The Lazy River incident

Her eyes.
That’s about all I can remember.
They latched onto mine through a thick layer of clear, chlorinated water, silencing the squeals, the laughter, the shouts, the splashing. Silencing all sounds completely.
They pleaded, but at the same time, they seemed so full of resignation.
So sad.
So apologetic.
I hesitated.
In the end, it made no difference.
But I hesitated.
I stood there beside her in the water, holding my boy’s tubular raft steady with one hand, and for just a moment – a split second – I simply took in those eyes. Completely. I was captivated. I was frozen. I did nothing.
Then, without thinking, I reached.
I grabbed her thin arm and I pulled, still locked on her eyes as they broke the surface and blinked.
I held her like that, dangling her frail, young body just inches over the surface while I scanned the crowd for a lifeguard. Once again, it was the eyes. His caught mine, which must have relayed her plea. He said nothing — just plowed through the water and wrapped his arms around her small waist, holding her tight.
“Where’s the mother? Do you know?” he asked, finally.
I pointed to a woman standing in the open center in one section of a double raft, her back to the emptiness, laughing with an older child, who was stretched comfortably across a single raft. They were near the exit of the Lazy River.
At the time, I wasn’t sure how I knew.
It came back to me hours later. I had seen the girl fall. It just hadn’t registered. The danger. The threat. I was too busy. Too involved with own kids to understand what I had seen until the current brought me to those eyes.
I watched as the lifeguard brought the toddler to the mother, tapped her on the shoulder and gave the child over. He had disrupted her laughter, her moment with her older child. She was clearly annoyed.
She demanded to know why he had her.
“Because she was drowning,” the lifeguard answered.
His voice was flat.
Immediately, the mother turned, searching for flaws in the section of tube behind her, certain she would find a hole in the sealed bottom of the safety seat. She was haughty, anxious to blame Legoland, unwilling to accept that her failure to put a life jacket on a child less than two years old had nearly resulted in her death.
Unwilling to admit that she hadn’t even noticed her daughter was gone.
The lifeguard shook his head in disgust.
He turned and waded away.
I thought it didn’t bother me.
It was over that fast.
So fast, I almost didn’t think to mention it.
But the eyes came back to me over dinner and then again when I was brushing my teeth and then again in the morning. They do not come in my dreams. They appear in the most mundane moments. In the most excited moments.
They come and they go.
The eyes and the mother’s laughter.

4 thoughts on “The Lazy River incident

  1. Anonymous

    It is actually quite easy for a young child to drown in a lazy river. Once my then seven year old, strong swimmer, was in a tube in one. She came to shore , stood up in waist deep water directly in front of the lifeguard, pulling the tube over her head, and at that instant, a very fat lady lying horizontally in a tube swept over her, and stopped. The woman was obviously completely unaware of what was going on, and was trying to get out. My kid was trappped under her. Lifeguard was alert, but wasn't looking that way. I waded out as fast as I could and flipped the woman and her raft backward off my kid. It took maybe 20 seconds all told, but felt like a lifetime.

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