When my sister Kathleen spoke about putting a swimming pool in her back yard not long ago, it brought back memories of Titanic proportions when another swimming hole nearly brought about our demise.
As a young lad of 7, my eyes lit up when the orthopedic specialist at Easter Seals informed my mother that swimming was probably one of the best forms of exercise for a child afflicted with cerebral palsy.
I could hardly contain myself when I heard my parents discussing the matter later. From my father’s lighthearted demeanor, I knew the conversation’s outcome.
We were getting a swimming pool. It was like music to my ears.
Up until that point, I periodically came into the house dripping wet after accidentally (on purpose) falling into the creek, which ran along the backside of our property.
It was most likely one of the deciding factors in my parent’s decision.
I watched as my father put together the outside wall of the pool. He diligently put the pool’s liner into the shell while being careful not to puncture it.
After what seemed like an eternity, the pool was finely completed. My father didn’t have to tell me twice. I was standing at the base of the ladder in blue trunks and bare feet hankering to get wet.
My little sister Kathleen, on the other hand, was not allowed to join in on the festivities with our older brother John and myself. She had her own little plastic molded swimming pool next to the much larger one.
She was recently released from her screen porch prison and I was charged with keeping an eye out for her.
Our mother was a very busy preacher’s wife and didn’t have time to stand guard every minute of the day, so she left the babysitting duties to me.
What better person to babysit my little sister than the one who ordered her for Christmas just three years earlier – me.
Kathleen seemed content enough to splash around in her own little pool.
I would sometimes go over and play with her, but I also wanted to be able to swim in the big pool; so one day, I came up with one of my brilliant ideas and had the best of both worlds.
I thought it would be neat to use my little sister’s baby pool as a boat and pretend the big pool was the ocean.
After explaining my cleaver idea to Kathleen, who trusted me more than any one else under 5 feet tall, she was acceptable to the plan.
Let me tell you – emptying out the water from her kiddie pool was quite a task for a small child with a balance problem.
I tried to lift up the side and dump the water out, but I failed miserably, falling on my backside. Then I tried to bend the side to let out the H2O; but that didn’t work either. Finally, I let the water out one bucket at a time using my little sister’s sand pail.
Our vessel was finally ready for its maiden voyage.
After awkwardly lifting the lightweight piece of plastic over the 3-foot high wall, I climbed into the pool and pulled it over to the ladder where my sister patiently waited to step into the floating paradise.
As she carefully climbed into the small craft, Kathleen sat in the center and crossed her legs. I can still hear the echo of her laughter as I pulled the make-shift boat across the water.
I pretended to be a monkey and an elephant splashing water into the boat as it careened down an imaginary river on a jungle safari.
She seemed to really enjoy the adventure – that is until I decided to climb into the boat with her.
Never having been in a boat before, I had a strong urge to experience it for myself. However, when I grabbed on to the side of the little boat to pull myself up, it went below the surface of the water.
As water began to rush in like a flood, my helpless little sister began to cry while sloshing around in the rising water. When the boat began to sink, she grabbed on to me for dear life.
I thought she was going to drown both of us.
If I had thought about it long enough, I could have stood up in the chest deep water and pulled my sister to safety. But instead, I was going under while attempting to hold on to my sister and swim to the edge of the pool.
I was never so glad when we safely reached the ladder.
To this day, Kathleen has a fear of water – I can’t imagine why.
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton.