04 | Vanessa

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My dad's house is by the beach. It's a gray-blue color that resembles the ocean when the sun is hidden behind a shadow of the clouds. The color reminds me of him, and everytime I'm there I'm hoping a little more of the sun will come out.

It was his dream residence for years, and anyone that knew him was aware of his love for homes with such a magnificent view. Even though he finally owns it now, I suppose his original dream included more than the reality does now.

As in, a happy family to live there with him.

My brother and I usually visit him every few weekends. Sometimes I wish I could come more often, but the rest of my life is two hours away from here.

"Do you like black raspberry? I was debating between that and chocolate chip, and I didn't know which one you'd like." He's referring to the frozen yogurt we're eating on his balcony, which directly faces the ocean. I've become almost immune to the roar of crashing waves at the shore.

"Dad, I like either one," I reply, giving him a reassuring smile. He's always concerned about pleasing us, assuming the my little brother and I will be upset if he doesn't do things right. "Right" in the way he defines it: a warped form of trying to be the best father he can be that mostly consists of worry and doubting himself.

I can see my five year old brother Jason flopping over into the sand below us and rolling around. I'm sure he will be heavily critiquing my father's choice of frozen yogurt.

"This one is pretty good, I admit," he says through a mouthful. He puts down his empty bowl on the table between our two cushioned chairs. "How do you feel about only one more year of high school? College applications start in the fall, right?"

I nod and lean back in my chair, folding my hands behind my head. I need to relax as much as I can before all of that becomes too real. "Don't worry, I already made a Common App account. Your daughter is very prepared." He smiles and wraps an arm around my shoulder, squeezing it slightly.

"I never doubt you, Nessa," he says, using my childhood nickname. I've grown out of it but don't complain when he uses it. "What are the plans for the rest of the summer? Jason seems to have got his down." We both laugh when we see him running into the sandcastle he built himself. It flattens into a pathetic lump of sand.

"Maybe I'll just follow what he does the rest of summer," I joke. It sometimes seems like little kids have their lives together better than adults do. "But really, the plans are still a work in progress."

He gets up and places his hands on his hips, darting his eyes between Jason and me. For being nearly fifty, my dad is still slim and has a full head of dark hair. But his brown eyes that were once bright and hopeful have looked dark and sorrowful for a while now. The lines underneath and at the sides of them age him slightly.

"I have to go make a phone call, but I'll try to give you some suggestions when I get back," he says, picking up the tub of frozen yogurt to take back to the freezer. "Just watch J for me, okay?"

I nod and scoot my seat closer to the edge of the balcony so I can have a clear view of him. "J!" I yell, standing up. He glances at me with innocent eyes. His whole bathing suit is covered in wet sand. "Stay playing where you are, okay? No wandering."

"I know, I know!" he shouts and nods his head twice to reassure me. I smile and pick up my laptop from table next to me. Knowing how adventurous he is, I feel like one eye is on the screen and the other on Jason as I type.

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