It Runs in the Family

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing about your righteousness. – Psalm 145: 4-7

Most doctors take a dim view of the self-diagnoses certain of us love to make with the help of the internet. When I’m afflicted with one thing or another, I usually get caught up in some late-night online symptom sleuthing. My findings are quite often hair-raising and only serve to add to my insomnia.

And when at last I do get in to see my doctor, I helpfully supply my own personal diagnosis of the ailment that has brought me to her office.

Problem is, most of the time I’m wrong.

The physical therapist I saw last week corrected my assessment of my current problem. The trouble was not the flare-up of plantar fasciitis I had so confidently advised him I had. He looked at an x-ray and let me know that the real reason every step I take feels like a demon is driving a nail into my heel is because I have a bone spur.

And, now that I think about it, it wasn’t actually shingles that other time, nor was it skin cancer the time before. Maybe I should just abandon my amateur practice of worst-case scenario medicine and leave the diagnosing to the professionals. ( I do love this advice from a sage friend regarding alarmist tendencies when facing ailments and disorders: when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras!).

A New Diagnosis

But this time it’s different. Todays’s web-surfing helped me with a self-diagnosis I am sure is 100% accurate.

I have thalassophilia.

A moment’s reflection reveals that it has been passed down to me from my father and grandfather. It also explains certain symptoms I am beginning to see surface in both my children and grandchildren. An undeniable pattern is emerging: we are a family of thalassophiles stretching back through the generations.

Thalassophilia: Signs and Symptoms

My condition first began to manifest itself when I was but a child.

Just in case you, like me, are hearing this term for the first time today, thalassophilia means “love for the sea.” Knowing there is a name for my condition helps me immensely. It explains so much. I now have a clear explanation for many of my tendencies that my husband— being a non-carrier— doesn’t fully comprehend.

For example, I am claustrophobic any time I am in a state or country without a coastline. Likewise, I don’t consider it to be a true vacation if it does not involve salt water. Finally, I suffer acutely when I am deficient of vitamin sea.

I agree with Isak Dineson, who observed that the cure for everything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. I’m sure I could find chapter and verse to back this up. I find there’s no place better for meditating on life’s mysteries and magnitude of God than at water’s edge. I love to get still in the presence of the restless sea.

Seeking God at Sunset

Now that I’m aware, I recognize the tell-tale signs of thalassophilia in my children. For example, most pastors probably don’t think to commemorate their graduation from seminary with a party that includes surfing and beach volleyball, but that was my son’s idea of a heavenly way to celebrate. And as far as my daughter is concerned, I’m pretty sure she has exuberantly jumped into the ocean fully clothed at every one of the many coasts and continents she has traveled to. She named one daughter after that beachy time of year, and her other daughter’s name means “thinking of the sea.” Under her tutelage, my granddaughters are already starting to manifest these proclivities as well.

Hilton Head Island

Raise A Child Up in the Way He Should Go: Learning What to Love

This picture is of my dad giving my daughter and me a thrill ride in his speedboat circa 1989. This was before the cool kids and youth pastors were wearing their hats backwards and growing goatees. My dad never WAS one of the cool kids. He was always too much of a non-conformist for that— the little smart kid who graduated high school two years ahead of his peers and always marched to the beat of his own drum.

Pop had a successful career as a chemical engineer that enabled him to buy a split-level home in the suburbs and a brand new Chevy station wagon for his wife, but he was never really one of the cocktail party crowd in the upscale neighborhood we eventually moved to.

My dad finally found his true home when he and my mom moved down the shore, as we say in New Jersey. He sold his share in his business when he was about 50 and followed his romantic dream of a seafaring life. Swapping his business suit and hour-long commute for perpetual shorts and a 100 foot dock on the bay, it was with high hopes that he bought a ramshackle marina. With energy and enthusiasm he set about refurbishing his fleet of dilapidated rental fishing boats. My grandfather, his father-in-law— also a thalassophile— was excited to have a place to keep his own Criss-Craft cabin cruiser. Together they tackled the task of getting Pop’s flotilla of beat-up Garvey skiffs in shipshape order.

Pop at 25 and 50: Life at the shore kept him young and strong

Those were Pop’s happiest years. Even though the work was hard and often unrewarding, he loved waking up to the smell of salt air and the cawing of sea gulls, and looked forward to those times when he could take his own boat out to rake for clams in the bay.

Even after he was too old to handle the physical labor required to run the marina, he wasn’t done with boats. He and Mom retired to Florida to a home on a lagoon with a tiny dock where he could keep what would turn out to be his last boat, a Robalo runabout. Now at 90, he is grateful to be living near family in Houston, but I know that one of the hardest things to bear about this land-locked transition is that he misses the sounds and smells of the ocean.

Jeff and I are blessed to have moved from one coast to the other and we now live in San Diego, where we can have our toes in the water in 20 minutes. Just as my parents’ home at the shore was a draw to my brother and I as we were raising our families, a place to gather and make memories as extended family, our home near the ocean regularly beckons our Tennessee mermaid and her family back home. We are doing our best to teach the next generation the ways of the sea.

This past summer I got to sit on the beach with all four of my little granddaughters. As we made sand castles and dodged waves, it was easy to speak of the majesty, glory, and splendor of the God who made the sea. Every shell, every grain of sand, every fish and gull gave us an opportunity to notice his handiwork and worship him. They, too, are learning to love the sea.

Crosswise Connection

What is the common thread of affinity that links the members of your family? Do you love hiking together in the mountains? Camping in the desert? Going to sporting events or concerts? As for my family, in addition to the sea, we all love music. Happy memories linger of my whole family playing instruments together out on the dock as we watched the sunset over Barnegat Bay.

What natural hobbies, interests, and abilities can you develop and emphasize that can help unite the generations in your family? Take time to talk to your parents and grandparents to ask them what they loved to do, what you could share with them, and what they could teach you. For example, my parents, who played instruments and loved to dance, fostered our love for music by providing lessons for my brother and me, and we have done the same for our children.

Be intentional. Plan activities where your parents, children, and grandchildren can share in things you’ve learned to love. Let one generation teach the next about how to enjoy the good things God has given us.

Invest wisely. Spend money on memories rather than things. Take that trip. Buy the kayak. Learn to ski. Get the camper. Take them out in God’s creation and point out his wonders.

I come from a long line of music-loving thalassophiles. What kind of “philes” are you? What stirs your soul? What runs in your family? Run with it!