17 March 2015

17 March 1985 --- one Sunday afternoon

Crossing the footbridge inside Ames’ Brookside Park for the first time Tuesday, 10 March 2015, since late last Autumn, I was reminded by all of the Creek’s ice floes thawing and smashingly crashing down its stretch … … of a time inside the North Fork of the Ozarks’ White River.  Actually, every single March month every single year I have this very same flashback when strolling then over this bridge and into my work.

I am told that Child does not remember the year 1985.  He, Brothers and I were living in Columbia, Missouri, first in the summer of y1982, at 2308 Iris Drive, and at that time the last home on a dead – ended street.  When my parents were no longer able just a year and a half later to meet the requested payments on its mortgage, we were moved to 2412 Braemore Road, a rental duplex, miles away from that first Columbia neighborhood.  Child was wee, only 5½ years old one particular 17 March 1985, when it was decided that there should be a roadtrip taken to the south central – to – western part of Missouri, a stark and remote journey that took us right through very bible – ly belted countryside.  The beside – the – road signs were all about churchiness, and there were soooo, so many of them.  Every few miles, there seemed to be yet another one or more, all about hell and damnation and then, of course, salvation –– and to where you and yours could go in order to seek out that:  these sign messages’ ideas for your salvation.

I have no idea as to what to entitle this story.  Perhaps my writing about ‘it’ will help for me to dissipate the horridness of its memory and to finally release my brain from it –– although I genuinely doubt that ‘it’ will ever go completely away.  I may have mentioned this in earlier communiqués:  I do not swim.  In a pool, in a calm lake, in a hole, in any body of water.  In fact in my lifetime so far, I have had by lifeguards out of different pools to be saved three times.  With the nearest (outdoors only) pool miles’ distance and hours’ time away and with a blinded mother unable to chauffeur children anywhere, my father had no ability to take us four for any such lessons when I was a farm kiddo.  

The vehicle in which we were traversing was a Dodge Diplomat wagon, beige and rather nondescript but boxy, sturdy, reliable and capable of hosting three car seats on its back bench.  Other Child was dropped off at the first of our stop at an acquaintance’s property near the River’s North Fork.  He was eight years old and interested in raptors then, and the man there whom I did not know seemed to have a lot to do with such birds so Other Child went there to engage with them and him and to enjoy that afternoon studying these animals.

Child and Another Child and I, all three of us inside juvenile – sized life jackets (including me using Other Child’s upon my person), were then put into the water of the White River at its North Fork.  Within less than four minutes’ time only, the waters were that ragingly rapid and roiling, the canoe slammed upside, parallel to a downed and very large, lodged log lying crosswise from the shoreline into the stream and, while brought to a sudden halt and thus stationary in the river’s churning, entirely flipped over onto its top.  

Child was originally sitting behind me in the canoe, and Another Child had been in front of me.  I can remember holding onto one of the crossbars of the flipped canoe while simultaneously, of course, holding my breath.  I was unable to see or to hear anything or anyone else for all of its muddiness and rushing noises underneath the waters, the canoe held in its overturned place by that log. The life jackets had had mesh stringiness to their exteriors –– I have no idea as to why thus.  I remember thinking to myself three things:  i) I cannot hold my breath much longer, ii) if the jacket’s mesh behind me is hung up on branches or other underwater debris (of which there had been just a huge passel) sticking through its netting – like strings, I shall not be able to reach the entanglements and free myself and iii) I have no idea which end is up … … up to the water’s surface because of the murkiness, once I let go.

Of course, I did let go.  And just waited, flaccid, cold.  So cold.  In the rage, I did surface.  Child?  Child was nowhere within my sight.  Nowhere.  What I could see?  I saw Another Child.  Another Child was surfaced and off to my right … … but.  His head, his neck and only his upper chest were up in the air;  the entire rest of him was inside a tornadic whirlpool headed completely in the middle of the river and down it.  Swirling, swirling, twirling, whirling.  Around and around and around with both of his arms flailing up skyward above his shoulders; he had at six years of age absolutely no control inside that liquid blender.  Instinctively, I took off my own arms flailing about and churning one after the other –– I so would not at all call it ‘swimming’ –– in Another Child’s direction:  downriver and him in its very midst so swiftly getting away from me.

I managed to reach him, grabbed up to one hand of his and about 20 more feet of flailings’ and splashings’ later, as well as perpendicular to the debris – laden whirlpool inside of which Another Child had been spinning, dragged him out of it and myself up onto the river’s muddy embankment.

I looked around.  I do not know if Child, if the mesh – netting strings of Child's life jacket had been caught up on debris – protuberances or not; I have never known this.  Child was –– all of him / his body –– out of the water, soaked through and up onto the riverbank’s other side.  Shivering.  

I only know how I, and not how anyone else party to this particular day, feels about sniggering, about snickering, about giggling ... ... over such a matter.  That is not an appropriate response; it happened I know.  Nevertheless, those are not appropriate aftermaths to this specific event that, quite literally, outrageously threatened My and Two of My Children’s lives. We Three just sat there, each on our solid places, just so, so cold and, truly, quite stunned.  At what had just happened.  It was horrid.  We, any one or all of us, could have died that day:  17 March 1985. 

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