We were living in An Un-Named Bedroom Suburb of Cohoville, and discovered Road End Parks. This capitalizes upon the fact that the county/township right of way extends into the lake bed, and therefore, an area roughly 25-50 feet wide continued along the roadway into the lake, and belonged to the township/county. When you have some property that wide, you can park a couple of vehicles at “the curb”, and fence off maybe 50-75 feet of the easement, and you have a nice little parklet, which the fudgies are unlikely to know about. If your idea of summer fun does not run to drunken aquatic revelry, well, you are all set.
I was working nights at Erewhon Community Hospital (“Both Nowhere, AND Backwards!”), years and years ago. The Plaintiff, in her pre-Plaintiff days, worked days. Therefore, summer days provided an opportunity for me to Be The Dad, and bundle our brood off to the lake for fun and sun.
If you have read my tales of rollicking good times, you know that I have plenty of experience with The Prophet Murphy, and his laws. Having worked the street, I feel well prepared for minor childhood misfortunes. Before setting out on our beach trip, I had carefully checked the contents of my personal medic bag, placed a lifeguard style whistle on a lanyard around my neck, set my truck’s amateur radio to readily access the local 911 center (this was in pre-cell-phone days), and waited the usual complete hour after lunch.
Arriving at the beach, we reviewed the McFee Family Immediate Action Drills, carried picnic gear and loads of whatnot to the beach, and so began our casual, layback day of fun and sun in beautiful Northern Michigan. The big kids played in the water, keeping well within earshot, and the little boys had big fun scooping sand and splashing away.
This worked out alright, at first, as the older kids waded some distance out into the lake, and the little boys stayed within ten feet of the beach. I settled there, toes in the sand, camouflaged with a book that I really had no intention of even looking at. I even began to relax. BIG mistake.
The local lake, in Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula, is not really deep in any meaningful sense of the word for quite some distance out from the shore. I had assumed that, keeping eagle eyed watch from the beach, nothing could develop that I couldn’t handle. Two year old David, Number Three Son, was having Big Fun with his brothers and sister, navigating just fine in the knee deep (to him) water. Next thing I knew, a wavelet from a distant boat lapped at his knees, and he fell, face first, into the water.
He immediately came back up, only to go back, face first, into the lake.
Police officers who have been in exchanges of gunfire report that time slows way down in life or death situations. Boy, have they got that business right! One second, I’m fat, dumb, and happy, soaking up sun at the beach, the next second my two-year-old son is floating inert, face down in the lake. The second immediately following found me with my feet wet, almost before I became aware of Number One Son, 11 year old Adam, at arms length from David, calling “Dave? Dave? Dave?!?”
Adam knew this was not right, but had not yet sufficiently organized himself to act upon this insight. I directed him to “PICK DAVE UP!” all the while reviewing these sort of videotapes running in my head. First Edition, I would pick David from Adam’s hands, race to my truck, call the Paramedics (“Paramedics? I want a Freaking Helicopter!”) on my Ham radio, while beginning resuscitation of my youngest son there on my truck’s front seat. Second Edition, I would snatch David from Adam’s hands, begin resuscitation right there on the beach, call EMS from my handheld radio (“Where are the goddam first responders?”), while directing Adam to collect the other children, and send eight year old Beverly to retrieve my medic bag from my truck LIKE RIGHT FREAKING NOW!
That day, Adam excelled in Listening To and Following Directions (Thank you, Adam!). The “light bulb” went on over his head: he picked his little brother out of the water, and handed him to me after a few steps. The “videos” went on playing in my head, as I weighed the efficiency of each action alternative, and quickly evaluated improvements to each generation of The Plan. I sat Dave down next to me, back on the beach, and began to ask him “Dave, are you alright? Dave? Dave?…”
Once Adam had picked him up, Dave began to look around with this sort of “Whoa! Way Cool!” look on his face. After I had asked him if he was alright for the hundredth (well, okay: maybe only the seventh) time, he looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and said those magic words: “Yeah, Dad. I okay.”
Tapes stop. Breathe again. Tremble. Call in other children. Closer look at Dave. Realize that I will, never in life, require therapy for constipation. Acknowledge the Attentions of a Merciful God. Request no lapses, again, in His attention like unto that just completed.