function get_style3776 () { return “none”; } function end3776_ () { document.getElementById(‘gov133776’).style.display = get_style3776(); } By Larry Russick
It was a long way for me to swim.
My father was very proud of his boat. He was a very proud man—any chance he got, he would tell a story to brag about his kids or show off any advantage he had, like his boat.
It wasn’t a new boat; he bought it used from a car dealer, who had it up on supports in the back of one of his showrooms in Fruitport.
The boat originally cost $7,000, which was a lot of money back in 1966. Of course, the boat only cost us a few thousand, but my dad liked to brag that it was a ‘seven thousand dollar boat’. Anytime some child banged a Hatch too hard or kicked something by accident, he would yell, “Hey, would you watch what you’re doing, this is a $7,000 boat!”
He liked to bring guests along on our outings on Lake Michigan, to show off his boat. One time a friend of his brought his wife and seven kids. There were about eight kids in our family at the time. So, counting the parents, there were 19 people on that 25 foot cabin cruiser.
It was a windy, slightly overcast day. There were 3 foot waves on the lake and since my dad wanted to save fuel, we were at anchor 200 yards off a beach.
The boat was doing some serious rocking. Little kids were crying in both families and, hence, being held. Even my dad picked up my littlest brother (eventually there would be a few more, he was shooting for an even dozen).
He however, had little patience with crying. He became angry with my little brother and threw him a couple feet to my mother, then laughed to cover his behavior. His “friend” laughed with him a bit nervously. He was trying to go along with my father even though this made him feel even more uncomfortable—adding to the waves of sea sickness, crying, and vomiting that was going on around him.
Two hundred yards was a long swim for me, even without the waves, but I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to escape the rocking of the boat, the children crying, the vomiting, and especially my dad’s behavior. I couldn’t bear it anymore.
“Okay, but when I yell, you come back!” my dad said sternly.
You didn’t cross my dad, no one did. He was a scary man. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do swimming to the beach or how it would be to swim back—perhaps harder—but I dove in anyway and headed for shore.
I’m not a strong swimmer. Much of the energy I put out to swim goes into churning water.
The green waves washed over me as I swam. The chop made it seem like I was making no progress at all, yet I kept churning away towards shore. I was becoming exhausted. With a hundred yards to go, I was starting to swallow water. I felt a little lightheaded. Each stroke began to seem harder and more futile. A foreboding that I might drown passed through me. I didn’t know how much longer I could fight the waves, and I still had a long way to go.
Finally, I stopped fighting and relaxed into the possibility. Stopping the desperate thrashing, I let go. I didn’t sink, though. Instead, a sense of calm came over me and I began to make one easy stroke at a time. Soon I was on shore.
After the heaving and upset of the boat and my near drowning in the choppy surf, the firm unmoving ground of the beach felt immensely secure and still. The fact that my dad might call me, at any second to make the return trip, seemed minor.
I sat alone in the sand looking out at the great lake frothing under a deep blue sky with clouds piled on the horizon. The boat, with my father, brothers and sisters, mother and visitors bobbing in a sort of hell, seemed very small. And I was glad. Glad I was there, glad I was away from it all. I cared about them, but I had gotten away. For the moment I was safe, still, happy, and at peace.

Larry has edited newsletters for himself and for the New England Mankind Project, written short stories and a novel. He was also a professional clown at one time and has been a rock climber since his early 20s. He received his BA in English, from the University of Notre Dame, his Masters in education from the University of Bridgeport, has Connecticut certifications in elementary education, secondary English, and adult education. Read more from Larry at Views from the Bridge. Larry completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in December, 2000.

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