It’s funny what triggers memories.
Watching the Saturday morning News cast we noticed a guy’s name in a caption. It didn’t seem to be quite the right spelling as old neighbours we knew, but close enough to take a second glance at the screen.
Then the memory switch flipped and we returned to a near tragedy we were involved in almost 40 years ago.
Since we were only a kid, dates and times are a blur, but the scene was a soccer team party with a pool full of kids. Never one to be too shy about trying anything at that age, we flew off the water slide into a sea of turquoise. There was one problem, however, we didn’t know how to swim.
We know quite well the feeling that comes when panic sets in. It’s perhaps why we still get a chill up the spine any time someone talks of a drowning or Newscasts visit the latest scene of a preventable death.
We still recall hitting the water and immediately knowing we were in trouble. It so happened, it was the deep end of the pool just inches away from the shallow end where non-swimmers dare not pass.
The thrashing started fairly quickly, as did the up and down motion that comes with desperately seeking solid footing. As we yelled for help in between trying to get enough air to keep going, a young girl giggled and pointed fingers. To her we were putting on quite a show.
Since help wasn’t coming and we were starting to tire, we hatched a plan in our panicked state to try and sink so we could get some traction on the floor of the pool to make it to higher ground. There really was no other choice. No one was watching and no one seemed to be listening.
It was in that moment, as we sank grasping for one last chance, hoping we had enough air to escape this situation, that a thunderous swoosh roared up alongside and delivered us to dry land. It was a schoolmate’s dad and from what our mother had to say, a nurse was fast at hand too.
That bit of excitement made for a pretty quiet party at that point.
Some parents probably judged, others took count of their own brood and others yet likely had a quiet little prayer that this wasn’t a day a kid died.
Since that brush with death, we’ve gone on to have a family of our own, felt the highs and lows of life and enjoyed the benefits that come with a measure of success.
For the first time this past week in all these years, we actually wondered what would have happened had things not turned out the way they had. Perhaps that thinking started as a result of another tragedy earlier this summer where a Toronto teen’s parents were left only to imagine what could have been. It was a heartbreaking realization.
We feel blessed to have caught a lucky break that day.