Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Eleven years ago...

...on the Fourth of July I was at a party are Maria's. My boys, Andrew (5 1/2) and Brian (1) were there. There were maybe a dozen couples. “Asal” and “Eric” were there with their two boys, already brown with the summer sun. “Becky” and “George” were there with their boys: “Tim” who was just Andrew's age and “Tony” two years younger. Six boys from one to eight.

Maria had a backyard pool. I got in with Andrew, Tim, and Tony first in the morning. Andrew could not swim at all and he was wearing a life jacket. Tim could swim pretty well; but “Tony” could not. He only wore water wings. Becky came by after a while and got in with me. We chatted and I asked if she minded if I left her with the kids. An hour later I realized that she was looked bored and I sent Hubby in to cover.

We kicked them out of the pool for lunch.

I noticed soon that they were back in the water. There was no adult in with them. I felt irritated. My son was wearing a life jacket. Why was it my job to organize life-guard duty? I was having a good time. I could not see Becky and George. Hubby was laughing and chatting with someone. I thought I would go in just a bit to kick them out of the pool, just a few more minutes.

Some time later Asal was standing next to the pool. "The baby's in the pool."

My God...Brian. Brian was in the house. He was taking a nap. He was the only baby here. How did he get into the pool?

I ran. I had been a life guard in high school. As I jumped in the water I saw a body on the bottom of the pool: too big to be Brian. Thank God. It is not Brian. The child was so dark. On my God. It was Asal's youngest. She cannot swim and her baby is under the water and she cannot get him herself. I went under the water, grabbed the boy and swam with him to the surface. George and “Becky” grabbed him from me.

Why them? Why not Asal? I turned the little body away from me so that the water could pour out and then rolled him onto his back. On no...no....no...no...it is not Asal's boy. He is not brown. He is purple. It's “Tony”. No, he's swollen. I yelled for someone to call 911. I gave him two quick breaths and thought, "I don't know how to do CPR on a child. He has to breathe. I don't know what to do next." He breathed. He vomited and I rolled him on his side again. Back onto his back. His eyes opened, but they rolled back. He did not seem to know we were there.

We waited for the ambulance. I went back to Andrew and “Tim”. I told “Becky” and George that I would take Tim home with me if they liked. I took him home. We went to the fire works.

Tony survived. But he was not the same. He lost fine motor skills. He forgot the names of things. He remembered what a spoon was, but did not know how to hold his fork. He would look at something and get angry because he knew he should know the name. He no longer remembered the words to songs he used to sing.

George and Becky divorced and both moved. For a while I was able to stay in touch with Becky, but I have lost her now. I don't know where she is, or how Tony is doing. I do an internet search for them every year, but I don’t find them.

Andrew started hovering over his baby brother. Over the next year I told him almost daily. "It's my job to watch the baby." "But Mom, what if you're not watching and I'm not watching and something bad happens?" "That would be very, very sad, Andrew. And it would be my fault because it is my job to watch the baby."

I think about this every Fourth of July. I want to warn people who are going to pools, lakes, and rivers: children drown quietly. A child can drown while 20 people sit in patio furniture talking and laughing 10 feet away. Every year I do an internet search for them. I want to email Becky and find out how Tony is.

I don’t know why it is bothering me more this year. I have given up feeling guilty about it. I have stopped torturing myself with that one moment in which I noticed and did nothing. It still makes me sad though.

This year more than others.

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