Monday, December 2, 2013

One of the stupidest things I've ever done!


I was going through some essays/short stories I wrote last year, and thought I'd share this with you.  I feel pretty sheepish sharing this with ya' all because it brings up a heap of feelings, memories, and most of all, my internal whipping, self critic---the ultimate, Olga of self smacks, should-have-dones, might-haves, and cringes. 

It's a true story about some swift water, a bridge, me, my sister, and my mom, and one of the stupidest things I've ever done. Maybe the 1 stupidest.  It's surely on my top ten.

 The moral of the story, not everyone is going to like the same things you like, and not everyone is going to be good at what you like to do. And if someone says they can't do something, respect that. Don't press them. Don't say how much fun they'll have. You don't know their limitations like they do. 

Don't 'should' on them. It's rude, and selfish.

You might try to press them, make them see how much their missing, with the honorable excuse that you want to bring them out of their shell, or comfort zone, thinking you are helpful, and kind. But in all reality, that is not kind. 
You don't bring people out of their shells, you don't change people, they change themselves. You can't make people fit into your brand of fun. It doesn't work that way.  
You can inspire people. You can encourage them, most of all, by leading by example. That's it.

Also, this is a big one. Respect other people's limitations. Be kind, and don't try to urge people out into the deep 'water' before they are ready to swim. To do so could lead to the unpleasant experience I am about to relate. And you have to live with the consequences.




                                         Water Under the Bridge

   By Stephanie Skeem

My mom peered over the edge of the irrigation canal with fearful eyes. “Looks deep.”

            I shook my head. “No. It only comes up just below the armpits.”

“Are you sure?” my mom was unconvinced. The water looked deeper than it was because it was a muddy brackish color.

            “It will be fine. I promise.”

             Mom was still unsure. She had only come with us after much coaxing and promises of how fun it would be. My sister, Bessie and I had made a previous venture to this canal and had so much fun we wanted to share the joy.  My mom had been swimming with us only once, and that was pretty much in the kiddy pool. We were excited, and happy, that finally, after all these years, my mom was going to be experiencing the joys of water.  And what better way to integrate a sixty-year-old woman, who couldn’t swim, and hated water, to the wonders of swimming in the great outdoors, in water only three-and-half feet deep, that pulled you along, at a pleasant, relaxing pace.

Yet she didn’t look as if she was really going to get in the water. She folded her arms and looked at the water with hard eyes. “So how do I get in?”

             “Watch me. You sit on the edge, and just slide down.”

            Mom frowned. “It looks cold.”            

            “It is, when you first get in,” I told her. “But you get used to it.”

            She looked longingly at the van. “I don’t think I can do this.”  

            “It will be fun,” I promised.

            “Fun?” my mom shook her head, and then not wanting to be outdone by a challenge, scooted next to the canal, determined to face her fears.

            “Here,” I said. “I’ll get in first. Then I’ll help you get in, okay?”

            I slid down the mossy side of the canal, splashing into the cold water. I held out my hands for her to take. “Okay, after you slide down, I’ll grab your hands.”

Mom looked at me, and then at the water. “I don’t know.”

“Come on,” I urged her. “It will be fun.”

“It will be fun?”  She sighed, then slid down the side of the canal, splashing into the water. “Oh, its COLD! EEK! The water is pushing me! Help!”

            I grabbed her hand, and steadied her. She held on, squeezing the life out of my fingers.

 “Oh, it’s too swift,” she howled. “What have you guys got me into?”

            “It’ll be fine,” I soothed her. “Just let the water push you along, don’t fight it. You don’t have to swim.”

            “Yeah,” my sister, Bessie said, splashing into the water, and floating on by us. “Let the water float you along.”

            “Float?” Mom cried. “I can’t float. I can’t even swim!”

            “The water makes you float,” I explained.

            “I want out,” Mom pouted, struggling and slipping along the slimy bottom of the canal. “I don’t like it. I’m too old. I can’t balance.”

            “Here, I’ve got you.” I held onto Mom’s arms, steadying her as we were pulled by the current.

I looked ahead, remembering that there was a rise in bottom of the canal. Somehow I had forgotten to tell my mom of this. “Uh, mom,” I said, trying to sound reassuring, “there’s a rise coming up in the canal. “You’re going to have to let go of my hand so we can get over it.”

            “Rise?” she breathed. “Drops back down?”

            “It only drops to the same height we are at right now.”

            “Don’t let go!” Mom screamed. “No!”

            “I can’t help it,” I cried, as the water pulled me away from her. “You’ll be fine.”

            Mom shrieked as she was pulled over the mossy rise in the canal. I quickly helped to steady her. “It’s okay, I told her. “Really.”

            “You told me this would be fun.” She glared at me as if I had planned the whole thing in order to drown her.

            “Here,” I told her, “let go of my arm. It’s a lot more fun if you let your feet skim the bottom as the water pulls you.”

            “No! Don’t you let go!”

            “Let’s just try it.”

            Mom slowly let go.

“See,” I said, smiling as she steadied herself in the water. “It’s fun.”  I glanced ahead, happy. My mom was finally getting the hang of it.

            I heard a scream, then a loud splash.

            Bessie and I both turned round. Mom had slipped and vanished beneath the water.

            My heart went into my throat. Why didn’t she come up?  I pushed against the swift water, and quickly dove down and pulled mom up.

