Grandpa’s magic got me hooked on the ocean

“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” – Alex Hayley

My grandfather was a magician. Thanks to him, my childhood was filled with leprechauns and talking rabbits, with voyages through a hundred-acre wood, and with the knowledge that every day could be an adventure if you look hard enough. You see, my grandfather was a storyteller.

At the Pacific Beach Hotel Restaurant

When I was a toddler, my dad was stationed at the Kaneohe Marine Base in Hawaii. Just before my third birthday, my grandparents flew in for a visit from Chicago. During their stay, we took them to lunch at the Pacific Beach Hotel. The restaurant features a three-story aquarium full colorful corals, fish, and— best of all— stingrays. To my young eyes, the stingrays looked like swimming blankets, much like the tattered one I always carried with me. I watched, fascinated, as the rays swam round and round in the clear blue water of the tank.

A few weeks later, a birthday present from my grandfather arrived for me in the mail. It was a story he’d written titled, Jackie Kay Meets Big Ray. In the story, I befriended a stingray who let me ride around Hanauma Bay on his back like Aladdin on his magic carpet. Together, we met all of the fish, turtles and other creatures who made their home on the reef.

From that day on, I was hooked on the ocean. And now, here I am at the Nicholas School, working toward a degree in coastal environmental management. It all started with him.

Through the years, my grandfather gave me countless gifts. He taught me how to run the boat and how to find the best spots for catching a large mouth bass. He taught me how to roast the perfect s’more and that the best way to claim a piece of birthday cake is to swipe your finger through the icing. He gave me my love for nature and my love for photography. He taught me to search for that magic in every day.

This month marks two years since my grandfather passed away. So much has happened in that time, and I wish he was here to share it all with me. I wish I could tell him about all of the things I’ve experienced at the Nic School, about the people I’ve met  and about the incredible things my classmates are accomplishing. Instead, I’ll continue to search for the magic in every day.

And, of course, I’ll think of him every time I see a stingray.

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