When my mom was about 4-5 yrs old, she got caught in an undertow. Scared the living daylights out of her. And then put a living fear of water in her for many years. She didn’t want any of her 4 kids to have the same fear so she put all of us in swimming lessons. My brother loved the water so much, he became a high level scuba diver, and is a Ph.D. marine biologist who just returned from a 6-month research study in New Zealand. And he has a ‘thing’ for sharks. Enough of a thing, he swims with them on occasion. Guess he never got the same fear of water my mom had.
One day, much later in life, my mom decided she was tired of being so afraid of the water, both for herself and watching us in it, even if it was a pool where no undertows could happen. So she did something about it. She signed up for swimming lessons at our local YMCA. I guess she would have been in her early 40’s at the time. And because of her talking about her fears and what she was doing to overcome them, she found out about other women in her age group and older who didn’t know how to swim either. The community builder my mom was, she got a bunch of them to sign up for lessons too. Word spread so much that the Y actually created a time slot for older people just learning how to swim to have pool time just for them, with instructors around to provide guidance and support.
That was the amazing woman my mom was. Sadly, she had a life that was marked by a lot of trauma, and correspondingly, a lot of fears. But she did something about them. Each and every one of them that I know of at least. And because she faced her fears, she showed others they could do the same. I can’t even imagine how many lives she touched through her examples of faith.
Here are just a few more …
As a child, my mom was molested by several members of her family. In adulthood, she sought counseling for it, and worked very hard to rid herself of the feelings inside her that plagued her life for so many years. Then, in her 60’s and 70’s, she taught art to abused women as a way of both expressing and healing from their abuse.
As a teen, while sitting on the toilet of all places, my mom saw a bolt of lightning come in from the window and pass right in front of her. Naturally, she developed a fear of thunderstorms after that. But again, she did everything in her power to make sure us kids didn’t develop the same fear. Even to the point of lying to us in saying our house was ‘protected’ by special things on it to divert lightning so it could never harm our home or us. Her lying worked so well, I not only believed her, I grew up to become fascinated by storms. She in turn became fascinated by my fascination and adopted the same. What once was a fear of hers, became the foundation of a bond between us.
When my parents split up when I was 10, my mom realized she didn’t really have any employable skills in that day’s market. She was terrified of how she would be able to provide a future for her and me (the only child still at home then). Her previous nursing diploma was outdated, and she had spent most of our childhood years being a homemaker and supporting my dad’s podiatry practice. So she got out her pencils and pads and went back to university in her mid-40’s. She not only got an honours degree, she started several networking groups where ‘mature’ students could find support and encouragement. Bonus: she also met my step-dad while at university.
That was my mom. She saw fear for what it was and did something about it. She made the choice between F‘ing Everything And Running. Or Facing Everything And Recovering. Son of a beach, she gone done did it. And did it. And did it some more. And because of her, I and countless others learned how to do the same.
My mom passed in 2011. Prior to that, she and my step-dad lived for many years on St. Joe’s Island in northern Ontario, about 45 minutes east of Sault Ste. Marie where I was born and partially grew up. They lived in a cottage that was on the waterfront and had a beach. Their home looked out onto the St. Mary’s River, a channel where ships pass through on their travels between two of the “Great Lakes”, Superior and Huron. All of my children grew up to know that when someone called out “boat again!”, it meant to run out to the shoreline and start waving like crazy. Sometimes the folks on the ship would see us, and sound their horns and even go on deck to wave back. That made for memories my kids and I will treasure for all our lives. Pretty cool eh? And it likely never would have been had it not been for my mom facing and recovering from her fear of water.
The Island, as it’s affectionately known, is my favourite place in the whole wide world. It is also where my mom’s ashes are buried, in the cemetery of the church where she and my step-dad were married. Below is a gallery of some pictures I have of our time there. The featured image above is my mom, pausing from reading a book to enjoy a glance out of the window of the cottage, perhaps to see a ship passing by. Perhaps to watch us playing on the beach or swimming. Or perhaps just to be. I dunno.
Love you mom. Always have. Always will.
In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Beach