Sometimes it amazes me that kids actually survive childhood, and their parents don’t all have fatal heart attacks along the way. Let me illustrate my point.
We had my daughter, Brittany, late in life. So taking tips from my friends, I set about to devote endless hours toward enjoying her childhood and developing a solid relationship with her. I am pleased that I was successful in this regard. In fact, my decision to vote in favor of selling the company that I built along with my two partners was influenced by my desire to have more time with my daughter.
The need to do so was brought home when she was riding in the car with her mother. As they passed the airport Britt remarked, “Oh, that’s where my daddy lives.”
I admit that from her view point this was a reasonable conclusion since they would frequently drop me off there, so I could fly out on business trips; then they would pick me up several days later.
To celebrate the sale of the company, several of us went to Florida and rented condos on the beach. My partners and I were having an adult beverage while enjoying the evening breeze and the view from our shared fifth floor balcony. I was making a comment to one of my partners when motion caught my eye, and I looked down. Brittany, who was quite small for her age in her early years, was on the outside of the railing holding on to it with one hand while dangling one foot over the five story drop to the pool deck below.
My heart stopped and, in the following split second, I ran through my possible reactions. I immediately rejected the one where I scream at the top of my lungs for fear it might frighten her, and she would fall. Similarly, I rejected the one where I fell to the floor clutching my chest. Instead, I slowly reached my hand down and grabbed her arm then jerked her back onto the balcony. Suffice it to say, the balcony became off limits for her during the rest of our stay. It never occurred to me that she would wander out there with us - much less that she could fit through the railing.
For weeks afterwards, my stomach would cramp each time I recalled the incident.
Then there was the Jamaican pool incident.
We had gone to an all-inclusive family resort for a few days. Brittany, who could walk – but not by much – loved the water. So she and I went to the pool together to swim. Well, not swim so much as watch her jump into the pool for me to catch her with her floaties well in place—the ones I had superglued to her arms after the balcony episode.
We had a great time, at least as much so as is possible in an Olympic-sized pool filled with hundreds of screaming kids. It took great willpower for me not to concentrate on how many were having far too much fun to waste a trip to the restroom facilities.
Britt and I finally had enough of the pool, which I’m sure I imagined to have turned a light shade of yellow. We were standing by the edge of the pool next to the chaise lounge I had pulled close to the water so we could have access to her vast array of pool floats and toys. I wrapped her in a one of the resort’s complementary beach towels – one the size of most blankets – and turned to gather our things.
It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, but when I turned back around after pulling on my t-shirt—she was gone. After a quick scan of the pool, I whipped my head back and forth in all directions, but she was nowhere to be found. It was if she had been abducted by one of those alien space craft. Finally I looked straight down and there, lying on the bottom of the pool still wrapped in the garage-sized towel, Brittany was looking up at me.
She didn’t appear to be struggling nor scared, it was like she was thinking, “No problem. My daddy will fix this.” I dropped into the water, which wasn’t hard since my legs had turned to rubber, and I snatched her from the clutches of the pool bottom. As soon as her head cleared the surface, she coughed a couple of times then acted like that was just part of the pool “thing.”
I have never felt so scared or so relieved. That evening and for the next few weeks, I hugged her just a little tighter when bed time rolled around. And if she wanted two bedtime stories—no problem.
She is a senior in high school now, and I have made it, so far, without a single heart attack.
Maybe it was just God’s way of making sure I appreciated her.
If so, it worked.
Disclaimer: Frank Wilem is an author, speaker, and all around funny and entertaining guy. On this blog, his stories are based on his real life experiences, often with a satirical twist.
Invite Frank to speak to your next conference, corporate retreat or club meeting. Ask about having his speaker's fee waived when you purchase his latest novel for each of your attendees!