June 15, 2017
“Is that a transformer?”
The man in the lime green, power wheelchair smiles and lowers his light blue gaze to answer the little boy’s question. “Yeah, it’s a transformer.”
“Ah, cool! What’s it turn into?”
“ It turns into a car,” the man in the chair says.
“Awesome! Can I watch?”
As the little boy and his mother pass by, the man’s smile fades, and he returns his gaze to the families splashing in and out of the town pool. Once upon a time, he would have been out there, showing off his skills in the water, jumping off the diving board, flirting with the pretty girl in the pink bikini with the mile long legs. Instead, he sits in the shade and searches the wiggling bodies for his nephews. Yes, there they are, grinning and laughing as they chase after their friends, dodging beach balls, blow-up rafts and mom’s with tots. The sun shines bright, creating glistening diamonds out of the droplets of water flying about.
Taking in the scents of freshly cut grass, sunscreen and hot french fries, he notices a kid about fifteen years old standing at the edge of the four foot. The kid holds still for a moment, then raises his arms and bounces on the balls of his feet. The man’s heart nearly stops, wondering if the kid realizes the danger of what he is doing. He wishes he could get up out of his chair and grab the kid around the middle to keep him from diving. But, he is powerless to stop the outcome.
The kid jumps, but instead of the belly buster his friends are expecting, he changes in mid air and slices through the water. The man’s eyes close, praying that when he opens them again, he will see the kid’s head rise above the water’s surface. He knows all-to well that sometimes, kids do drown, that life can change in the blink of an eye, that little things like breathing on one’s own and walking are privileges, not guarantees.
Shrugging his shoulders in an attempt to find a more comfortable position, he allows his mind to go back twelve years before to a friend’s pool about four feet deep. The June evening is hot. It is the last summer before high school, and the world is his.
June 23, 2005
The water was cool on his sun warmed skin, but unease lurked just below the surface. He couldn’t name the feeling, but he knew it wasn’t the hot dogs he had just eaten. “Do not get back in the water.” The voice was not audible, yet he brushed it away like the pesky mosquito that whined passed his ear. One more time. He’d go in once more.
Taking a deep breath, he stretched out his arms, bounced on the balls of his feet, and then he was air born. But, the angle was all wrong, too straight up and down. Tucking in his chin, he sliced through the water and felt the crack of his head, as it hit the bottom of the pool. Dear God, he couldn’t move, and he needed air. Lungs burning, panic sending his heart into over drive, he prayed his friends would realize something was wrong. Closing his eyes, he fought to stay calm.
Hands tugged at him, then a laughing voice. “He’s drowning. Oh, c’mon, Caleb, quit fooling around.”
He gulped in air, but then, the girl…he remembered it was a girl…let go, and he sank below the surface. Time slowed, and he marveled that it was so quiet. He had always had a fear of drowning. Why did it have to be now? “Oh, God,” he prayed, “save me. Please, help Dad and Mom learn to live without me.”
He couldn’t hold his breath anymore. On its own volition, his chest expanded and water filled his lungs. As the blackness sucked him under, he knew with certainty, he had broken his neck.
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