Sink or Swim?

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I am currently transferring a large number of a family’s videotapes that span a decade or two. Today I went through a series of tapes where the parents lovingly worked with their children in the pool, teaching them to swim. That sparked a memory within me.

I believe I mentioned earlier that I used to be a lifeguard. I was also a swimming instructor. I typically taught beginner classes because, as I said in an earlier blog, I do enjoy working with children.

One day, I was in the lifeguard tower when I heard a high-pitched, terrified scream. I focused in on the sound and saw a young boy struggling to reach the side of the pool. He made it and a male adult, who I assumed was his father, pulled him out of the pool and threw him back into the water. The crowd was watching. I jumped down from my station and began walking toward him.

Not a good scene. Here I am, a 17 year old kid in a speedo with a whistle around my neck, approaching a grown-ass man who, in my view, was abusing his child. This could get ugly.

The child, once again, managed to get to the edge of the pool and before the adult could throw him back in, I spoke softly: “I can help you.” He looked at me. “If you want to teach your son to swim, there are better ways. I have a class starting next week. I can leave a spot open for him. No charge.”

I thought the father was going to create a scene but he backed down, perhaps sensing the crowd was not on his side. The mother, after he left, came up and thanked me and offered to pay me for the lessons. I declined.

I have never taught anyone as fearful of the water as that child was. It took the better part of a week to get him to let go of my arm when we were in the water together. Another half week to get him to trust me enough to lie still with my hand beneath his head as his body floated on the surface. On the last day of class, I removed my hand and he floated on the water all by himself.

The entire poolside of parents stood and cheered. I high-fived the young boy and then looked over to his mother and her expression of pure joy and gratitude will always stay with me. A few weeks later, I saw the boy, happy and playing in the water with other children his age. I never saw his father again. And I had no problem with that.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, slides, and more. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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