Outside my window the rain is pouring. Inside my window I sit here snuggled up in bed with a large bottle of water on the bedside table. I am looking through my pictures from playa San Agustinillo this past weekend, mainly at all the blue shots of water with the dolphins popping up all over the place.
I am tired and would love to fall asleep, but I have water – and dolphins – and my Dad – on my mind.
There is a long-standing joke with my friends from middle school about how I used to be a dolphin in my past life. When these same friends are not teasing me about my dyed purple jeans I brought IN style in the early 1990s, they never miss a moment to remind me about my odd, early teenage obsession with dolphins.
Yes, it is true. I used to tell people I was a dolphin in my past life, with such zest and craziness that they thought that I believed it to be true. They would probably argue that I did believe it was true. I guess it didn’t help that I wore dolphin rings and a huge dolphin pendant necklace, and would make myself cry when telling my past life stories.
I had invented animal past lives for all of our friends at the time (which in retrospect I guess is a bit strange), based on their physical appearances and/or their personalities: Ashley was, and remains, a turtle. Andrea was, and remains, a camel. Halsey, with all her freckles and speed, was obviously a cheetah.
Then it came time to invent an animal for myself, and for some unknown reason I chose a dolphin. I either had a wild imagination or perhaps a sixth sense, but my story developed over time and I used my aquatic “past life” to explain certain desires and fears. Previously a dolphin, I was naturally drawn to the sea and needed to be by the beach at all times. But at some point in middle school I developed a strange fear of the ocean, to the point that I did not swim for years. I used my dolphin past life as a way to explain this fear: simply put, I was caught in a tuna fish net and died (which simultaneously explained why I hated tuna fish).
From time to time I am reminded of my odd behavior, but to be honest I haven’t given my past life as a dolphin much thought in years.
As it turns out, my Dad loved dolphins too. He used to (repetitively) tell us this amazing story about an encounter he had with dolphins in the deep-sea. His eyes would get all big and wide and his body would flutter around like a fish as he excitedly told his story.
Life is funny. I used to always tell him, “Yeah Dad, I know, you’ve already told me this story about a million times,” and yet, now I cannot seem to remember the details. I really wish I had listened better.
From what I remember, the story involved him on a sailboat with a bunch of guys that woke him up in the middle of the night. They dragged him out of bed and forced him over the edge of the boat, dangling him by his feet. My Dad thought he was being hazed (apparently there is a hazing tradition of some sort for sailors crossing the equator for the first time). He was scared, and struggled to get right side up and back on the boat. And then suddenly he heard the dolphins. They were all around the boat playing and my Dad was right down there with them, floating in mid-air as the dolphins jumped around him. As I recall, the sun was even rising on the horizon (of course it was, as my Dad’s stories were always exaggeratedly perfect).
When my Dad passed away a couple of years ago, according to his wishes we spread his ashes at sea. He loved the ocean, and had spent most of his adult life living on islands: Tahiti, Fiji, Hawaii, Coronado. We tossed bouquets of flowers and rose petals overboard to accompany his ashes. With mimosas in hand we toasted my Dad and watched in silence as the tide pulled his ashes and the flowers gently away from us. Some long, sad minutes went by. It was so hard to say goodbye.
The flowers drifted far from the boat, but our gaze stayed on them. And then suddenly, like in a dream, dolphins appeared around the ashes – swimming and playing all around my Dad. And I couldn’t help but smile. It was the absolute perfect ending for my Dad, and I guess for me too. My last vision of him was dancing at sea with dolphins. What is not wonderful about that?
As a result of that bitter-sweet day, my old school obsession with dolphins returned. My imaginary past life transformed into my Dad’s imaginary future life. I just know that somewhere in the big sea out there, our “non-lives” are playing and swimming together.