Three things of significance happened yesterday.
I filed our taxes,
I thought I had lost Amalia for a matter of 15 minutes (but it felt like much longer), &
I witnessed a drowned boy be resuscitated.
The first incident, is rather dull, so I’ll skip over it only to say I personally filed our taxes (which I’ve done for the last 9 years of our marriage). We will get a healthy sized return, enough to fill our coffers for a day or two & give us the illusion of being rich. Of course, after that, it will go to our debts. But we’re getting that much closer to our goal of being debt-free, & we are grateful.
The next two incidences, though more interesting, are of the sort that make you want to curl up under a blanket with your kids huddled close. The kind that make you want to stay that way forever, or at least until they’re grown-ups.
The second incident began with an agreement.
I had promised the kids I would take them to the swimming pool after school (it opens in March here in San Antonio, at least in our subdivision) but they needed to clean their rooms first. After about 20 minutes, I went upstairs, & found the boys in their room “cleaning”–more like cleaning one minute for every five minutes of playing legos. Salem was still napping. And Amalia, was nowhere to be found.
Panic did not set in until I had walked through every portion of the house, shouting her name, with no response.
I enlisted the boys help. We looked outside, in the garage, in all the nooks & secret hiding places of our 3,000 square foot home. Nowhere.
I gave the baby to Hyrum, told Asher to watch Salem, & then jumped in our car.
I drove to the swimming pool (maybe she had walked there? she had been urgent about going earlier). The streets & driveways of the neighborhood were empty.
I felt strange, the day bright & hot, with my heart racing, my mind full of panic & urgency. If you have ever lost a child, even for just a few minutes, you know the feeling.
I raced home, hoping she had surfaced in my short absence. Still no Mali. After more searching, Hyrum said he’d heard her in her room. I ran to her room, & pulled the crumpled blanket off her bed.
There she was.
She’d been hiding. I asked her if she had heard me call her name. She said no. It’s impossible, I said. I was shouting after all. For whatever reason, she had hid.
I’ve heard of kids doing this. But Amalia is five & not really like that, I thought. But alas, it was one of those moments of sweet relief coupled with, don’t you ever do that again/you’re in big trouble.
The last, & final incidence went something like this.
Though it was at least 80 degrees out, the pool was frigid. I love a good polar swim (remember this?), but still had major reservations after I dipped my toes into the semi-arctic waters. Joseph & I were playfully trying to get the other to jump in. Our kids were already in the pool.
I was laughing.
“NO, no, I have your babies, I do your taxes, I do NOT have to do this with you!” I said, as Joseph tried to pull me into the pool.
But then, there was a moment, you know, where someone is trying to tell you with their gestures that something is wrong.
I thought I had a bee on my shoulder because Joseph seemed to be gesturing to my shoulder, but in reality he was pointing behind me. I realized this, & turned around to see a man at the poolside. He was kneeling down, hovering over a gangly boy of not more than five years old. My eyes went into focus, & I realized he was administering CPR.
As if by instinct, I ran over to offer help.
Though, I should say, I’m not good with trauma. One time a student had a seizure in the middle of a Pilates class I was teaching. I had never seen a seizure before, so I had no idea what was happening & it completely freaked me out.
The boy was blue. No breath or movement. Time slowed to a crawl.
Please, please, please God, I found myself saying. Help this little boy breathe. The man, the boy’s father, was doing the best he could, but he was going into shock himself.
The boy began to gurgle.
A choking, gurgling sound. His eyes were glazed over, sort of rolled to the back of his head. He began to breath, though it was the breath of a fish out of water. Labored & unnatural.
“You’re doing great, you’re doing great.” I kept repeating to the dad.
When it was clear the boy began breathing again, the boy was lifted & carried over to some towels. The dad was in shock. I could tell he had no idea what do do. Someone had called 9-1-1, so we sat & waited. I told the dad to hold the boy, who was still lying on the cement, gurgling.
“He needs you to hold him,” I said.
