Run River Run

Yeah, I totally stole that name – Ann Zwinger, incredible author, boater, and all around lovely woman, came up with that for one of her books, but, it’s perfect here so I’m at least giving her credit as I pilfer her title.

Anyway…

Two summers ago, right at this time of year, when the rivers were peaking and some even flooding, I almost drowned.

Seriously almost drowned – not an exaggeration, not being a drama queen – we’re talking, sinking underwater, about to give up and accept the end, understanding the depth of my will to live, not going to leave my children motherless, completely life-altering, drowning.

Years ago a friend of mine drowned – I know that it happens.  I do not think that I am invincible in water. I have always had a healthy respect for the power and unpredictability of H2O.

And yet, I’ve also had complete confidence in my boating and river-navigating skills.

So coming that close to the bottom of the river was not only terrifying, but came as quite a surprise.

What also came as a surprise is, once I dumped out of my boat, everything I’ve ever known (and taught) about river safety, went right out the window in my panicky fight for my life.

For a brief bit in the ensuing days, I tried to convince myself that it really wasn’t that big of a deal, that I was fine. I tried to sort through real danger vs. perceived danger. I attempted to list the incident under the latter.

But then, for the first time in 20 years, I didn’t want to get on the river. The sound of rushing water caused my heart to race. I stood on river banks, thankful that I was on dry land.

This was so unlike me – the obsessive boater, the person who took to the river over and over again as refuge and respite.

That’s when I realized that this had been actual, real danger.

I’ve become afraid of the ocean. I recently had to turn off a surfing video because seeing that much water from a go-pro’s perspective was unbearable.

I’ve only been boating a couple of times since then. I have let other people row my boat. I’ve lost all trust in myself.

Last weekend we had company in town and decided to take them on a float. Our river options are currently aplenty. Big water everywhere, rivers flowing that haven’t flowed in years.

I am actually the person who suggested the one day adventure. I had hoped to float my dearest river, which usually takes 2 or 3 days, in a day. The weather is warm, (in case someone accidentally took a swim) and since I know the river like the back of my hand, it felt like the safest option.

But, no permit. That still left 4 other stretches of water from which to choose. Trying to make that choice left me stressed out and unsure of myself. There was even some tension with MCB about it until he came up with a manageable plan.

Once it felt like someone else was in charge, I was able to relax just the tiniest bit.

At the put-in, I was quite spastic – concerningly so. I couldn’t remember how to rig my own boat. I tripped getting onto it (while still on dry ground) and ended up face down in the bottom of the vessel. I slipped, I almost backed my truck into a ditch, couldn’t maintain my footing as I squatted to pee.

MCB assumed that I would be rowing. He had confidence in me that I didn’t have. Yet, I did bring a huge heap of ego with me which made it impossible for me to not jump on the oars in front of our company.

When we finally went afloat, I got an oar stuck twice in the current, I got yanked off me feet, I slipped, I got the other oar stuck in the willows, and I couldn’t manage to get off-shore.

I rowed for a little while, I negotiated a few wave trains, I practiced my strokes trying to regain my ease and composure at the helm. In my head, I repeatedly talked myself down.

Then I offered for any of the others to row. First one guest did, then the second. Then MCB jumped into the driver’s seat and I lay down on the front of the boat, able to relax knowing that we were in capable hands.

The next thing that happened took my by surprise. I began to get that familiar I Want To Row itching. It took a second to realize what the feeling was, but when I did identify it, I thought, I’d better get on those oars right this second or this desire could pass on, maybe forever.

So I totally passive aggressed MCB into letting me row again. I wasn’t really fair to him about it but I wanted to nurture this little shift from fear to familiar comfort and thought that I let him continue to row, I might never be brave enough to do it again.

And thank goodness he’s a gentleman.

I rowed. Not totally smoothly, not flawlessly, but with budding confidence and no major mishaps.

It was healing, but really, it was just fun. The kind of fun that one gets to have in a beautiful place, with water and trees and views, the kind of fun that happens when everyone feels good about where they are and what they are doing.

This was huge.

I even took a quick swim at the take-out.

So now, I am obsessed again. It’s a relief, really, to know that I haven’t been scared off forever.

I’m not ready for “big” water – I may never be again, and I am okay with that.  I can start with what is small and familiar.  If I get beyond that, great.  If I don’t, I’m super fine with that, as long as I can enjoy floating in some of my favorite places and not have panic attacks.

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UTAH, the aftermath

I want to lie on the warm slickrock.

Yep, collapsed on the hard stone when I finally, finally, FINALLY, made it back to my campsite.

I want to escape emotional mini-drama

Didn’t manage that until I was out of cell range. Thank god for blank spots on the technological map.

I want to hike until I drop.

Did I really ask for that?

Or until my stubby-legged dog drops.

24 hours later and he’s still asleep.

I want to sleep in a pile of down.

Bliss.

I want to breathe.

Was thinking expansive breaths, not panting and anxiety-driven hyperventilating.

I want to not worry about money.

Who cares about money when you’re not sure you will ever return to civilization?

I want to not risk being misunderstood.

No worries about that when I didn’t see another soul.

I want to feel strong.

I did. For a long time. Before I felt weak, exhausted, and mildly embarrassed. I feel strong again now.

I want hot Emergen-C at sunset and hot coffee at sunrise.

The morning coffee was everything that I had hoped for – in my pile of down – with my stubby legged dog.

I want to stretch my legs, my mind, my spirit.

Oh I stretched it all, for sure: joy, wonder, bliss, befuddlement, confusion, anxiety, fear, worry, relief, joy, merriment.

Can’t get there fast enough.

Can’t wait to go again..

adolescent boy humor

If you want to retain any sense of respect for me, stop now.

I’m about to expose my utter lack of maturity.

I have a poop story to tell.

If you’d like to accompany me to the land of gross, come on. If not, see you tomorrow.

Elvis Aaron Presley The Dog and I went to the park for a walk in the snow.

He does this really weird thing when he poops; he likes to prop his butt up high on a clump of snow. It’s awkward for him and fascinating to me.

So today, after he finished he stepped down from his butt rest and there was a dingleberry still tethered to him by maybe a long hair or something. I couldn’t see.

It doesn’t matter what it was, the important thing is that the anal hair allowed this piece of shit fly around and smack him in the ass when he started to take off.

He jumped, like, 3 feet in the air, where, of course, it hit him again, so then he hunkered down, cowering in the face of this relentless turd.

Did I help him?

You’ve gotta be kidding.

I was too busy losing my shit.

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There is a Guardian Angel

“Mom, you’re not Christian or Mexican, why are you so into Jesus candles?”

“You know Buddy, just in case.”

Who knows if it does me any good, but I figure it can’t do us any harm, and last night felt like a Guardian Angel was looking over my family so, I’m going to keep on lighting them…

…just in case.

It was the night of the Homecoming Dance, and hand in hand, the Homecoming after-party.

Back story here:

My boys are teenagers. We live in a small redneck town where kids drink Coors Light, chew Copenhagen, and go mudding in the mountains in their big trucks. I was a teenager once and made a LOT of really stupid choices. My children have made a lot of stupid choices. So have their friends. Their father, a recovering alcoholic, thinks that a “talk” here and there about the dangers of drinking, especially with their genetics, is keeping them from imbibing in said alcohol.

So the way I look at parenting them during these years, given the above factors, I have 3 choices; tell them not to drink and think that they won’t, thus having them lying and sneaking all over the county with a beer in hand; cruelly forbid them to ever leave the house just so I feel safe; or be totally realistic and hope that a policy of transparency will keep them honest and maybe a bit more careful if they’re not having to lurk around behind my back.

Since Dad has gone for number 1, and number 2 just isn’t fair since they haven’t done enough to warrant its implementation, I’ve opted for number 3.

Number 3 is great when sitting around the dining room table, me being the cool mom.  It’s a whole other story on a Saturday night when they are making plans to go to the mountains with 235 of their closest stupid friends to drink beer and Fireball, at two o’clock in the morning.

Which was last night’s post-homecoming plan.

So many things were freaking me out about it, yet I chose to let them go: with stipulations.

No drinking to vomiting status.

No taking advantage of drunken girls.

No drinking and driving.

Curfew.

First one, I just had to keep my fingers crossed that they too believe that Vomiting Isn’t Fun.

Second – I just trust them. Should I? I certainly hope so.

Third – I offered, as I always do, to do the driving for them. I always agree to drive up to the mountains at extremely-early-in-the-morning (like 2) to pick them up to guarantee that they won’t get in a car with a “sober” driver.

I remember one night that I was the “sober” driver – I was chosen because I was the one in the group who’d only eaten one hit of acid instead of two.

Curfew – Of course they don’t want one. Of course they’re going to get one.

“Can we just spend the night up there?”

Fuck. No.

So they asked if they could spend the night at a friends’.

“Is this your way of getting out of having a curfew?”

“Yes.”

Remember, I have asked for total transparency.

And, I said “Sure.”

Crazy, right? It just seemed so much easier having another parent involved, even if it was one who was going to let them stay out all night.  It gave me the opportunity to turn a blind eye.

And I took it.

God I love denial.

It didn’t mean that I wouldn’t stress, freak out, lose sleep, etc. But in saying “yes” I hoped that they would be able to say “no” if necessary.

Another part of the equation was this:

Friend wouldn’t be drinking or driving like an idiot because he’ on probation and has to take a pee test tomorrow and the truck is his dad’s and if he messed it up, we’d all be running for the hills to avoid the wrath.

“I wish I felt okay about this because I trust Friend to make smart choices, not because he’s made so many dumb choices that he can longer afford to make more. But I’ll take what I can get.”

