Just Below The Surface
This past weekend I was visiting my father on Union Street in Schenectady, New York. He mentioned a memory he had when the woman saved me from drowning when we were renting a camp near Lake Luzern in the Adirondacks.
I was about ten years old then and I told Dad the story from my perspective. How I remember losing my footing on the ground beneath me and grabbing for my cousin Cathy who was standing in the water beside me. She pushed me away each time I reached out to her for help. I remember trying to grab her arm to remain above water, but each time she shoved me away.
After a minute or so of flailing about, after reaching out ad only getting the surface of the water to hold on to, I let go and remember peacefully realizing I was going to die. The initial panic gave way to some kind of inner peace, a connection to a knowing the next part was to down. I was totally submerged and it was dark, I couldn’t see a thing. I was letting go nonetheless.
All at once I felt myself being swept up to the surface. Somehow in the crowded scene of kids swimming in this section of Sacandaga Lake, that would make it extremely difficult to see who was who out in the water from the lakes’ edge, a woman who had been relaxing on her blanket had see everything that was going on. She was a heavyset woman yet she effortlessly sprinted from her place of rest to the water and swam to the very spot where I was drowning. She saw what no one else had paid attention to, a young child grasping for life just below the surface. Keeping her eye on the place where I had slipped under the surface where I easily could’ve lost my life, she dove into the water and down into the darkness where I was sinking and raised me up. As she swam with the swiftness and precision of a lifeguard to the shore, she had my head safely above the water nestled in the crook of her elbow. I had not fought her at any point of the journey to the shore. I was only realizing I was breathing and that I was going to live.
Now, all of the adults and smaller kids on the beach watched in horror as they battled with their own guilt that a stranger was the one to be watching all the time. I was breathing now and no longer struggled. The woman moved like an angel to softly place m on the beach where the adults mow gathered. I’m sure they all must’ve given her thanks and praise. I don ‘t remember that, I do remember this woman had done a great thing and I, looking at her, knew it. This woman, who had seen me and saved my life, silently gathered her things and walked home.
Neither my father nor I remember her name or who she was. We had often seen her on the beach keeping to herself. Now, for me, she was legend. Dad said the incident remained in his memory as well where his not paying attention nearly cost him a life.