The Last Sunrise
A cool morning breeze drifts across the water of the gulf, and the mid-September sun begins to glint on the horizon. Just a little peek of light shimmers across the water from eternity to a few feet below and in front of her. Her long legs dangle from the edge of the seawall, and she slowly kicks them back and forth as she did as a toddler strapped into her high chair.
The black and grey cubed rocks below form a barrier to break up incoming tides. Many are lined with jagged edges not yet softened by the decades of the ocean tide. A fall from this height would surely hurt and possibly break a bone or two but should not maim or kill. Though she is clumsy and scared of heights, her mind does not see the possible danger before her. Instead, she keeps dangling her feet, back and forth above the sharp rocks below.
She’s too excited to breathe in the salty air and to feel the spray of warm gulf waters as they break up on the rocks and shoot high in the air as tiny droplets that fall back down on her tanned skin to worry. Almost instantly, she feels the dampness on her skin and soon her clothing, slightly chilling her.
It is a glorious morning, but any moment, she must cross the boulevard to her father’s small apartment. Today, her things will be packed in the trunk of her small blue Accord. Her journey to the arid land she calls home must begin, and she must go back to where little is green, and the air is blistering; where brown, yellow, and burnt umber are the colors of nature, and where nature is brutal and harsh with spikes and thorns. But for now, she will sit on the peaceful wall and take in the sounds of the gulf.
Traffic is light, for the day has yet to begin. Tourists snuggle tightly in their beds waiting for the smells of bacon, sausage, and eggs to drift silently into their room and invade their nostrils. They can stay in their beds for all she cares. While they slumber, Galveston is peaceful and serene.
Far to the east, the sun slightly rises and an orange glow spreads across the horizon. The horizon is now a beautiful purple, pink, and orange. A faint orange light reaches across the water and touches her bare feet. A large hand touches her left shoulder and she responds, “Good morning,” as another pair of feet dangle next to hers.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Her father asks.
No response is necessary because there is no beauty like the one that spreads before her, so she just smiles and nods. Fishermen begin dot the briny water parallel to the rocky shore and the sandy beach down further. Still, even further, she can just make out the pier jutting out from the concrete wall.
She moves her hands down on the edge of the concrete barrier and stretches her body forward to catch the spray on her face. The breeze whips around her body and tosses her long brown curls out behind her. Her head lowers, and she notices that the hairs on his pale white feet are as red as what little hair he has left on his head. She wonders why she never noticed that before; and soon realizes that all throughout her life, he seldom went without shoes even if he was just tottering through the house.
After patting it a couple of times, he puts his hand on hers and gently squeezes. Her heart warms, and no words pass between them, but she looks up over her left shoulder at him and smiles. He’s looking out across the ocean toward the sun and golden glowing clouds. She notices there are more lines at the edges of his eyes than the last time she sat with him watching the sunrise. His freckled skin glows in the light of the sun, just as the gulf waters glow purple, pink, and blue. The orange trail of the sun is now a deep red, and the sky shifts from a pale grey to azure. Sol rides the horizon for just a moment before climbing above it. Streaks of gold dance across the waves, and the gulls begin to soar above the earth. They dive back down again and again to capture a meal. In the distance, large cargo ships, tankers, cruise ships, sailboats, yachts, and shrimp boats power out of the bay, forming minuscule dots of varying shapes and sizes on the horizon.
Mist draws up the seawall and engulfs their legs as they sit silently waiting for the day to break the magical spell cast across the sleepy city. Clouds curl, stretch, and ball, as they float toward the mainland, while beams of gold reflect their outermost edges.
Her head drops, and she watches his legs hang in the mist. He’s been ill, but they do not speak of it. Instead, they take in the beauty around them and allow it to wash all of their worries away. They let their pain drift out with the tide and ride the ocean current far, far away. This moment, this morning, is the most perfect they have had in the longest time.
The pinks, oranges, reds, blues, violets, and golds begin to fade as the sun floats higher above the horizon, and the silence breaks with the sounds of engines and blaring horns. Voices of tourists crowd her ears and the smell of meats, coffees, and sweets fill the air. The mist below glides away tugging at the dew on her skin, and her feet dangle on the edge of the seawall. She looks over her left shoulder and smiles.
A warm morning breeze drifts across the cool water of the gulf, and the mid-April sun begins to glint on the horizon. Just a little peek of light shimmers across the water from eternity to a few feet below and in front of her. The sun reflects off the red highlights in her son’s dark brown hair. He will not hang his feet over the edge, so he folds them in his lap in front of him. “Beautiful isn’t it?” He asks.
“Yeah, it is,” she responds as she pats his hand and gently squeezes it. He lays his head on her shoulder when he sees a single tear escape her dark brown eyes and roll down her freckled cheek. They sit in silence as they watch the sun rise.
This is the last sunrise that my father and I shared before he passed away. Galveston, Texas
Original Photography by
©Pamela N. Brown