Thursday, October 12, 2006

LATE NIGHT AT THE ENIGMA CAFE



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[ It is now October 2006, and we are still Waiting. Waiting for Change. I am reposting this because I wanted to share it again.Post was originally posted May 20th, 2006 ]

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May 20th 2006.
So here we sit at the Enigma Cafe, stirring our coffee, and waiting for someone to show up with fresh bagels.It has been a long spring, all of us waiting for the other shoe to drop.( Actually I meant The Turd Rove to go down in the Plamegate Leak Scandal or the Abramoff mess)..if you know what I mean...) It has been raining and wet here, and even my son has been hanging out and restless, which means we have been telling stories and drinking too much tea and coffee.Storytelling here is not just about biding time, it is about nurturing the soul and stoking the hopes. When you are done listening to this little tale may you sit down and tell a story from your past, one that matters and makes a teenager ponder with a resounding ohhhhhhh. So cozy up a little closer, let me top off you cup. Here is a story....

PART ONE : MIRACLES IN THE DEEP END
My son is 15, the age when you begin to ponder What you want to be. He was asking How I became a nurse , which is not an easy answer because I never actually wanted to Be a Nurse....and involves being 11 years old and a miracle at a swimming pool....in the deepend.

When I was 11 I was very sick for many monthes with a blood disorder and by summer I was finally better, but I looked like a Concentration Camp survivor. I had spent many monthes lying in bed watching the Wild Wild West and Perry Mason and wishing and hoping I would be better by summer. Summer arrived and I was finally better, but it left me weak and looking like Olive Oil. My mother decided that we needed to take a trip to visit my Dad in the Midwest, he lived in a modern apartment complex that had little to offer lonely skinny kids. ( actually there were very few kids even at the complex).
My mom was glad to be on "vacation", which meant that she would sit by the pool and try to sell Shakllee products ( which was some sort of godawful version of Amway crapola) and read her romance novels and tell us to "go play". ( Which is insulting to any 11 year old). So I spent the summer reading things to make her worry- Crime and Punishment and Exodus, for starters. ( and yes Smart Ass that I am I told her that I liked the violence and the sex- just to watch her eyes roll in her head and that vessel in her forehead pulse). I knew that I would spend my time hiding every part of my ostrich being with sweatshirts and towels by the concrete pool at the concrete complex.The whole complex still smelled of wet concrete and sand, there were no birds or trees even, so the pool was really the only place to go to escape the oppressive heat of the apartment.
( My Dad owned an aluminum sideing business in the Midwest, and the first 6 weeks of summer were spent surveying his plants, absorbing Kentucky and Ohio etc. and listening to my mother complain. The second half of the summer was spent in Florida.I spent a good bit of summers hiding from the sun and my mother and reading as many books as possible).

One overcast grey morning we went down to the pool and my mom went to the "Adult End", and sat with two other women and drank iced tea and read Good Housekeepings. I retreated to the other end of this strange pool where I knew no one and tried to read for awhile as I hid under my towels.I tuned my mother out. The "guard" was at the other end of the 60 foot long Peanut shaped pool, sitting on a chaise lounge talking too loudly to a girl friend and listening to the radio. The Beatles drifted on the Coppertone breeze as they giggled about boys like the chatty highschool cheerleaders they were. I painted my toenails with a black marker and cracked my bubblegum and realized that I was going to have to brave stares sooner or later and go in the pool.

I sat on the edge of the deepend and dangled my feet in the murky greenish water, because it wasn't sunny it gave the water a opague listless coloring. While sitting there I noticed a shadow down beneath the ladder. I leaned a little closer to the water and tried to see better, but I still couldn't make out the shadow. Suddenly I had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind of gnawing dread that makes your heart pound. I realized Something was Very Wrong. I threw off my sweatshirt and jumped in the pool and as I came up for air I tried to navigate my way to the Shadow, and then I realized the Shadow was not a shadow at all......I dove down to the Shadow.

As I got closer I could make out the figure of a little girl.
I had never seen a dead person, but I was pretty sure that she might be dead.

She was down in the deepend, right below the ladder to get out, her limbs splayed limply and at odd angles. She wasn't the right color, she was greenish in color and her hair was straggled about her head like a seaweed noodle halo. Her eyes were closed as though she was merely sleeping. She had been playing with a snorklemask and it was stuck over her mouth and nose, I remember looking at her and realizing what had happened, such a sad simple mistake.

The Dread had now changed to a different emotion, one of Cold Fear, because I didn't know what to do.

I decided that she looked about 8, I could pull her to the Ladder, and then yell for help, it would be so simple. It wasn't.
I went to touch her arm and it was ice cold, and it felt so heavy, like picking up a huge Yule Log. Dead Weight had a new meaning. I was stunned. I tried again, and could not pull her up. I began to realize that it was just her and I alone down in the DeepEnd, and I wasn't sure if she was dead or alive. The Silence was deafening and roared in my head. My chest was beginning to hurt but I knew that I could still hold my breath for a little longer.I then looked down at her and went over to the ladder and grabbed her by the hair. I grabbed on with all my might and pulled and dragged and hung on to the ladder. And as I got to the top of the ladder I screamed to the guard. It didn't come out very loud becuase I was out of breath. In a very hoarse garbled voice it came out "She's Dead". I was not trying to be dramatic- but I was really scared she was. The Guard came running and soon with her and her friend helping the girl was lifted out of the water. And they had to pry my hand out of her hair. They had a hard time getting the mask off, it was suctioned sealed to her face. She was still a wretched green and cold. I watched the guard give her breathes and turn her over and try to get the water out and the air in. I was stunned becuase as she did all of this I realized that the girl might not be dead after all. I realized that Hope was in Action at that moment, not just wishful thinking.

The guard stopped to take a breath and she looked up and yelled,"Call the Police and Fire, I will need more help. And get blankets. " I didn't ask why, I ran to our apartment right by the pool and called the police on the phone and gave the address, and grabbed the new Sears Americana Blue polyester comforter and blanket off the guest bed in my Dad's apartment and ran back to the pool. By the time I got back , less than 2 minutes later the little girl looked a little better. And I as I stood watching she threw up all over the wonderful new blanket I had just brought down. I knew in the moment of seeing the vomit that maybe she was going to be okay, I was relieved and happy. ( I didn't even hear my mother grumping about the blanket). And after she threw up the green color started to fade from her face and she took her first breath and gasped. And she cried. And all of us standing there were crying.And the Ambulance came and took the little girl away to the Hospital, and the guard's friend went with her, because she was all alone- there was no one to go with her. I was wondering where her mama was ? And it made me wonder if that was why no one knew that she was Missing, or below the surface too long.

My mother stood yelling at me about the "wasted Blankets" I never heard her because in those few minutes Everything was Different. I went back to the Deep End and sat looking at the "Shadow " area. Thinking I never ever wanted to NOT Know What to do.The guard came over and just sat and neither one of felt like talking, not yet. We both sat and dangled our feet. "It's Too Late" by Carole King came on the radio and we both quietly sang along.

She looked over at me and lit a cigarette, her hand shaking slightly. " You know I thought she was dead too."

I sat silent and wordless and stunned.
She explained,"Yeah, I know a guard isn't susposed to say that, but for those couple of minutes I didn't Know What was going to happen.You did a good thing , you know that?"

And I finally said" But I didn't know what to do."

And she looked at me hard, "Yeah, but now you will always want to Know What to do, so that will make you try even harder to save someone. Because now know you can. That's how it works. Come see me later, I have an extra Red Cross Lifesaving book out in my car."

After she finished her cigarette she stood up and looked at me, and said " Saving someone is about the trying, you never know how it will turn out, it is more than Hope....some say it is about Faith. "

And that is how I became a Lifeguard.....the Nurse story is for another day.

We all have stories of How we became Who we are....and how we got there.

35 comments:

Tina said...

