My heart skipped beats as I watched my three-year-old grandson climb to the top of a water slide. If he entered the dark tube and pushed off, he would end up plunging into the deep end of the pool. He hesitated when he reached the top, and I gave a sigh of relief.
I’m the grandma who has always been afraid of the water. At a young age, I was hanging onto a borrowed inner tube in clear and cold Telford Springs when the swift current swept me into the coffee-colored warm waters of the Suwannee River, where I was certain cold-blooded alligators lurked. Alligators with jaws that could chomp off an arm or leg. Suddenly I saw movement in the water near the bank. Alligator? Lucky for me, it was an alert cousin, who saved me.
At the age of seven or eight, I still couldn’t swim, but learned the day Mama said I could go with my older sisters and Uncle Mernest to Miami if I learned to swim. I swam that very day, if you’d call “dog paddling” swimming. I never mastered diving though. Each time I tried, my body straightened up like a board as I hit the water. My belly flop wasn’t pretty. To this day, I don’t like my head to dip below the water’s surface, be it the springs, pool, beach, or bathtub.
Apprehensive as I watched my grandson, standing at the top level in the slide cage, I held my breath. Was he going to enter that twisting monster where he would be in total darkness? I thought back to the dark waters of the Suwannee.
He stepped back. That’s right, Little Fellow, I wanted to say, come back down to Grandma. But my daughter’s voice drowned my thoughts.
“You can do it!” she yelled from the deep end of the pool, where she waited.
He entered the tunnel.
“Feet first,” she yelled. “FEET FIRST!”
Her loud instructions caught the attention of everyone in the surrounding cabanas and the pool—including the lifeguard who probably thought he’d have to dive in and rescue the tyke. I wanted to close my eyes, but I didn’t for I recognized that my grandson could swim. Through toddler swim classes, he’d learned to float and swim when he was just months old.
He was now inside the monster slide. Would he become disoriented in the darkness? He FLEW from the bottom of the slide. Head first! Arms out. Splat! Belly flop. Like his grandmother.
Unfazed by his ungraceful landing, he swam to the edge, climbed out, and was ready to do it all over again.