For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Strong Currents

My mother had finally decided to go for a swim.

I had assured her that the dock had three convenient steps down into the shallow sandy area. She has always been a strong swimmer; back home, she used to swim every day, even in the frigid October ocean. But now she is beginning to have trouble getting in and out of chairs, let alone in and out of a lake. We’re renting a house for a week on Lake Sunapee. 

It was late afternoon, and the boys were still in the water, Ryan having monopolized the one kayak. Kenny had tried it once, futilely stabbing at the water with the two-ended paddle. “I’m scared,” he had proclaimed, and that was the end of that. He resumed seeking out the “electric eel” he claimed to have seen hiding amongst the lake weeds.

My mother changed into her suit.We commenced a treacherous trek down what otherwise is a relatively small hill, as she tentatively navigated the uneven stone path with her cane. Her other arm was hooked firmly through mine.

I was focused on her feet except to glance up, to check on the boys.

I thought it was Ryan back in the kayak.

It wasn’t. It was my six year old who was rightly afraid of going in over his head. Kenny. Without a life preserver. 

Or even the paddle.

I started yelling down the hill. So the whole damn lake could hear me.

He was already drifting away. Lake Sunapee is a big lake, and even in the coves, the currents can be strong.  He was quickly being carried out of the cove.

Ryan was standing on the dock. He looked up at me. “Mom?” he called in a tiny, nervous voice.

Then it was Kenny’s voice that was echoing across the cove. “I’m scared!” came his call, distant and mournful as a loon’s.

Damn it Kenny!” I try not to use that word around them. Except when the basement flooded. But my son was drifting away. He could drown. And my mother, leaning heavily, dependently, on me, could fall.

Sandwich-generation moment. Up close. Clear as the “poisonous” caterpillar Kenny had found on the dock and examined under his bug magnifying glass.

“Go, “ my mother said.  “Let’s move it – get me to that tree.”

A big sturdy pine was only a couple of steps ahead. She reached for it. I ran.

I had to swim out quite a ways to reach Kenny. And to reprimand him. I was glad I was too busy to have witnessed my mother teetering  down the rest of the hill alone.

Part II: Getting into the water:

No problem. My mother easily made it down those three convenient little dock steps.

But she no longer feels safe going in over her head, and the sandy footing gave way to slippery rocks. She was quickly ready to get out.

Which shouldn’t have been any more of a problem than getting in. She could use her cane and support herself, and me on the other side, back up the steps.

“That won’t work,” she said adamantly. “It’s better if I do it this way.” She sat on the top step. Sat down.

Her idea was to “scoot” in reverse on her bottom down the length of the dock. “This is what I did when I fell.”

When she fell? But she hadn’t fallen. And when she had, scooting had only gotten her across her bedroom floor – she’d still had to call 911 for someone to get her up.

I thought about mentioning this fact. What was the point? She was resolved. She was already sitting down. And scooting.

We all watched. Ryan was back in the kayak and pretending to be engaged in paddling, but he was gazing at his grandmother with huge curiosity. Kenny had retreated to a rock under a big leafy tree where he could stare unabashed.

It takes a very long time for a very elderly lady to scoot along on her bottom.

What felt like hours later, she had made it to the end of the dock. Her plan was to push herself up the one step to the stone path. “Now just give me your hand…” she said.

We argued. I couldn’t just give her my hand. I needed to heave her up from behind. She argued back that she was too heavy. She insisted that I give a hand.

Kenny came out from under his tree. “Gramma?”

“Not now Kenny. “ My patience for the afternoon was gone. Evaporated into the steamy afternoon air.

“But Gramma?”

“Yes, Kenny?”  she said sweetly, as if he’d just come over to ask her to play a game of double solitaire or to look at his latest drawing of the adventures of “Mr. Fluffy.”

“Gramma, a person can’t give a hand. It would be all bloody. And they don’t sell hands in stores.”

This made her laugh hard. She laughed and laughed, sprawled out on the dock, and I laughed. At the whole situation. We were both laughing, lapsing into a state of hysteria as we can do now, as when after her last fall, she was discharged from the hospital in lemon-yellow socks.

Kenny looked hurt and annoyed.  He retreated back to his tree. “Just don’t get bitten, Gramma, by that caterpillar  I saw on the dock. It could kill you.”

This made her laugh even harder.

But the laughter had softened her resolve enough so that she considered now my suggestion of lifting her up. “You won’t be as heavy if you can scoot yourself up to that second step,” I said.

Which she did so she was then in a sitting position. So that I actually could “give” her a hand and heave her upright.

Ryan returned to kayaking. Kenny came out from under his tree to search for the very hairy caterpillar that he was convinced was poisonous. I have learned to revel in moments of such resurrected calm. Like the calm of lake first thing in the morning.  Before the wind can whip up those currents. When the only ripples might be cast by those delicate water bugs just skimming the glass surface. The “water spiders” as Kenny calls them, that give us hope in the miraculous, as they seem able actually to walk on water.


Wylie said...

Beautiful, Sandy! Love your description of the lake. Reminds me so much of Winnepesauke.....hope you are snatching some moments of calmness and beauty just for yourself. xxxxoooo

Abracadebra Designs said...

Hey there Sandy, How a about another book? You could call it Two Kids, One Granny and a Lake?
Seriously though, I hope you have a wonderful vacation. The lake sounds magical.

Anonymous said...

Great read! My heart was racing for your son! Thanks for sharing!

Deni said...

Funny and tender - what an emotional ride you had that day!

Nicole said...

I love hearing about your relationship with your mom. I know it's probably not going to be that long until my mom is having problems like that.
Just goes to show that some things are better with a dash of humor.

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

I LOVED this post! You are such talented writer and I just loved reading everything about the ups and downs of this experience.

When we were hiking last month, we had to cross a bridge over a river with fast moving rapids. The bridge had no railings. My husband laid on his stomach so he could reach down and touch the water. Unbeknownst to him, my girls followed his lead. I was still a bit behind, buy my 7-year-old was leaning too far. I have NEVER yelled so loud in my life than when I saw her teetering over the edge.

Anyhow, your story reminded me of that. Maybe I'll post about it.

Shah Wharton said...

Hey Sandy - Great to see you around weekend creation BH and loved your link up story here - my favourite bit was the last paragraph. Poignant, Grammy also sounds like a hoot! ;D Great story. Do come back next week! Shah. X

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