Wow E... I don't know what to say about that. I nearly did drown when I was 5 yrs old. My family and my maternal grandparents used to go to Chippewa Lake (look it up... the old chalet house burned down a few summers ago) and we would all swim while my dad and grandpa would go fishing.
I wandered out to a pier by myself and I dropped my Barbie doll into the water. Since she was floating, I thought I could reach her. Instead I fell in and took in water immediately. My mom, grandma and sisters were too far away to even see what happened.
My dad and grandpa, however did see what happened. They rowed as fast as they could to get over to me, and then my dad dove in. He said he could see my long hair floating like seaweed in the water. I don't remember him pulling me out. I just remember how my lungs felt like they were on fire when I took the water in, how futile it was to try to hold my breath, and how sleepy I felt once I decided to just keep breathing in the water. Afterwards though, at the hospital... the burning in my lungs was beyond terrible. And even though I went to the hospital, I developed a bad respiratory infection about a week later. I was on antibiotics for almost a month.
Thank God my dad saw it all, and thank God you saw that little girl. Maybe it was a Divine Plan that you got all sick and skinny that summer so you would be there to save her?

enigma4ever said...

Tina: WOW...that is quite a story...I am so sorry...very powerful...and so good that you are okay...and that you survived....

EPILOGUE: Yes Tina, in many ways I felt like a weak scrawney Ostrich, and yes, I did in some parts of me think that I was too weak to "do much", and it was a test. The little girl was in the Hospital for about a week according to the updates by the lifeguard - my mother would not take me to see her ( she said I was being"morbid"). I have always wondered if she was okay and what happened to her too....

Anonymous said...

It's a late night enigma & you have me thinking of the sometimes twisting paths we take to end up where we are. How does a 15-yr old "decide" what he wants to be or do? You may think you know where you want to end up, but life doesn't always follow your game plan. In your case, lifeguarding & saving a drowning little girl must have been signs pointing toward your manifest nursing destiny. I'm sure she has a beautiful memory in her subconscience of being grabbed by the hair & thus given another chance at life. Although she may not be able to explain why, she probably believes guardian angels are all redheads!

My 14th summer was a turning point on that path. Our old B&W TV set had finally gotten so bad, the afternoon monster movies that I loved were unwatchable. With temps hovering around 115, outdoor activities were impossible. Too young to drive, too old for kid-stuff, I took the bus to a wonderful quiet airconditioned cocoon known as a library. Straying from the usual 14-yr old girl stuff, I first wandered into the science-fiction section where Isaac Asimov changed my viewpoint forever. I worked my way through all those great old SF authors (Bradbury, Heinlein, etc), then walked over to the hard science section and .... OMG, read the theory of human evolution! OK, I thought, an anthropologist life for me. Reality settled in years later as I realized I wasn't cut out for the hardships of field work. My career path may have veered crazily away (in a totally unrelated area), but 40-yrs later, I still retain an avid interest in pondering mankind's journey to ourselves which gives me great pleasure & for which I'm forever grateful to that defective TV.

May your son take inspiration from your story & may his talents take him far along the path of his choosing. D.K.

enigma4ever said...

Wow DK that is so wonderful....the Library...I think many bloggers sought that refuge....but look how it changed you forever...and the path it took you on...( I confess Dada also reminded me of this story from over on his blog about his "awful" experience).

Tina and DK thank you for sharing your tales...they mean so much...

Peacechick Mary said...

Of all the jobs I've ever had, being a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor was the most enjoyable and rewarding - sending out all those lifeguards to help. Of course, I was young, living at my parents home and free, but that's another angle. Congratulations on your rescue and may you be granted many more.

enigma4ever said...

Peacechick : thank you for your work training lifeguards...work that so matters...

Dada said...

Thanks for this incredibly moving story. Why do I get the feeling your son is one very lucky young man? Anyway, after reading it once, I had to reread it to the wife. She was equally rapt. Great job unfolding that very absorbing memory.

