Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feet First

When I was about ten years old I climbed up the stairs to the high dive for the first time. I wasn’t a particularly daring child nor was I particularly athletic. Watching the older kids gracefully diving from the high dive, however, I thought it looked like they were flying and I so wanted to feel like I was flying being an overweight pre-teen trapped on this earth with my embarrassing family.

I climbed the stairs….slowly at first….then slower, and slower and slower until I finally made it to the top and stood on the narrow board which might as well have been on top of the Empire State Building. There were no reference points for me to judge my place in the world and I was terrified that the gusts of wind which were the only weather on the high dive were going to blow me to my death. As I walked closer to the edge I understood that I now had no choice. Climbing back down the stairs was not only prohibited by the pool rules but seemed a thousand times worse than dying. I walked toward the edge, my toes gripping the glistening sand that was glued to the board for traction and edged closer to my fate. I knew I had to jump. I knew it had to be soon or everyone would be looking at me. I did it. I’m fairly certain I survived.

The morning of Brennis’ surgery felt a bit like that. Brennis and I were both certainly in a place we had never been before. Though my father had had open heart surgery fifteen years before and I was at the hospital before, during and after his surgery I really had no idea what my mother was going through until that day. Though we did not talk about it we knew the risks of this surgery and we knew that the recovery afterward would be long and difficult. There were many frightening things about what was going to happen. We also knew that there really was no other choice. So we stood there on the diving board together but in very different places.

We were given a general idea about what time the surgery was going to be (I assume they don’t like to promise specific times since things can be terribly unpredictable in a hospital). Brennis’ mother, my parents and my sister wanted to be there with me while I waited during the long surgery….Brennis’ sister was going to come after work. We had also asked the minister of Brennis’ family church to be with us beforehand for a few moments of prayer. Much earlier than we had expected, however, we were informed that Brennis was going to be going into surgery soon (I honestly don’t remember what time but it allowed me to stop worrying about Brennis for a few minutes and worry about getting our family and the minister there as soon as possible). I called everyone and told them the news. Brennis’ mother arrived first followed shortly by the minister. My family was coming an hour away from Cleveland so they probably wouldn’t get to see Brennis before the surgery.

This was it. We were standing there on the edge of the diving board and we couldn’t wait any longer.

When I was ten, when I finally jumped from the high dive I jumped feet first. I realized I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. I didn’t need to do a perfect dive. I had done everything I had set out to do. I jumped one time onto the board and then…..I flew. It didn’t feel much like flying actually but I imagine it’s the closest I will ever get to it. It really felt a lot more like falling but in my mind I was newly alive with pride in myself and trying to feel all of the new, amazing, exhilirating feelings in my body. It was over before it began and soon the cold water began to envelope my body and I was plunged deep into the pool. I had done it. I climbed back up the stairs for another turn.

After the minister said his prayer he and Brennis’ mother left the room leaving us to say something to each other before the surgery. What should I say? Should I say “I love you” or would that make him think I thought he might die? Should I tell him I knew everything was going to be alright even though I didn’t really know that that was true? Or should I tell him that he was the solid ground beneath my feet….the one who for the past twenty years had been the one I clung to when I was afraid of falling…..that he was my frame of reference when I was lost…..Should I tell him I was only afraid when he wasn’t there? Should I say good bye?

There wasn’t time. Before I knew it the orderlies came into the room to take Brennis to the operating room. We gave each other a look that let each other know that we really didn’t need to say anything. We knew that we loved each other and we knew that what was happening now was no longer in our hands. We both smiled and shed a tear and that was it. Before I knew it I was standing there alone and helpless while the people who could help him took my Brennis through the doorway feet first.


  1. Wow! Again I am floored by the intensity of emotion that your writing is bringing out of me...your words are truly moving and your honesty is beautifully powerful. Keep it up because there are those of us who crave to read what you are writing. Love you!

  2. Thank you so much, Cody. I believe we are all on a journey and sometimes we can help each other along when we need some assistance. God knows plenty of people have been there for me through the years....glad I can be there for you right now.