When I was a young child, we would often go, as a family, to the local pond for a summer swim. My father would always swim, though not near or by any of us younger kids. He would swim with my older siblings, in the deepest water where there was a small bridge. They would swim around and get out and jump off the bridge. It all looked like tons of fun, to me and my brothers who were nearer to my age.
So we would be in the area of the pond closest to shore that had the smallest depth. So here would be my brothers and I, trying hard to entertain ourselves and one another and yet jealous and feeling rejected by those who really knew how to swim.
My mother did not swim. I don’t think that she ever really knew how. Years later she would enjoy being in the shallow end of swimming pools, though I never saw her swim or try to or try to learn. When we were at the pond she would sit on the beach and basically do nothing. She would scream and yell at us if we went away from the beach, some of the time, but mostly she ignored us. This was very unsafe, but also made worse because the shallow area of the pond had a drop off that was hard to see and severe, mostly because it was unclear where it was.
Let me just say how dangerous I think this was of both my parents. My father was a strong swimmer, though he only really did a kind of dog paddling, and no one had ever taught him how not to drown. But I blame both of my parents for letting their elementary school-age children go into a pond without basic dog paddle competency or basic parental supervision. But that is basically the story of my childhood.
So my brothers and I would sometimes go out as far as we could and still bob up and down in the water. It was fun, we were closer to our dad and our older siblings, though really not that close, and it was a little bit dangerous and we tended to like things that we weren’t supposed to do that were more enjoyable than being bored out of our minds.
One of those times my little brother and I almost drowned. The sand under the water was shifting around as we bobbed up and down and suddenly we both slid towards the drop off. It was right there in front of us, we just didn’t realize it was there. We kept trying to move towards shore. We jumped up and down, and yet were still not able to get our mouths above water to yell for help.
It was very scary. I remember how hard it was, as I was deprived of oxygen and yet was trying to move and save myself. Finally I knew without a doubt that I was drowning, my little boy was drowning, that it was happening and that nothing I was doing was working.
So I grabbed my little brother by the forearm and let myself get my feet on the sand. I tried to keep him above the water as much as possible I used the sand to walk slowly towards shore, pushing him towards the shore as I went. It was slow, it was hard, but it was the only way to get to safety.
Years later my brother still says, I remember when we were both drowning and you saved our lives. I think this is so sweet and kind of him to remember, to honor me, and to care about it.
I’ve saved other people’s lives and they didn’t even bother acknowledging it, ever. I’ve written about this before on my blog. (When my boozy roommate, her boozy cousin, and her boozy cousin’s sort-of-squeeze had fallen asleep after letting the pilot light go out after they forgot to turn off the stovetop. I am convinced that they would have died if I had not been home, awake, and turned it off and opened all the windows. They acted like nothing had happened.)
When I was in high school I had to take swimming lessons in physical education class. After almost drowning as a small child, with my little bro beside me, I had a more than healthy dose of terror of the water and drowning. I’ll try to write more about that in the near future.
I was taught some basic skills, even to the point of being able to get from the deep end to the shallow end of the pool, after jumping into the pool near the edge of the pool. I didn’t understand, but the water feels very different when you jump into the pool in the middle of the pool, in the deep end. In the middle of the deep end the pressure of the water is huge, for someone like me who is sensitive to things and who has anxiety about stuff. Stuff being just about everything.
What happened is that I came up after jumping into the deep end with a full on panic attack. I flailed around and went under, four times. Both teachers did nothing, well they stood at the side of the pool, so technically they did something, just nothing helpful. Neither of them had one of the long poles in their hands or went to get one along the walls. I was in the water long enough for both of them to do that. After going down for the fourth time, swirling around about a foot away from the bottom of the pool, I started seeing a white light. I’m not kidding you, a white light. I felt all warm and nothing hurt any longer, not even the lack of oxygen, so it felt pretty much okay to me. Then the stupid teacher jumped in and pulled me out of the pool.
Idiot teachers did not take me to the school nurse or get me to the hospital. I realize now that I was dying in the pool and that I could have died from shock afterwards as well, because they did not get me to medical care. I did not know how to explain what had happened to me. Just another reason for fellow students to bully and taunt me. I did learn how to swim enough so that would never happen again in a pool. Yeah, me!