Oh, and I'm glad my drowning tale inspired you to share this with all. (BTW, I really was drowning, but didn't, leaving the funny part at which we all can now laugh--or in the case of "some" who commented about it afterwards, to actually suggest I intentionally tried to drown?! In that most ecstatic way???!!!)

meldonna said...

Your swimming pool story set me thinking in a different direction -- water related as well.

Just west of Little Rock is a small man-made lake with a Babtist-run summer day-camp and recreation area, open on weekends to the general public. When I was a couple of years younger than your 15-year-old, my parents would often take me and my little sister there to spend a day on the beach. Genine, like our mother, never did learn to swim, and contented herself at about age six or so playing and wading in the knee deep water, within a few feet of the "'rents", leaving me free to indulge myself in snorkeling, diving, cannonballing, and all other normal lake activities. It's been speculated I was born with vestigal gills, and all my life I've always been happiest either chest- or chin-deep in the water.

A little history about the beach; it had only recently been integrated (in 1975! Jesus wept), the Babtists having finally been forced to quit restricting the place by court order. The beach was on Lake NIXON, if that tells you anything!

So one Saturday afternoon, having already been at the lake for several hours, I wandered by to check in with the 'rents, and was wading away from them in the shallows when I came across this little girl, about three, wiping tears out of her eyes, and about to step on her bottom lip. Curious, I sat down next to her and struck up a conversation, and through a series of twenty questions figured out she was there with her older brothers, who had left her in the kiddie section while they went to dive off the floating dock out in the deep. So I said, "Do you want to go out there?" and her little face just lit up.

I piggy-backed her out there, put her up on the dock, said hi to her brothers, encouraged her to jump off a few time with me there to catch her, and when she said she was ready to go back, piggy-backed her back to the kiddie shallows, where she gave me a smile and a wave, as she ran off to play in the fountain with the other under-fives. The kid just wanted some attention.

About two hours later, on the way home, my dad (who I do love, although he's never been the most progressive thinker -- imagine Archie Bunker with a southern twang), started talking about what a pleasant day he was having sitting in the shade at the lake, "when I looked up and saw my OWN daughter, with a pickinanny around her neck." Mom elbowed him in the ribs, and he kind of snickered it off -- in Daddy's parlance, he was just 'teasing.' I just remember my face getting hot, and looking in my reflection in the side window of the car with a bigger bottom lip than the kid had.

I didn't figure out that day what I wanted to be, but I sure did figure out what I DIDN'T want to be.

Funny how sometimes someone's intentions can force you to start thinking in a totally new direction. In a way, I sort of owe the old man a thank you.

Be well, folks.

gugon said...

Enigma:

AMAZING and MOVING story. I have to say, I am in awe of all nurses. You may not realize this, but it is not a job that everyone could do. I know I couldn't do it. I'm far too emotional and I'm pretty sure I would be completely overwhelmed by the suffering and misery of the patients. I would absorb too much of their emotions.

I don't know how you do it. Nursing is a true calling and I applaud and thank everyone who gets into that profession.

Beautiful story! Thank you for that!

Rory Shock said...

great story well told ... you are the enigma ...

Anonymous said...

You're a gifted writer E4E with an amazing life. Thanks for the story.

Unknown said...

I love your stories..more more! :)

TruthOut has another Krazy Karl episode up..their servers are so overloaded you can't get on to read it.

Graeme said...

awesome!! Haven't read one of your stories in a while

enigma4ever said...

Graeme: Thanks so much...good to see you- going over to your place next.

Dusty: saw that you are on Karl watch over at TO too...hmm, Karl ? trud round up time...

Libby : thank you...wow.

Rory: so I am an enigma? ok....guess so..

Gugon: I am now blushing..wow..Yup us nurses are strange folk - but we try hard...

MEL: awesome story...wow amazing....

Dada: thanks...and hello to the missus- hmm lucky son? nah- I am the lucky one- cause I have him...

meldonna said...

I hope more folks chime in and tell their stories; whether of what made you choose your career, or simply what you think made you what you are. Storytelling is the backbone of any village, and sure to be the conversation starter at any Cafe!

