My father and I were never close.
I was the last of his seven children. Two of which I never knew. A car accident had taken them from him.
By the time I came along, he was too old and I was too young.
To me, my father was the stern-faced man with heavily starched shirt that came home every night after dark, downed a double negroni then ate dinner alone in his study. His children having been fed some hours before.
Water was our only connection. A former Navy man, he made sure all of us were sure and strong swimmers. Growing up, any body of water I thought I could swim, he let me.
Any save the Mississippi.
To which my constant protest was of course I was strong enough to swim across it.
Then, early one morning, while everyone was still asleep, my father roused me and we drove north into Shelby Forest. Turning off of the main road, we came to a stop at a sandy beach with glass slick water.
He pointed out across the water. “Race you to the sand bar.”
And then, as the sun rose, we swam the Mississippi River. Together.
Hidden under the lush green of Shelby Farms is a stretch of the Mississippi River where the water shallows and the current slows. Sand bars and long beaches appear, and for a fleeting moment, you would never suspect that these waters belong to one of the most powerful natural forces in the world.