            She came up sputtering and screaming.  “I told you not to let go!”

            “How come you didn’t just stand up?”

            “The water’s too fast. And I’m an old lady who can’t balance!”

            “I’m sorry,” I breathed, feeling horrible.  Mom was wet, miserable, and frightened. She hadn’t planned on getting her hair wet, and all the her short curls had vanished.

            She gripped my arm with all her strength.

 My sister’s eyes grew wide. “Are you alright? I couldn’t get to you in time. The water was too swift.”

            “Yes, too swift!” Mom repeated, latching onto Bessie with her other arm. “I want out!”

            I looked at the sides of the narrow, v-shaped canal with despairing eyes. “I’m sorry, mom, we can’t get you out, not yet. We have to go a little further.”

            Mom muttered a low cuss-word, and held onto both of us as we moved down the canal. Bessie, and I had to push ourselves against the sides of the canal in order to steady our mom. Our arms got scraped by outcropping rocks, weeds and broken cement.  But I didn’t care. There was no way I was going to let go of mom a second time.

            “Where can we get out then?” mom wondered, staring ahead. Her voice was tight. I could tell she wasn’t happy at all. So much for fun times.

“We’re almost there,” I told her. “All we need to do is go underneath the bridge.”

            “We have to go under a bridge?” Mom squeezed our arms tighter. “I can’t fit under a bridge. I’m too tall. Look there’s no space for my head. What in the heck were you guys thinking!”

“There’s room,” I offered. “You just have to bend your knees. The water doesn’t go up that high.”

Mom stared at the looming bridge, unconvinced. The bridge wasn’t your normal everyday bridge---it was a cement bridge that was low to the ground, with just enough room for our heads to fit under if we bent our knees. It was something I hadn’t considered as an obstacle. To us the bridge had been sort of a fun cave-like place. But to mom, it was dark, scary, and pretty much the worst thing in the entire world.

Mom dug her nails into my hands, in fright. “No! I won’t fit. I’ll drown. I’ll DROWN. You guys, you’ll drown me!  What were you thinking?”

            I stared at bridge with a sinking feeling. The only way to get out of the canal was past the bridge. What were we thinking, taking our mom down a swift canal, with no life jacket? What kind of daughters were we?  I looked at mom, and said in a desperate voice. “We have to go under it in order to get out of the canal.”  

            “There is no way I’m going to go under there!” mom said, reaching for the side of the canal, trying to pull herself out by grabbing onto weeds. But the weeds were too short. Much to my mother’s dismay, the water forced us over to the edge of the bridge.

            “I’m not going to fit under there!” She howled, grasping the edge of the bridge, trying to hoist herself up. “Hell and damnation! I’ll drown, I’ll drown.”

            “But it’s the only way,” I told her.

            “No. I’m not going!” She grasped at the edge of the bridge like a cat with claws, wild and frightened. My sister and I struggled to hold mom in place. The force of the water pulled against our stationary forms, trying to take us under the bridge against our will.  

            My sister and I looked at each other, each thinking the same thing.  If we did go under the bridge, mom would drown us.

That moment was one of the longest in my life. It was an unforgiving moment, where I felt like I had taken my mom on a very bad road that we could never get off of. I felt horrible, desperate, and totally afraid. There was no one to help my mom. Only my sister, and me. 

 Uttering one of those silent lightning-flash prayers to heaven, my sister and I hoisted mom up. She grasped the edge of the bridge, in desperation, pulling, swearing, and yelping.

            I took a deep breath, knowing that it would take a miracle to get my mom out. My sister and I were strong, but we weren’t that strong.  I lifted mom, pushing against her butt cheek, with my sister lifting the other. I braced myself, expecting her to be heavier. I sent out another prayer. Please help us lift her.

As my sister and I lifted together, I was amazed that my mom wasn’t as heavy as I thought she would be. In a matter of minutes, mom was on top of the bridge.

            My sister and I breathed a sigh of relief.

            Mom was safe.

            We were stupid.

            How had we been so na├»ve as to think that mom would enjoy this?

I don’t know.

Afterwards, mom sat shivering on the bridge, waiting for us to get out and bring the van back. To top it all off, she got bitten by an ant.

Fun times, indeed. So much for convincing her that playing in water could be fun.

Later that day, when my sister and I were sitting on the porch, pondering the meaning of life, and how we had almost drowned our mom. I told my sister that I had thought she had been lifting the bulk of my mom’s weight. But my sister thought that I had been lifting the bulk of my mom’s weight, as well.  We smiled, somehow knowing that the guardian angels had helped us lift up our mom that day.

After the incident, mom acted really cool about the whole ordeal. She was neither overly upset with us, nor did she blame us for our stupidity. She acted as if the whole thing was some grand adventure she had survived, and lived to talk about.

Mom didn’t remember swearing as she was pushed out, because she’s not the swearing type. But our neighbor from a ways off heard her, so we have witnesses.  

I will always remember that day as one that changed my life forever.  Not in some huge, inspirational, warm fuzzy way.  But in a painful, ouch kind of way. That day, I learned that when a person says that they’re afraid of something, it’s usually for a reason. One person’s bliss is another’s blister.

To my mom, the event is water under the bridge. But to me, it’s water under one very scary bridge. One I will never forget.

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