Sunday, March 4, 2007

My parents loved the beach and all that went with it. They loved to eat lobster, fried scallops, flounder, tuna and sword fish. Tarter sauce and drawn butter. These were some of their favorite things.

They loved the sun, but the sun was not kind to my parents.

One summer, in the early 1960s, we spent a weekend in York Beach, Maine. There was this day I remember. Not really sunny. Not really cloudy. One of those days when, if the sky were a pair of pale blue eyes, they would have cataracts.

Call it mist. Call it fog. Call it whatever you want. Bottom line: It was dangerous. The sun disguised itself that day; it wore a mask. It was up there alright. It was up there and it was shining and it was aiming its laser beam through a magnifying glass. At my mother.

We were planning on spending the whole weekend up there on the coast of Maine. But the best laid vacation plans of...

My mother's face was swollen with sunburn. She needed to see a doctor, so we drove south, back home.

That was but one encounter with that bully, the sun. My father was abused by the sun many, many times. He'd return from weekends at the beach as bright red as a boiled lobster. Year after year.

I was a newspaper reporter when I learned of my father's first bout with skin cancer. I was on deadline, trying to put the finishing touches on a story, when I got a call from my mother.

" Nothing to be alarmed about, but your father was at the hospital this morning, having something removed... "

Like father like sun...

Strike that.

Like father, like son. Like mother, too.

I have had my bouts with that devil sun. Back in the late 1960s I was stationed at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. This was at the height of the Vietnam War and I was among those young men being prepared to go over there. But most of my time on the South Carolina coast was spent in the sun. On the beach. Getting tan ( as an Irishman can get ).

Sun's damage to the skin is like revenge in a way. It is ( Ironically ) best served cold. Years later. I get my skin checked out every year by a dermatologist just east of here in Narragansett. The sun I took in the 60s, the tans I painted on my tender Irish skin back then come back to haunt me now.

I was at the skin doctor's office Thursday. She found five areas on my face that were " suspicious. " They were burned off my face by a super cold spray. I'm good for another year. Cancer free. For now.

My parents loved the sun, but the sun was not kind to them. Like father, like mother, like son

No comments: