If you can remember your teenage years, I'm sure you'd remember that your friends were like family. They were included in most every day of your life. And, if you were lucky, they blended in to your family and were accepted and loved by your parents. If you were twice lucky, your friend's parents felt the same about you.
Jayce has such a friend, Titus. They are close. We love Titus, he is here most days, kicking back on the couch, eating our food, messing up our house. Just like our other kids. When Titus is not here, Jayce is over at his house, eating their food and messing up their house.
Titus is 18 and will be heading off to college in California in September. He will be missed.
I also have an 18 year old nephew, Derek. Who will be heading to college in Portland. Obviously, I've known Derek all his life and besides literally being a member of our family, he's blends in with Jayce and Titus quite well. They all have a great time together.
The last few summers, all three boys have gone to Florence to go sandboarding. Florence is about an hour and half away, nearest town on the Oregon coast. Sandboarding is sort of like surfing, but on (you guessed it!) sand. You take the board and climb, climb, climb the sand dune and surf down. Tons of fun but very exhausting.
The last time the boys went, Titus' mom, Lisa, took them. Which was totally uncool and lame. Nobody wants to have an epic day sandboarding with their mom. Dude.
This year, they began planning their last trip, before the college boys are officially grown up, months in advance. I admit, one of my weakest areas of parenting is agreeing to something because the actual event is so far in the future, I'm thinking that it will never happen. And, then, it does happen and I say "No" but I've already said "Yes" months ago and feel total guilt for taking my word back.
Now, the road between our town and Florence is crazy busy in the summer. There are always accidents. And, not just fender benders. There is at least one death on the road each summer. More in the winter, I believe.
So, when approached with their plan, which was Derek driving Jayce and Titus to Florence and sandboarding all day and eating dinner and driving home, I hesitantly agreed but only because Titus' mom, Lisa was okay with it. Now, I believe that each parent has that one fear. The one thing they always freak out about and it hinders their thought process. For others, it may be choking. Or, illness or bike riding. The one thing that they will always be a little more paranoid about. For Lisa, it's swimming. She is hyper paranoid any time her kids are near water. For me? It's traffic accidents. I am the mother that's always saying "Call me when you get there!!" and "Call me when you're leaving!" and "Be careful on the road. There are crazy drivers out there!!". And, my kid doesn't even have his drivers license yet!
Me agreeing to an inexperienced teenager driving my son and his friend to a distant town on a crazy road was not easy. But, I do have to let go at some point, right?
No. No, I don't! Titus and Derek may be 18 but Jayce is only 15. I don't have to let go yet.
And, after conversing with Lisa and finding out she was hesitant as well, we changed the boys' plans, like loser mothers we are.
Lisa would keep my three younger kids, I would drive the big boys to Florence. They protested but we put our foots down and promised them I would not make them come home at any certain time, I wouldn't follow them around. I was their chaperone only.
It was actually a win-win situation for me--I didn't have to worry about the boys, and I got tons of free time to read and walk and just relax.
I dropped the boys off at the dunes around 11 am. I stayed in the parking lot, and like I said, I read, walked and relaxed until about 4pm, when the boys came off the dunes. Looking very hot, sandy and tired. But, they had had a blast! Lots of wipe outs and scrapes and bruises but all had smiles on their faces.
They decided they wanted to jump in the lake, to rinse off and cool down.
Here is a picture of the lake:
|What this picture does not show is the rec. center on the opposite side of the dock attached to the shore. There is a beach and a little hut where you can rent canoes and kayaks. It would be in the upper left side of the photo.|
"No way, guys. It's too far."
"We can do it, it's not bad."
"I don't know..."
"We can. We'll go from here to the dock in the middle, rest, and then swim the rest of the way. Drive the van over and pick us up."
This last statement said as they swim away. While I had my doubts, water doesn't scare me, nor does it scare Jayce.
I sigh and start to gather up all the discarded shoes and shirts and head up towards the van. I turn to watch Jayce and Titus get half way to the dock that's in the middle.
I hear a quiet "Help."
"Not funny, Jayce!"
"No, I'm serious, Mom! Help!!"
"Crap" (actually I did not say "Crap" but I will not type what I said as I barely even speak the word I actually said)
"Jayce!! What's going on?!!"
"Titus isn't going to make it. Mom, I can't help him! Mom!!"
About this time, Derek, comes meandering down from the restroom.
"Hey. What's to eat?"
Derek looks at me, like, "Is this for real??".
I quietly say, "Derek, I think we need you."
Now is the perfect time to tell you that my nephew, who played basketball, baseball and football since he was 5 years old, all through elementary school up until his Junior year of High School, and while he was good at those sports, he grew very bored with them. Last year, someone convinced him to go out for the swim team. Since then, he has won numerous medals, and when he goes to college, he is going with a scholarship and swimming for the college swim team. Oh, and his summer job? Yeah, it's a lifeguard at the local pool.
