A Father's Small Hope
Credit: Photograph by Susan Meiselas / Magnum
I had always assumed that when i connected with Luke on a sport we both enjoyed, it would be on my turf – a game at which I had some middling skill. But as I drive us out to the beach on Pacific Boulevard the following Friday, it occurs to me that just the reverse has happened and I've been dragged, bumbling and stumbling, into his world.

On a surfboard Luke is instantly in his glory, whereas I'm even money for a cracked femur. Perhaps that accounts for my high anxiety as I pull up at the gate. It's one thing to eat it with no one watching, quite another with your boy there. I can only hope he finds my falls funny and doesn't mistake them for seizures.

First Zuckerman, then one of his young assistants, meets us at the beach. The conditions are ripe for our first joint day: small waves, high clouds, and a light puff of breeze that tacks in gently from the south.Today, by God, the Solotaroffs will shred! But Luke throws a fit when he sees the suit, and it takes three of us to get him zipped up tight. It seems grossly unfair to freak him out before he sets foot in the water, but the world is unfair and Elmo can't fix that; at some point, Luke has to leave his room.

We catch a number of waves, miss a number more, and spend a lot of time in each other's way. At one point I fall, pop my head through the sea foam and see Luke and Zuckerman knifing straight for me. I escape beheading and even get vertical twice, while my son, for all his pique at being shrink-wrapped in rubber, stays in the water for an hour. By the end he and Elliot are a well-oiled unit, going out and coming back in high rotation, wearing loopy grins as they get up.

On the drive home to Brooklyn, Luke is silent, staring out the window in blank exhaustion. So too through dinner of Chinese takeout, a meal he usually gobbles two-fisted. But in the bathtub he rallies, "reading" Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, a book he's known by memory since babyhood.

I towel my child dry, that great, painstaking pleasure, pausing to drink his little-boy scent and kiss the down on his neck. He wheels and surprises me with a hug, an act he confirms by yelling, "Hug!" I hold him so tight it makes my own head reel. Soundlessly we turn an arabesque, a father and young son dancing stag. Carrying him off to bed then, a thought occurs, and I lower him in my arms till he's horizontal. "Lukey's surfing," I sing as we sluice the room. "My brave little boy is surfing."

He puts his arms out to skim the waves and says, "Whee, whee, whee," all the way in.