"That was unexpected," Elias would say later, when we changed into dry clothes, and sat together on the couch, my arm around his broad shoulders.
"Yes, yes it was."
Even more unexpected, for me, is that my son didn't perseverate on the loss-- on the wave that knocked him over and carried one of his canes out to sea.
During a break in the rain, Elias stands waist deep in the Atlantic, supporting himself with the help of the forearm crutches that we have always called canes.
Papa and the kids have created names for different waves--toe tappers, ankle biters, knee knockers, waist washers, chest beaters, head bangers...
Neither of my kids can swim--call it faulty parenting or a downfall of frigid Alaskan waters--so they tend to avoid the chest beaters and head bangers.
I stand behind Elias and Olive, ankle deep, taking pictures. The kids run from the waves and then trudge back out through the salty water to do it again. A game played by children on every coast, in every generation, who squeal in every language as they flee to the safety of shore.
I see the two waves merging behind my kids, coming together to form one larger wave--they run towards me, Olive smiling, Elias's face pinched with fear. Olive reaches me first, more agile in water and land than her older brother, just as the wave knocks Elias to his knees, only to be hit by a second wave that washes over his head.
I see him let go of one cane as I rush towards my teenage son and pull him up beneath the arms. By the time I look down, beyond my boy, the cane is gone, somewhere below the murky surface.
Kathy walks out to meet us, I hand her my phone and she escorts our shaken boy to shore, with Olive running ahead.
Bruce joins me in the water and so does a young couple from Maine, the only other folks on the beach on this grey day with a pocket of blue, all four of us fully dressed, dragging our feet across the sandy bottom, hoping to feel the plastic and steal of Elias's cane.
Elias's crutch-- for our boy who can walk unassisted, with precarious balance, with the swagger of a drunk, but amble he can, better than we could have dreamed when he still crawled as a three-year-old; we have wanted Elias to switch from two canes to one, he stands more upright, doesn't drag his right foot as much, has a free hand for holding and carrying--but he is also a kid soothed by the familiar, daunted by change, and has refused to leave one cane at home.
The sea just changed all that.
I walk out further, through chest beater waves, hoping something hard will smack my thigh, that my toes will find the rare straight line in a circular sea. The man from Maine walks out with me, as his partner and Bruce scour the water closer to shore.
"We saw the whole thing happen," the man says. "Could you see his cane when he fell?"
"Yep, but by the time I picked him up it was gone," I say. "Thanks for coming in too-- I bet you werent planning on swimming today?"
"We're from Maine so this is warm."
"For us too, we're from Alaska."
And the water is warm, and I dive under the next wave, in my skirt and sweatshirt, thinking if I'm already this wet, I might as well go under, my first swim of the trip that has not yet been graced with full sunshine.
I look back at the shore, at my children who stand with their Grandmother watching us out in the water, and imagine Elias in tears, repeating: I didn't want that to happen.
I didn't think Olive would be the one in tears, worried about her Mom out so far in the big waves. "I want my Mommy to come back, " she told Grandma, and then finally ran back to the house and burst in the door where she cried to Nick and Nana and Papa: "I think they need help!"
From the water, looking back at my children on the shore, I got my kids' reactions all wrong.
After about twenty minutes, us four searchers look at each other, hands out, shoulders shrugged-- its feeling fruitless to find a single cane in the Atlantic.
We walk back towards the beach.
"Sorry Elias, we tried," I say, and he doesnt pepper me with questions, and no tears fall down his face, as we walk down the beach, up the stairs, and across the slow road to the house my parents rent in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Once inside and dry, Nick hands me a beer, and I sit on the couch with Elias as we talk about the unexpected.
"That was unexpected," Elias says.
"Yes, yes it was."
"Why was it unexpected?" Elias, the asker of the obvious, says to me.
"Well, did you plan on that happening?"
"Did Grandma and Pop and Olive?"
"Its just something that happened. The sea did It," I say.
"Yeah, the sea did it."
"But its alright, you can walk just fine with one cane. We have a back up pair at home. Its all good."
Elias suddenly smiles real wide, and says: "It will be so much easier to pull my rolling duffel now. I won't have to worry about what to do with my other cane!"
My kid who resists anything new but adapts so quickly when the inevitable happens.
And so we thank the sea for prompting change.
And the clouds for finally parting.