Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)
Tears mingled with terror as my wife witnessed the accident. We were spending the day water skiing in the warm Southern California sun. As a Vietnam combat veteran, this cry immediately released all of the adrenalin and emotions of combat. Someone had just died -- violently.
Swinging the boat around, I could see my wife’s father lying inert in the gentle swells of the bay. His arms floating outward, the right arm almost touching the six-foot diameter orange metal buoy that marked the channel. “Wait here,” I yelled as I stopped the boat some fifty yards from my father in law. I did not want the two sisters to see death. I had seen death. Fresh death. I did not want my wife to see this harsh reality. I dove in and swam the short distance.
Arriving at Chuck’s face, he opened his eyes and groaned. “My hip. I think I shattered it on the buoy. I should not have taken off my glasses. Couldn’t see how close I was coming to the thing.” I wondered how could someone not see such a large object floating in the water, but this was not the time to debate ocular differences. He is extremely nearsighted. He told us later, “I was trying to be fancy, swinging the ski rope over the top of the buoy. Guess I missed.”
“I hurt,” he continued. “You’ll have to get me out of here and take care of the girls for a while.” He spat out salt water as he spoke. I’m not much into rules, but Thank God for the Coast Guard requiring skiers to wear life vests. Dad had floated face up. He was alive!
“He’s alright,” I screamed to my wife and her sister. “Come on over.”
Other skiers had seen the accident. They are a loose family of friendship based on sun, water, flat boards and salt spray. Several came to help. I am indebted to a stranger for allowing us to use his fancy painted boat, bow low to the water, to ferry Chuck to shore and a waiting ambulance. Chuck moaned each time we lifted him: from the water to the bow of the boat; from the boat to the metal stretcher; from the stretcher to the dock; from the dock to the gurney. But he is an old soldier, from WWII, so he’s tough. His thoughts were on his daughters. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Be strong for your mom,” he told them.
Away he went: to the hospital, operations, physical therapy and a years worth of convalescence.
My father in law loves life. He does not let life’s requirements interfere with its fun. He told me once, “I often take my lunch break and go down to the beach, change into my swim suit, bum a ski ride for a while. I start from the shore and land back on the sand, only getting my feet getting wet. Then I dress, eat an apple and go back to work. All part of a great life.”
The accident happened in 1972. My father in law healed. He did not quit water skiing until 3 years ago, when he turned 80.
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