Derek quickly takes off his shoes, shirt, and shorts and prepares to jump in.
He gives me one quick look to make sure this isn't some cruel prank and to make sure this is indeed happening.
Derek swims like a freaking dolphin and reaches Titus and has him quickly secured. He asks Jayce if he's okay and when Jayce says he is, Derek tells Jayce to swim the rest of the way to the middle dock. Jayce does and quickly Derek arrives, dragging Titus with him. He gets Titus up out of the water, turns him on his side. Titus vomits.
While this was all happening, I looked to the other side of the lake and saw the old men with their canoe shack. They heard and saw what was happening. But, like me, they weren't sure if it was serious or not.
Now that everyone was up on that middle dock, I quickly ran to the van and drove like a bat out of you know where to the other side of the lake. I ran down to the beach, where one old man was already in a canoe.
When he saw me, he asked if he should go out there. I said "Yes, please, they won't make it back."
So, off he goes.
It takes forever to get there as 1) it's a canoe 2) it's an old man.
While waiting , I ask the other man how often this happens, at this lake.
He said it's never happened before.
There are "Swim at Own Risk" and "No Lifeguard on Duty" signs everywhere. But, I was still shocked that this had not happened before.
Finally, the boat guy reached the dock. Jayce and Derek helped Titus into the canoe (with a life jacket on). Jayce jumped back into the water but clung to the canoe. Derek dove in and beat everyone back.
Once out of the water, Titus was very much in shock. He vomited again, his entire body shaking.
I ran up to the van, grabbed a towel.
And cried. Hard.
About this time, my cell phone beeps that I have a text.
It's from Lisa, Titus' mom.
"How's everything going over there? ( :"
"Okay! Just finishing up. Be home soon!"
We eventually got Titus into dry clothes. We loaded up the van and headed back into town. The sandboard shop where we rented the boards was across town. As I drove, with Titus in the passenger seat, Derek and Jayce in the back, I could tell Titus was having a hard time.
Once at the shop, I send in Jayce and Derek to return all the boards. I ask Titus if he's okay.
Now, you've heard "My life passed before my eyes"? Well, just because you're only 18, it doesn't mean your life has been meaningless. It doesn't mean you don't have regrets. I will not tell you what Titus said, as I hold it dear and sacred that he told me. But, I will say, we were both sobbing by the time he was done.
Jayce and Derek come back to the van, I step out to call my husband and let him in on a little that has happened and explain that I want to hang out in town for a bit. I don't want to head back over the mountain, where I'll have no cell service and the nearest doctor is an hour away. Everyone was acting perfectly fine, just wanted to be certain.
As I hang up with my husband and turn towards the van, Titus is waiting for me.
He says "I want you to know, I would've tried to swim that far even if you would've said "No". It's not your fault. I wanted to do it so I did."
He knew. He knew that I felt extremely guilty for letting them swim out there like that.
He tried his very hardest to convince me it wasn't my fault. And, I tried my very hardest to convince him I will always feel guilty.
I also expressed my fears about what his mother was going to say. My friend, the woman whose one fear is drowning.
Titus asked if we needed to tell her.
"Ummmm....yeah. We do. There is no way I can look at her and NOT tell her. Plus, I will most certainly burst into tears as soon as I see her".
We went to the local burger joint and ate dinner. There was lots of laughter and also, lots of "what ifs" that night.
Have you ever heard that drowning is very quiet? I had, but never got it until that day.
There were families all around us. Only myself, the boys and the two old men even had a clue what was going on, just feet away.
There was no huge splashing and thrashing.
Just a quiet "Help".
One conversation we all had that night was if Derek had saved Titus', and on some level, Jayce's lives.
I believe he did.
Jayce could not help Titus as Titus is much larger and Jayce was very tired. I firmly believe Jayce would've died trying.
I could've swam out there but certainly not fast enough and I'm certain I would not have had enough strength to swim dragging Titus.
The old men would've never made it there in time.
What if I hadn't have drove them that day?
What if Derek hadn't of come down to the dock and instead went to the car, looking for food?
When we finally made it home, I let Titus go in and tell his mother all that had happened. She came out and yes, I immediately started crying. She hugged me and said "I'm so glad you were there and it's okay."
And, of course, she hugged Derek and said "Thank you!"
It's been several weeks since this happened. I still cry. Hard.
I still feel guilty. I always will.
But, I'm okay with it. There's nothing wrong with a little guilt.
I'd rather feel guilty with the results we do have instead of guilt for how it could've turned out.
We did have some fun that day. This was taken after dinner, at BJs ice cream shop (I can guarantee you the boys felt good enough to giggle when I pulled into the parking lot). Derek, Jayce and Titus. With serious faces and not wanting to actually touch each other.
It's a special kind of love. :)