Daddy Issues: The Shortest Season

Finding — and savoring — the quiet moments amidst summertime’s blur, before it’s all over.

Delighted with herself at sea, off the Oregon Coast.
Delighted with herself at sea, off the Oregon Coast.

My daughter leaned close and in hushed tones said, “I didn’t really kiss the fish.”

“Good choice,” I said.

We were in the cabin of a 65-foot boat, bobbing in Yaquina Bay on the first full day of her first summer vacation. She had just baited her first crab trap, scooping what was left of the morning’s catch from a bucket and not kissing it for luck. She’d loaded one trap and a boy about her age had loaded the other.

“The boy did kiss the fish,” she said.

“Boys will do that,” I said.

Our first father-daughter getaway, and it was a lovely and funny moment — and then we moved toward the Pacific and the bobbing turned to rocking and she said, “Are we going to die?”

“No,” I said.

We moved outside the cabin for a little air and to watch 8-foot swells roll up and a kite boarder whisk across the ocean. She didn’t get sick. I didn’t get sick. Later, in sheltered water, she took the wheel of the boat, her face scrunched in determined concentration. She marveled at the crabs trapped, even without that lucky kiss. We had lunch and I wished summer could last forever.


It couldn’t, of course. Not in any way so idyllic. We had to drive to Astoria, where my wife was working for the weekend. We got one night and one morning there, and then we had to race back to Portland because camp started at 9 am Monday. That meant roughly 350 miles solo in the car with a 5-year-old — in less than 50 hours.

How was it?

“Why won’t Netflix work on the iPad?” she asked as we climbed north of Manzanita.

“Because there’s no Internet in the car.”

“How’s your radio work?”

“That’s satellite. Hey, why don’t you enjoy the majesty of the Pacific Ocean stretching in front of you?”


It was like that. It was all the clichés. She asked if we were there yet. Over and over and over again. I threatened to turn the car around — with no idea where I’d take it if I did.

We didn’t have to be anywhere, but it felt like we had to be everywhere and fast. When we got back to Portland, she’d have three camps in just the first two weeks of summer break, plus swimming lessons. She had a more regimented schedule than she had in school. She didn’t have any time to be bored, and being bored is among summer’s greatest treats. I looked at our Google calendar, and I began to look forward to September, to the relative peace of the school year.

On the last day of a string of camps, she was free for the morning, but had one last day of bug camp in the afternoon. I took her to lunch and then we drove to Peninsula Park. It was hot and she dozed off in the air conditioning. I pulled up to the curb and tried to wake her up. She opened her eyes and looked so very beat.

“You know what?” I said. “Let’s skip it.”

Her eyes brightened. She reached for a hug. We drove home and read books and stared at the ceiling fan and fell asleep and I felt better for reclaiming a little of summer break before it was gone.

Ryan White
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