His son’s summer adventures bring back memories of growing up for columnist Chris HuntThe fear was there.
My son laughed as he ran along his grandparent’s dock on the Ottawa River, but I knew what would happen once he reached the edge. He’d stop and teeter, too afraid to jump.
I knew, because that’s what had happened that entire summer’s afternoon.
This time though, his grandfather was in the water waiting for him. He held out his hands and said “Riley, jump.” And when my son wavered, his grandfather stretched his hands even further. “Trust me.”
And with that, Riley jumped.
Watching that moment reminded me of the time my sister Jennie taught me how to swim. Well, that’s how she tells the story.
When I tell it, I recall it as attempted murder.
In fact, her favourite pastime was finding creative ways to make my life miserable.
There was that time she kidnapped me to play Bloody Mary. That’s where you turn off the lights in a bathroom and chant Bloody Mary three times, at which point an angry Mary is supposed to come through the mirror and mutilate everybody.
My sister’s friends thought it’d be a fun thing to do. “But who’s stupid enough to believe a person would come through a mirror?” they asked.
“Let’s find my baby brother,” my sister replied.
They found me, locked me in the bathroom and chanted Bloody Mary three times. On the third Mary they screamed and flickered the lights.
I couldn’t go to the bathroom on my own for weeks. Which turned out to be quite the punishment for Jennie, because my mother made her accompany me every time I pooped.
This probably fueled the first instance where she actively tried to kill me. She found a grocery cart and brought it to the top of a hill and called me over.
“Want a ride?”
Stupidly unsuspecting, I got in and she promptly hurled me down that hill. Right into the busy intersection below.
Imagine my reluctance later that summer when Jennie invited me to go swimming.
I didn’t know how to swim. My mother had almost drowned as a kid, and she only brought it up anytime someone mentioned swimming. Or water. Or drowning. In short, I was afraid of water. And my sister.
But Jennie took me by the hand and said, “Trust me.”
And in that instant, I did.
She put me in a tube and swam me to the middle of the pool and left me in peace. At first, I was afraid. But the sun was so warm and so relaxing, I began to drift asleep.
I would’ve too, if I hadn’t started to drown. My sister had slowly double-backed and tipped my tube.
I flailed and choked on water. I frantically waved my arms at the lifeguard, who was drinking a slushie. He enthusiastically waved back.
Long story short, I swam that day. When I finally made it to the edge of the pool, I was exhausted. But I’d learned something.
It was the same thing Riley was to learn on the dock as he jumped into his grandfather’s outstretched arms.
“See, you’re fine right?” his grandfather asked as Riley wiped water out of his eyes.
I’d never seen Riley look so content. He gazed into his grandfather’s face and nodded. The fear was gone.
And that’s when his grandfather tossed Riley over his shoulder and into the river behind him. When my boy surfaced, the look of rage on his face was palpable. But he was swimming.
And more important, he learned to never trust someone who says: “Trust me.”