And then, I received this text: No one wants to go to the mountains, it’s too cold and too much driving. So just a few of us are going to go to Friend’s to hang out.

No stupid driving on stupid mountain roads with stupid drunk teenagers. No wondering if the cops (who always know when there is party in the mountains) will show up and issue my children MIP’s (minor in possession).

They go one place, where they will stay, with parental supervision, right in town.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Have fun. Have a great night.

And there is proof that a Guardian Angel does exist and thank the heavens above that I lit that Jesus candle yesterday.

Life

I’m not the patriotic type.

The Fourth of July is actually one of those holidays that I can live without celebrating. I’m not even a huge fan of fireworks.

But 9/11 – it gets to me.

In so many ways.

The whole “people who serve” thing just cripples me. The level of decency from which some people function is absolutely mind-boggling. If I could have a hundredth of that pure goodness my life would be so incredible.

I think about the people jumping out of the building – deciding that it would be a better way to go than collapsing in a burning building.

I think about the mothers and the fathers on those planes, knowing that their children were about to die and trying to comfort them.

I try to imagine being so devout that I would be willing to give away my life and the lives of so many oblivious and decent people.

I try to imagine that level of hatred.

I try to imagine what a person would be feeling when they survived and their friend from the next cubicle over didn’t.

I wonder what wives would feel towards one another when one man lived and the other didn’t.

It is unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unfathomable.

Unbearable.

My brother was there. THERE.

He lives in California. He was there on a quick business trip. He went downstairs to get a cup of coffee. Everyone in his office died. He watched the second plane hit. He left when people started jumping. He ran all the way uptown. He went to his childhood town to stay in a hotel and hide.

I am lucky.

Being the liberal, peacenik, hippie, that I am, my immediate reaction was definitely not “retaliation.”

If I was my brother, his wife, his (our) parents, would I feel differently? Would I say, like my sister-in-law did, of The Patriot Act, “I don’t care what rights they take away, I never want to live those (post collapse, not knowing) hours ever again?”

If my brother had died, how would I feel about losing freedoms and killing others, because my brother had been killed by terrorists.

I am happy that this day does this to me. Thankful that my brain spins through all of these truly horrific imaginings. This keeps me humble, keeps my feet on the ground. If every other day of the year I walk around thinking only of myself and my woes, I know that for this one entire day, I will think of others with compassion and love.

 

TBI

Stands for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Translation: Concussion.

Cause: Helmet to Helmet hit on the football field.

Necessary Action: Go to the Doctor.

Treatment: Time off the Line.

Reaction: “It’s all your fault, Mom.”

Yep. I’m the one who insisted on him playing football, even though he begged to sing in the choir instead.  I am also the one who told him he was a puss and needed to hit a whole lot harder. I refused to listen to his complaints about having a headache for over a week. Oh wait, he didn’t complain because I told him to lie about the headache and deny that he had one. I also stubbornly didn’t agree with him that he knows more than the ER Doc and doesn’t have a concussion. And I am definitely the driving force behind the national movement to save athletes from long-term brain damage by implementing more rigid protocols for allowing those athletes back on the field after a hard knock.

Obviously, All. My. Fault.

After yesterday’s second doctor appointment for the head, the appointment wherein the doctor said, “Yes, it is a concussion. No, you shouldn’t have been playing last week. Yes, you should have told your mother and coach about the headaches. No, you’re not going back in this week. And, yes, TBIs are very serious,” we walked out to the car in a torrential rainstorm, the silence between us thickening with each falling drop.

I unlocked my door and got in the car.  He pressed his face against the window saying “Are you serious?” as I decided if I would let him in or not.

I begrudgingly did.

As we drove home I said, “Now is the time to say, thank you, Mom, for caring so much about my well-being. I am sorry, Mom, that I yelled at you and accused you of ruining everything for me…”

Then, “…repeat after me, ‘I. Was. Wrong.'”

“I can’t say those words, Mom. Not in my lexicon.”

‘Wrong’ isn’t, but ‘lexicon’ is?

I rolled down the window on his side (Love power windows.  Also love the child-lock.) I figured a good dousing would at least make me feel better.

It did.

He laughed.

He still can’t utter the word ‘wrong’, but I think he gets the message.

I love this kind of shit

Brazilian Joao Maria de Souza was killed in 2013 when a cow fell through his roof onto him as he slept.

Sigurd the Mighty, a ninth-century Norse earl of Orkney, was killed by an enemy he had beheaded several hours earlier. He’d tied the man’s head to his horse’s saddle, but while riding home one of its protruding teeth grazed his leg. He died from the infection.

Paul G. Thomas, the owner of a wool mill, fell into one of his machines in 1987 and died after being wrapped in 800 yards of wool.

In 1567, the man said to have the longest beard in the world died after he tripped over his beard running away from a fire.

An Irish woman died in 2008 after voluntarily having sex with a dog. The exact cause of death is unclear, although it was speculated that an allergic reaction to dogs might have been the cause.