E, we all come here because we like someone who understands the Greater Good, and works for it. Mostly because we all see a bit of it in ourselves. The good conversation strenghtens us in bad times, and enriches us each always.

Good to see you back, Mama Barista!

Anonymous said...


and you may find yourself
living in a shotgun shack
and you may find yourself
in another part of the word
and you may find yourself
behind the wheel of a large automobile
and you may find youself
in a beautiful house
with a beautful wife
amd you may ask yourself
"well, how did I get here?"

- "Once in a Lifetime" - Talking Heads

I don't have an enchanting story to tell of how I got to be where I am...it was mostly pure, dumb luck...the moral of any story I could tell would be to find yourself at an early age, by whatever means necessary...many of my generation did this in our youth by hitting the road, living in communes, questioning authority and exploring alternative lifesytles...our methods led to burn-outs and wrong paths chosen by some, but many also rejoined society with a new and better outlook...the point is, find yourself and you have a chance to be happy, no matter what you choose to do for a living...

enigma4ever said...

Wow....I have the best People Here...the thinkers , the Salt of the Earth...

Mel; What can I say - you always get what I am trying to say...and the Point- that The Village raises ALL of us...

Maine Friend: I love this Talking Heads song..."the point is find yourself"....

Anonymous said...

hey, meldonna, my dad was an "archie bunker" type, too and as a child I used to wince and shut up whenever he would launch into one of his tirades against black people at the dinner table...he's mellowed a bit, but he still sends me anti-immigration crap from time to time...I don't wince, but I do throw it away...subjects like politics and religion are still better left undiscussed...I could explain my beliefs, but he's not going to change at his age and he wouldn't understand how morally wrong bigotry and racism are...

meldonna said...

I'm with you, Maineac; my pop's in his dottage himself -- sometimes ya just gotta blow it off.

And thanks for the Talking Heads bump...I've always liked quoting this one as well:

this ain't no party,
this ain't no disco,
THIS AIN'T NO FOOLING AROUND

this ain't no mudclub,
no CBGB,
I AIN'T GOT TIME FOR THAT NOW

(and then mel dances around living room to the reggae groove)

cheers!

Dada said...

e4e: In my previous comment, I had intended to mention your choice of illustration for this particular blog entry. I loved it! Hopper is one of my very favorite American artists. And it reminds me of why I enjoy dropping by the "Cafe" here occasionally. Because it makes me feel good to be--for a few brief moments--among 'village people' that share kindred spirits. And that helps beat back the growing feelings of estrangement and emptiness in my own homeland, an alienation that so many of Hopper's characters seem destined to illustrate forever from their frozen scenes of oil.

meldonna: Absolutely loved your beautifully written story. Thanks for sharing!

TFLS said...

How we became who we are....very important, that. The how, I mean. We are the sum total of our experience, yes; but the choices we make based upon those experiences is the key, I believe. I choose a markedly different path than any other member of my family. My parents had 4 children, and only 2 of us survived; my sister through rigidity, me through my ability to adapt to each and every circumstance. Funny you should be talking about this. I wrote about my own defining moment. Very different - but choices were made in both instances. And I agree with Dada - your son is indeed lucky to have you as a mom.

shrimplate said...

As an adult, the person who is now my spouse loaned me a book about shamanic journeying.

I followed the instructions and soon found myself re-experiencing the first dream I ever had: it was about my mother drowning. A water bird took me down into the blue deep beside her (by the way, she did not drown) and taught me how to "breath underwater."

At that time I was a rather competitive long-distance runner and "breathing anaerobically" was an important part of my training. My best races were yet to come at that time.

And honestly, the journey took me back to the first dream I ever recall having, in my quite introspective life, even as a young person.

Things are strange.

Water, mothers, dreams, trance states, faith, the dreams we all have.

NEWSGUY said...