I had a flashback, the kind that comes when a memory is triggered by a traumatic event.
We were living at my parents house.
Hyrum, not even three at the time, came running into the house.
He and Asher (only 15 months old), had been playing outside. The gate to the area of the yard with a small pond was always locked. But I would soon find out that, that day it wasn’t.
It was the middle of February–frosty weather, but the boys were bundled up.
“Asher, fall, Asher fall, come mommy,” Hyrum said.
I ran. Boy, did I run. The image of Asher’s bright yellow & red coat, floating face down, in that little pond. Some things you will never forget.
I swiped him up, his face frozen with shock. He, like the boy in the pool, was not breathing. I ran inside the house. I ripped off all of Asher’s clothes, tipped him face down & beat his back with my palm, as though each firm blow would breathe life into his tiny, stiff body.
Finally, finally, water gushed out & he started to choke, then breathe. I didn’t have to do CPR, & fortunately, he hadn’t been there long, so nothing more than holding him close, getting him warm again was needed.
Back to the pool.
I looked at the dad. A specter of his former self, his face was dull, expressionless as he held his boy. I ran & grabbed Tyndale’s baby blanket & helped wrap the boy in it. I rubbed the boy’s feet.
“Can you feel this, I said? Can you feel me rubbing your feet, sweetie?” Nothing but more choking, grunting sounds. But he was responding.
I put my hand on the dad’s shoulder.
“You did so good. You saved his life.”
The man began to cry. I knew what he was feeling–a mix of shock, guilt, terror. I had felt that, though to a lesser degree, when I found Asher in that pond some years ago.
“You can’t blame yourself. You can’t. You saved his life.”
Later that night Joseph asked me if the boy was handicapped or disabled in some way.
“What do you mean?”
“You know, like is there something wrong with him? Before he drowned, I mean.”
He was asking this, because the boy did look handicapped. But we only saw him after he drowned.
I paused, realizing, that no, the boy, I’m confident was not handicapped before the drowning. It hurt to even think this.
“He may very well be now. Who knows how long he’d been without oxygen. Even a few minutes without it can cause permanent brain damage.”
My sister-in-law Becky gave me a prayer journal for Valentine’s day. She’s the kind of sweet person you envy because of her spirituality, her kindness. I’ve often remarked, “Now how did Elias (my brother-in-law) con her to marry him?”
The journal is for keeping track of people, things you’re praying for. It’s a nice way for my cluttered brain to keep track of those things I want to make sure to mention in my daily interactions with God.
So, this morning, under the line, “people to prayer for” I wrote: Phil, the little boy who drowned.
Joseph & I talked at length about the experience. We decided the takeaway from this is:
1) We must teach our kids that water can be fatal. We need to each them to respect that. My kids are all swimmers & have grown up around pools. Some of our best memories take place on or near water (remember this video?). We can’t teach them using fear. They need knowledge. Teaching them the basic rules of safety around water (like no diving in the shallow end, or running on slippery cement), teaching them how to be strong swimmers, & teaching them to look out for others who are swimming are all key.
2) Importance of knowing CPR & basic first aid. Every adult needs to know & stay current on CPR. I have taken more than half a dozen courses of CPR in my life, but CPR is something that you have to refresh yourself on, every year or so. I cannot tell you how frightened I was to realize, had this been my kid, I don’t think I would have remembered enough of the techniques to perform CPR properly.
3) Parents–stay on your guard. But know that things like this may happen. We can’t watch our kids every second, of every day. But we can make wise choices, teach our kids to make wise choices, & do the best we can.
Last night, as I tucked the girls in, I sang an extra rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle.” I snuggled, I kissed. I noticed how beautiful Amalia’s eyes are in the dim light. The particular way her thick, dark eyelashes gently curl upward. How sweet it is that she sleeps with her stuffed animals, as if she believes they will protect & watch over her as she slumbers.
I don’t know why bad things happen. But they do, sometimes. The best way to cope, I believe, is to love, love, & love some more.