Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

Like so many folks in South Carolina, we have established a tradition of going to the beach each summer. Our family makes every effort to get together at least for a few days, and this summer is no exception.

This year we’re again headed to Edisto in a couple of weeks. Edisto has been our preferred beach ever since we moved to South Carolina in 1977.

And the good news is that it really doesn’t matter whether you stay on the marsh or on the inlet or on the traditional beachfront. It’s all perfect.

And for me it’s perfect for one major reason: There is virtually nothing to do there. There is the beach, sometimes there’s a pool (depending on where we stay on the island), there are a few restaurants and a few shops and one grocery store. And that’s about it.

But I guess the defining point is what’s not there – there’s no mall (or even a real shopping center), there’s not a single fast food restaurant, there’s not even a theatre or a video arcade or rides typical of many beach areas, there’s no car dealership, there’s not even a pharmacy. You have to leave the island for those things. Yes, there are times when a pharmacy would have been nice – such as the year I ended up with walking pneumonia and a raging sinus infection – however, there is a doctor who can handle most problems. But all in all, the absence of all those things we tend to take for granted in our “real” lives, are not around – and I have to say that I don’t really miss them.

Now I’m not willing totally to give up everything that makes this the 21st century. Yes, we try to make sure we stay somewhere with WiFi. I’m not willing to totally disconnect. But for a week, my phone doesn’t seem so important – well, except for its usefulness as a camera.

So, as is always the case, I have been looking forward to our week at the beach. I love watching my grandchildren, as they reacquaint themselves with the beach. It’s fun for me – and I’m sure you can relate – to see which kids have decided the waves are the best fun, who likes the calm water on the inlet side best, who likes to walk the beach and enjoy the scenery, who loves searching out the many critters in the marsh and who is content building sandcastles on the shore.

Two of my adult children take delight in the hunt for sharks’ teeth. And my older grandson, Cade, has proved his ability to find ancient artifacts – I’m sure I reported a couple of summers ago when Cade went out with a group at the Edisto science center and immediately found an ancient horse’s tooth. (Yes, there is a science center with terrific kids’ programs for those days when it’s raining or when everyone needs a break from the sun and sand.)

All of that being said, the news of late has definitely given me pause. Of course, there’s always the concern, however minor, that a major storm might happen while we’re there. For those of us in the South, hurricanes are a reality. I was living here when Hurricane Hugo came through, and the devastation was unbelievable. But that kind of storm doesn’t come along often.

This year, though has brought a couple of new concerns that I’d rather not think about too much. The good news-bad news is that in today’s world, we all hear, not only about impending storms, but also about every shark attack, every jellyfish infestation, every bacterial infection and anything else that happens in the entire world.

I look at my seven grandchildren and become fearful. I understand that shark attacks are actually pretty rare. I did look it up, and statistically speaking, since 1900, there have been a total of 116 unprovoked attacks by sharks along the South Carolina coastline. Of those nine were fatal. I take heart in that, but I don’t want one of my family to be among that small number. I’m comforted by a couple of other things, as well. First, not a single one of those 116 attacks over the last 119 years took place at Edisto. The lion’s share were in the Charleston area or Myrtle Beach (with a few stray stats in Hilton Head, Folly Beach, Fripp Island and Kiawah). The other thing I keep telling myself is that with all the dolphins that seem to stay in and around Edisto, I’m hopeful they will encourage any stray sharks to stay away. (Isn’t that what they say? Sharks and porpoises don’t get along and, for the most part, sharks tend to stay away from dolphin-infested waters.)

So that brings me to the next fear instilled in us by national and international media: flesh-eating bacteria. Again, I went to the internet and found most – that’s most, not all – cases have been reported in even warmer climes than South Carolina. And most of those were along the gulf coast, not the Atlantic Ocean. Everything I’ve read suggests such bacteria generally take hold on your body through cuts and scrapes, burns, punctures, insect bites, etc. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, most people who contract necrotizing fasciitis have some other underlying issue, like diabetes, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, etc. Again, though, I don’t want to become a part of that statistic. Doctors say watch any wounds for red streaks, unusual heat surrounding any wound, intense pain, etc.

So I’m now armed with as much information I can glean about two potential dangers at the beach, and I’m ready to go anyway.

After all, I’ve learned something else this summer: There are sometimes factors beyond your control. Case in point – while I was doing all I can to prepare for the “dangers” of the beach, we got a call about our fall beach trip. I’ve mentioned before that in October our couples bridge group takes a long weekend at Isle of Palms. We decided on a beach house months ago and thought we were all set. (There aren’t many houses that meet our primary criteria – six bedrooms and six baths – so we usually have to book early.) Then last week we got a call that that the house we had selected (and on which we had already put a substantial deposit) was unavailable. It seems the house has a huge infestation of termites and will be off the market for a minimum of six months. Termites – who knew.

So now I’m thinking if the bacteria don’t get you, if the sharks don’t get you, the termites will.

We’re going to Edisto anyway.