I was on the other end of this story. We had a tradition at Purdue of tossing a guy into a shower on his birthday, only this one time we decided it would be a great idea to toss this guy off the crew dock into the Wabash river. At night. I know. I am not proud of this.

And as we dragged him down to the river and tossed him, he grabbed my arm and I went in, too. Clothes, shoes and all. Served me right. Springtime. Swollen river, running fast. And me, a Midwestern farm boy, had never learned how to swim. I went down, down, down, and miraculously, began coming up, up up, but never had mastered the simple art of floating.

I don't remember being particularly scared, but maybe I have blocked it out. I must have been frightened out of my mind. I yelled. A kid named Burton jumped in and pulled me out. A miracle. I would have drowned for sure. My life would have ended right there, my Freshman year at Purdue.

I would sure like to know where Burton is. I think of him from time to time. Would like to thank him. I owe him my life.

meldonna said...

Hey, newguy...

I was just talking to my mom tonight about how people drift in and out of your life; I've got plenty of my own I wish I knew where they were myself. I hope someday you connect back up with Burton. Every time I run across one of my old buddies, it's a blessing in itself, swapping life stories and laughing about how foolishly we thought we we bullet-proof, in one way or another, when we were kids.

Glad you didn't drown, friend! And thanks for your story...

meldonna said...

dada -- thanks, man. I tried to email you, but I'm having dinosaur computer problems; I hope to have them worked out within the next few days.

And it is comfy at E's Cafe, isn't it? She does attract a neat village here! It's always fun to see your comments. Hard to be a thinking mammal these days, huh?

There are changes blowing in the wind...please keep the faith. I still have faith myself that the Amerifaciscists are falling quicker than they can implement their new Final Solution; our job is to bring democracy back to our own country.

Then and only then we can start working on the real problems...

Kathy said...

What an inspirational story. I'm looking forward to hearing how you became a nurse.

enigma4ever said...

5-35-06 Thursday eve.....
Take a couple off days away from the caffeine- and WOW such wonderful storytelling being sipped at the counter. Lightening and thunder and clouds abursting....perfect night for settling down with a fine cup of tea and warm woolie sweater.....

Kathy: Ahhh, hmm, so it is time for the Nurse part of the tale....thanks for coming by.

MEL: I am with you we need to Steal back our raped and ravaged Democracy before the Final Solution and yes I have hope, great Hope.

I have to get offline the lights are flickering.

meldonna said...

While we're thieving, maybe we could steal back the vets' ID's, their benefits, and some REAL respect from Our Only Guv'mint.

Rock on, E.
Your obedi'nt Geoduck Guerilla Mel.

Vanished said...

So glad I decided to check again this morning for something from E4E. Everyone wrote so movingly. Just a perfect, hopeful way to begin my weekend.

Thank you all...

SB Gypsy said...

Thanks for that story. It brought the tears to my eyes. Sometimes you really need a story of hope to cling to when the whole world is going up in flames.

enigma4ever said...

Gypsy 7-23-06:
Thanks for coming...and I am glad that I could give you a bit of Hope in these Troubled Times...

azgoddess said...

wow - nice story...nice lady that you are!!

sumo said...

A wonderful read...and well done as a scared child...it showed then that you were possessed of common sense and rather fearless really.

DivaJood said...

Do we really only have one defining moment? I think we have more. I hope we have more.

As I look back at my own history, my experiences, I am well aware of pivitol changes along the way. Was it my first glass of champagne at age 7 that made me an alcoholic? And what made me go into AA at age 39, after drinking for 32 years?

What made me know, when Kennedy sent the first advisors into Viet Nam, that this was wrong and we needed to get out? I was all of 13, and began to protest Viet Nam BEFORE it escalated.

I love your story, E4E, but I think it is only one of many defining moments for you. Only one.

Anonymous said...

We all have stories, but we don't all have stories like that. Thanks for saving that little girl. I wonder where she is now and how she has processed this.

You were also very brave to tell your Mom you liked the violence and sex in books while watching her vein buldge in her head. That takes some doing. I am still not so honest with my mom to this day.