...thoughts from a mind
  Friday   September 5, 1997



The Usual Suspects

Had a moment in the pool with Zoe today that scared the shit out of me and brought home again just how much I love her.

It's been hot here lately, and every afternoon Zoe wants to go into the water. Actually she insists. Loudly and energetically. She'll grab my finger and pull me toward the backyard and whether or not we go boils down to whether or not I want to keep the finger. We usually end up in the pool.

She loves to play in the water. She sits on the first step at the shallow end, pouring water over her head from her bucket or splashing around, while I generally sit next to her or float in the deeper water in front of her. She's usually content doing this for a little while, then she needs more excitement. She'll make it known that she wants one of the pool toys circling in the filter's current and I usually go get one, keeping a careful eye on her while I do it.

I'm always mindful of how far I am from her when I do this. I'm careful to stay close enough that I can reach her in an instant and grab her if she tumbles off her step. She's taken that tumble a few times with me right next to her, and I thought she was starting to understand that leaving those first two steps is a bad thing. Always before when retrieving her toys I'd never gone further away than the width of the pool. Lately she's stayed put while I did this. I got complacent.

This time all the toys were collected at the deep end. I made sure Zoe was sitting firmly on the step, occupied with her bucket and not likely to go anywhere, and I back-stroked away, watching her the whole time. Got to the deep end, grabbed the things she wanted and started to turn back. And right here, at the worst possible moment, when I was changing direction and was straight up and down in the water with no leverage, this is when she toppled.

She leaned forward, lost her balance, and went off the step face-first. She went in, went under, and bobbed back up to float face down. I dropped everything and swam as hard as I could from a dead stop. Every stroke took an eternity and I just wasn't moving. It was like swimming through molasses.

Zoe never struggled. She just lay there, face down, limp, while I fought my way through the water. I was no more than fifteen feet away, but it felt like a mile. It's a cliche, but time really did slow down. I never took my eyes off her as I swam, and I watched as she bobbed up and down all alone across the stretch of pool between us. I pulled as hard as I could and felt time slipping by while my baby girl drowned. Finally, I reached her.

I snatched her up out of the water and leaned her over over my arm. For the briefest moment nothing happened and my heart stopped. It loomed in my mind that I didn't know infant CPR, didn't really know what to do. I knew the phone was on the patio table and knew I was going to call 911. I saw myself waiting for the ambulance to come while I tried to make her breathe without knowing how. I was just starting to see my wife come home and hearing her screams of anguish when Zoe coughed.

A mini-flood of water gushed out of her mouth. She coughed again, then started breathing. I patted her back and held her close as she sputtered. My heart started beating again and I realized I hadn't been breathing either.

I sat Zoe on the edge of the pool and held her as she calmed down and started breathing normally. After maybe a minute she gave me a big smile and then scampered off to get some rocks to throw in the pool. She was just fine and wanted to get back in the water again. Me, I was a wreck.

I don't think I'll be fetching toys while she's in the pool anymore. In fact, I don't think I'll be going anywhere while she's in the pool anymore. From now on she'll be no more than an arm's length away, if even that far. I'm sticking to her like glue.

When she grows up and gets married, her husband can take over.





Copyright 1997
Chuck Atkins