Sunday, June 15, 2008
my father, the (eventual) hero
As far as I know my father has saved two lives, one being my own.

I was no more than seven when I nearly fell victim to Lake Erie (and no, it wasn't the pollution that almost did me in). We were kicking off a family vacation to the lake, and although I had never swam in a body of water larger than my city's public pool, I approached the giant lake armed with an overwhelming confidence earned by having recently graduated from my YMCA's "Minnow" level swim class and having moved on to becoming a "Fish." 

I knew how to swim, thank you; what difference if the water be controlled and chlorinated or expansive and fresh?

Despite my intense excitement, my mother somehow managed to slather a thin coat of sunscreen on my heavily freckled shoulders before I wrestled myself free and hit the sand running for the water. I vaguely recall hearing something about "Be careful!" and "It's not the same as swimming in a pool, you know!!" before earning my freedom, but dismissed the warnings as I ran to explore the seemingly benign blue water on my own before my tortoise-slow dad finally finished setting up our spot on the beach and could come out to join me.

Being a "Fish" meant I had long since mastered the breaststroke, so I figured I would see how far out it could take me while I waited for my father.  Turns out it could take me out pretty far - too far, although the fierce undertow I had unknowingly swam into certainly did its part to escort me a dangerous distance from shore.  Soon, my limbs were flailing and failing to keep my body afloat as the waves mercilessly broke over my head and my mouth and throat started to fill with Lake Erie.  

Being a "Fish" also meant I had long since mastered the concept of drowning, and as my lungs took on more and more water and my body became more and more exhausted, I soon came to realize that drowning was exactly what I was doing.  Panicked, I did my best to wave to the tiny speck on shore that looked most like my father.  Curiously, rather than drop everything to run out to my rescue, the tiny speck just smiled and waved right back.

The harsh realization that no one else seemed to understand or care that I was on death's door hit me like a punch, so figuring myself a goner I started mentally dividing up my most valued possessions amongst my loved ones.  Fortunately, somewhere between exhaustedly giving myself over to the water and deciding who was most deserving of my My Little Pony collection, my father had figured out that my fervent waving was more of the "Help! I'm dying!" variety rather than the "Come on in! The water's fine!" sort.  He ran out, swooped me out of Lake Erie's watery death grip, and carried my spent body to shore, where I would would first cough, then sputter, then sob before giving him holy hell about taking so long to save me.

So, several years later when a woman began choking on a piece of lettuce while my family dined at a local Bob Evans - her face turning blue as her wide and watery eyes searched out the crowded restaurant for her hero - I knew my dad would be the one to stand up and administer the Heimlich Maneuver. 

And he did.  Eventually, after a few more sips of coffee.


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