father was a good
teacher. He understood that the learning of a physical skill was primarily a
matter of observation and emulation. He knew I had been watching him
and that I already “knew” how to swim. He gave me the confidence and the
support to put that knowledge into action. In a matter of days, I was
thrashing about, just beyond the breakers, in something remotely resembling
free-style swimming. Form would come. I couldn’t have been happier.
The night before we left for home, we got out the cots. We had a fire,
toasted some marshmallows, and watched the fire dissolve to embers. The
summer sky was almost audible with the brilliance of its countless stars;
the solitary light on earth, it seemed, the beacon at Sandy Hook, across the
black expanse of ocean, on the Jersey shore. My father pointed out the Big
and Little Dippers and the North Star. And then, to the drumming of the
ACCABONC Fred W. Nagel
surf, which seemed to me the heartbeat of the earth, we slept.
* * *
That night I went to Gerard Point. There was not the slightest breeze, the
air clear and cool. The silence and the darkness were profound. I walked
down the beach and looked across the blackened water toward Tick Island.
I could barely see its outline. The water, at the shoreline, was quiescent. I
could almost feel it envelope me, as it first had that splendid day at “The
Point”, as it did that very afternoon, as it now held Nancy, forever, in its dark
embrace. I whispered goodnight, as I had done so many times before. The
summer sky was alive and shuddering with the incandescence of a million
stars. It seemed the same as that wondrous sky in Rockaway so many years
ago. And, of course, it was.