The Incident

I’m not a lyrics person. I’ve said this before, but many days I’ll happily sing along to songs about rape culture, offensive sex acts, and the degradation of women without having a clue. Ahhh, ignorance is bliss. But I remember the first time I heard Mat Kearney’s song “Closer To Love”. In it, he says, “I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.” And for once in my life I was actually truly affected by song lyrics. In fact, they hit me with the force of a freight train.

I think back to my days of teen angst, when I would mouth off to my parents after they would bust my chops about breaking my curfew. They would always tell me, “You’ll understand when you are a parent one day.” Every minute that ticked by after curfew was likely agony to them, as they were awaiting THAT phone call. This is the kind of phone call that divides parents’ lives in half, with everything happening before the incident almost like a separate life of its own; divided from the things that happened after.

Every parent dreads the thought of having something happen to his or child. It’s an idea that flashes in all of our heads but we do our best to stuff it down, as it can be debilitating to let that kind of thought linger. I stared THAT moment right in the face this past week during a family trip to Disney World. The happiest place on Earth. It was almost a place that would be etched in my memory for the worst reason ever.

You know that email that goes around every summer about how quiet the act of drowning is? We all forward it on, doing our best to warn our fellow parents about the fact that drowning isn’t the splashy, loud, frightening thing we all once pictured. And I now know this firsthand. We were at the pool in the condo we rented outside Disney. My sister-in-law and I were enjoying a glass of wine as we stood by and watched our kids swim after a long day at Disney. My youngest has always been a total chicken around pools, which I’ve benefitted from in situations like this before. As per usual, on this day, he was simply dipping his feet in the hot tub while the other kids swam with reckless abandon. He always seems totally content to do this, so I hadn’t even bothered to put on his water wings.

What happened next is a total blur, as I’m not even exactly sure what happened. He may have slipped or he may have thrown caution to the wind and jumped in. What I do know is I will never forget the pleading look in his eyes when I saw him in the water, bobbing up and down. It was a look of sheer terror. My SIL saw it at the same time as me and I barely remember what happened next. I think I basically hip-checked her towards the pool, as she was a hair’s breadth closer to him than I was. I yelled at her to pick him up, and SIL doesn’t even swim! Not my proudest moment, to be sure. She reached in and scooped him up and handed him to me. I put him over my shoulder, and he promptly spit up water all over me. And then he began to cry. And I began to shake. And I wanted to run. Run away as fast as I could so I wouldn’t have to face what had just almost happened. I had no idea how long he had even been in the water.

“What was I doing?” I thought. “What was I talking about?” I thought to myself. I must have been engaged in some ridiculous story (as I usually am) while he was trying to get my attention with his eyes. His terrified eyes. He was quiet. So amazingly and shockingly quiet. Eerily so. That silence will haunt me forever.

I took him into the next room and wanted to be alone with him for a while. For one, I needed to calm down. I also wanted to make sure he was okay. And I wanted him all to myself to reconcile what had just happened. Not a minute passed before he said, “Mama, I want candy.” I’ve never been so happy to hear him ask for candy before! Of course, being a complete neurotic, I’ve read every morbid article on the concept of dry drowning, so I checked him about every three minutes for the rest of the night, including while he slept. He’s fine. He’s fine. He’s fine. I kept telling myself that but an unshakable fear had settled deep in my bones.

The thing is — he’s my special guy. Not my favorite but he definitely has a special place in my heart. My husband and I had some serious marital turmoil while I was pregnant with him and I always worried that he would be born with issues due to the stress I was under during the pregnancy. He would console me each night with his reassuring kicks. “Everything’s fine in here, Mom,” I imagined him saying. He saved me during that dark time. And I had almost failed to save him. The thought took my breath away. He’s always been my little Benjamin Button. He was born looking like a little old man, and has made me laugh every day since his birth. He’s quirky. He’s hilarious. Quite frankly — he’s a bit of a nut. But he’s undeniably my savior. If I lost him, a piece of me would be gone forever.

As all moms know, the power of guilt can be all-consuming. Being raised as a Catholic, I’ve been particularly faithful to guilt all my life. It rarely leaves me, and feeds me a steady diet of anxiety and insomnia. As my mom has said, I could see a terrorist attack in Yemen on the nightly news and somehow feel responsible. So you can imagine the way I felt after this incident. The “what ifs” have wreaked havoc on my monkey brain. Why has God decided to have mercy on me but not others who have lost children in similar ways?

The thing is — I’ll never know why I was so fortunate that day. But I’ve hugged him that much harder ever since. I’ve enjoyed every giggle. Every hug. Every kiss. Almost as if he knows how much I need them, he’s doled them out liberally since “the incident.” I’ve savored his affection like it’s the very breath that keeps me living. I’ve inhaled him as if he is the air. I’ve snuggled more and loved more and thanked God more. And if there were ever something to be gained from this, I feel lucky. Very, very lucky.

One of my fave pics of him (but probably not our dog’s fave)



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  1. Shayla Hearn says:

    Oh mama big hugs to you. I’m so happy he is ok. XO

  2. Alexis says:

    Marnie, you are such an incredible writer. Your Blog is AWESOME! I’m very thankful that your son is ok; some times our children have to fight for themselves when we cant be there. It’s ok and we learn from it, but more importantly they learn from it.

    Love you! Alexis

  3. lbb_marnie says:

    Thanks, Alexis. That’s a very good point! I will say that I was glad he was able to go back in the water later that very night. He has always had a healthy fear of water anyway, so I thought this may have sealed the deal for him. Now, on to more swim lessons!

  4. Gina Walker (Macellaio) says:

    Frightening story! Of course our kids will be alright despite us:)

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