ABOUT THE PICTURE
The Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge called for pictures of summer. To me summer means the beach. So I have been posting beach pictures. This one is of my father, and my two brothers. Apologies for the finger prints, it is an old Polaroid. My brothers look to be young adults. It may have been the last time we were all at the beach together. Suspect it was at Point Pleasant Beach and shortly after my grandmothers death. She had a summer home near Point Pleasant.
The one with the sailor hat is Tommy, the brother I was probably closest to. He was three years older than I was. He died in his forties suddenly and unexpectedly.
The middle of the three is my brother John, the eldest of my parent’s three children. He was the one who gave me the swimming lesson that left me terrorized of the water. We had both been sent to summer with my grandmother. She would drop my brother and I at the beach while she went shopping. I was about five and he was twelve. One day, I got pulled out on a rip tip. A man who saw me go under saved me. I remember only playing by the safety ropes and letting go as the water rushed back to the ocean. Then dark, then being up on the beach and people gathered around as I sputtered up lots of salt water.
This near miss with my death, frightened my brother, so he decided I needed to learn to swim. That night after dinner, he took me out in a canoe; my grandmothers summer home was on the Manasquan River in Herbertsville, NJ. John dumped me overboard and said to swim back to the dock. I hadn’t been frightened by being pulled under at the beach, but panicked on the river and then was humiliated when my brother in disgust at my fear ridiculed me and said I could walk. That was the beginning of my fear of water.
As I write this and look at the picture, I also realized why I decided I had to learn to swim. My father was a Maryland farm boy. He never learned to swim. When we went to the beach–which we did at least one day each summer–we were poor and one day at the beach was are summer vacation–he usually was dressed in a suit and would sit somewhere in the shade and read. Anyway at some point in my mid teens, the East Coast was hit by a number of hurricanes. Hazel was one. Our town was mildly flooded. On the day that started me thinking about overcoming my water fear, my father was driving to pick my mother up and go on out to dinner. I was with him. We started through a dip in the road that was a bit flooded. When water started coming into the car, my father jumped out and ran to dry land leaving me behind. I took over the wheel and backed the car up, picked Dad up and we took another route to get Mom. I asked Dad why he left me.
He replied, “You can swim.”
We humans need to believe what comforts instead of what is real. I could not swim then. Dad was a good man, his fear of water was very strong.
Now that isn’t the only event that prompted me to think about learning to swimming. I got a job at a great sleep away camp my Freshman year of college. All the other counselors could swim and had great fun doing so. It was the next year that I took swimming lessons at college and became a swimmer. So glad I dPeers are more influential sometimes than parents. My mother had tried for to help me overcome my fear of water. I remember screaming in fear when she tried to carry me out a bit into the waves. She finally gave up and just encouraged me to enjoy the beach and wading. Wanting to join my peers pushed me to face my fear.
STAYING STRONG TIP
Fear is a signal that you are in danger. But often times it is a false signal. So always do a reality check. Facing unrealistic fears often means arming yourself with some new skills. More people than you know are controlled in some situations by false fears. Public speaking is one, elevators another, high places still another. My life improved when I overcame my fear of deep water. Overcoming fears strengthens. If you can’t overcome a false fear, a good cognitive behavioral therapist can help. Don’t let stigma limit your life.
Being kind circles back to the giver. Share this post if you think it will be of value to another. Thank you and as I tell myself a hundred times stay strong.
IMAGE Probably by my mother.