It has only taken me 71 years…..
Growing up in the 50s in New Jersey, I always stood out as the pale-skinned redhead. Even though I used to get compliments all the time from my mother’s friends, I hated it.
“Hey, Red!” is how people would always call me. They wouldn’t have to remember my name since the most easily identifying feature was the color of my hair.
Being so pale, I was very prone to getting sunburned. From the time I was a very little boy, I can remember the painful blisters on my back and shoulders when I didn’t follow my parents’ advice to limit my sun exposure.
Yes, I was that kid in the swimming pool wearing the white T-shirt. I hated that too, but it conditioned me to being much more of an indoor kid than an outdoor person. You can’t get sunburned very easily when you’re inside practicing for your weekly piano lesson.
Now that I’m a retired senior citizen, the red curls have faded and I don’t get called “Red” anymore.
Unfortunately, as a young adult, I was excessively cautious of the sun. I would hardly ever wear shorts and I pretty much stayed inside. As I got older, however, I realized that I enjoyed outdoor activities like kayaking and tennis. But I can still hear my mother reminding me not to forget my hat.
In Florida, where it often gets up to the mid-90s by the middle of the morning, our outdoor routine has been confined to the early mornings and early evenings. Late in the day, as the sun starts to set, the temperature drops a few degrees and we are thankful that it goes down to the mid-80s.
For the past 20 years, my wife, Meryl, has been trying to get me to go swimming in our neighborhood pool. I had every excuse under the sun (pardon the pun) for why I didn’t want to expose myself.
But finally this summer, I agreed to go early in the morning to the pool which is an easy five-minute walk along the lake. Occasionally there is another person there but most of the time we have this gorgeous pool to ourselves.
Last week, since the pool was closed for repairs, we decided to go to our favorite beach. It is only 20 minutes away and at this time of year if you arrive early enough, you’re guaranteed a parking space. Just after sunrise, there are some serious walkers and joggers, and even an occasional person doing Tai Chi.
The water temperature is in now the mid-80s. With the air temperature up in the same range, it is delightful! Sometimes there can be an overgrowth of seaweed, and other times, a mild riptide reminds you to be extra careful.
But yesterday, the conditions were absolutely perfect! The sunrise was beautiful, the cloud formations were amazing and the humidity was a bit lower than usual.
As is often the case in Florida during the summer, it suddenly started to rain. We were in the water at a depth of about three feet when the raindrops appeared to be dancing on the surface. Just beyond the trees on the shore, a double rainbow appeared, arcing over the whole western sky.
The experience of luxuriating in the warm water combined with the sound and sight of the rain was very powerful. We couldn’t remember when we had ever enjoyed ourselves as much at the beach.
My wife, who used to say that the Florida summer heat was “oppressive,” has changed her tune completely. She now gets me out of the house early enough so that we can take advantage of what Florida offers us at no cost.
And when I think that it took me this long to enjoy swimming in the pool or the ocean, I laugh at myself. I guess it’s never too late to appreciate what we have so close to home!