It was a warm spring. The kind of weather that melts the snow pack quickly on the mountain and sends our little rivers into a rage. The air was crisp in the morning but if you looked up and exposed your skin you could feel the impending summer in the warmth. I was excited for the day ahead. It wasn’t everyday that I got to spend with my sister and her friends. I climbed into the raft, needing help as my short legs of more than 5 but less than 10 years couldn’t get over the tubes by myself. I couldn’t hear anything but water; it’s oddly soothing (mimicking the mother’s womb.) I was wearing my favorite and thinking lucky E.T. teeshirt, bright orange floatation vest (size adult large), and of course my blue moon boots with yellow and red stripes. Those are in fact snow boots but I sure did love wearing them. We started down the river and before I could open up any kind of joy I was in the water. Flashes of white wash and motion like if you sit there still and shake your head back and forth as fast as you can, then pain in my lungs as I ingest the cold mountain water. It seemed I was submerged for a lifetime, if only seconds. All of the sudden a pull on my boot and I was hanging upside down over the side of the boat, coughing like a man looking for his last cigarette. I was safe. I had no idea that this single event would form a fear, a phobia of water that would last for almost a decade and never did I see myself reentering the water.
When I was 16 years old my brother finally convinced me to get swimming lessons, as he had spent some summers as a life guard and therefore knew everything. I went to the local pool and signed up for lessons, they put me in a group with 8-10 year olds. I was so embarrassed. Getting made fun of and out treaded by kids half my size was not a great way to spend summers hours. The owner/operator of the pool noticed my discontent and unwillingness to participate. She offered me private lessons after classes and before I knew it, I didn’t want to leave the water. Today I love the ocean, open water swimming and just generally being in a pool.
I remember the first part of this story vividly and can close my eyes and easily return to that day. I’ve always thought of this as a bad memory tormenting me but I always forget to look at the entire tale. This is truly a story a couple people reaching out to a young man that had a truly traumatic event happen as a child and help him overcome the fear that developed inside. I’m trying to emulate that behavior and remind people that you can make a gigantic difference in a young person’s life; perhaps morphing a fear into a love of.
Thanks for listening.