Friday, November 9, 2012

"Find the bottom and stand up"

Earlier this week, Rowan finished her first 5 week preschool swimming class through the local aquatic center. The class focused on getting kids comfortable in the water and learning some basic skills. Rowan loved the class, and loved her teacher. It was well worth the time and money.

As I sat and watched her last class, though, I had this sudden flashback...

It is the afternoon of December 18, 2011. I am with Rowan at Jacobs Aquatic Center in Key Largo, FL. A short while earlier, we'd briefly seen Aimee before she'd left to go out for her scuba dives. Rowan and I are playing in a large swimming pool, and Rowan is staying on the steps. It's too deep for her off the steps. She's having fun, but I, trying to be a good parent, tell her that if she slips and falls and lands on one of the steps, all she needs to do is 'find the bottom and stand up'. I tell her as long as she does that on one of the steps, she'll come up with her head above the water.

I repeat this over and over to her in a sing-sing kind of way... 'find the bottom and stand up... find the bottom and stand up.' Although the exercise doesn't really have a point, since I'm never more than an arm's length away from her and I'll grab her if she does start to slip, I am trying to help her increase both her knowledge of how to deal with that scenario and her comfort level in the pool.

I am trying to teach her how to not panic in the water. I'm trying to teach her how not to drown (in the context of the poll she was in at that moment).

At the same time as I was giving Rowan her little impromptu lesson, Aimee was on the boat, on her way out to Molasses Reef....

So as I watched Rowan splash and play in the pool a few evenings ago, at one point she did slip, but caught herself before she fell over. In my mind I heard my voice automatically say 'find the bottom and stand up', and suddenly I was back in Florida with Rowan in that pool, where just a short while earlier we'd waved a final goodbye to Aimee.

A short while later Aimee would be dead.


  1. I commend you for signing Rowan up for swim lessons and encouraging her to feel confident in the water. It has to be hard for both of you to face the water, always with the memory of Aimee's final moments.

    When I was two I fell to the bottom of a 10 foot swimming pool, in February, in Seattle. I was lucky enough to be found in time and revived, but I was quite traumatized. Throughout my childhood my mother drove me all over the city to different pools to take lessons, searching for a teacher who could be compassionate with me because I was so fearful. I finally learned to swim, but I don't enjoy it, and still have flashbacks of drowning. I'm grateful that my mom pushed so hard for me to have the skill of swimming, and I admire you for getting Rowan in the water, too.

  2. Thanks Heather. I'm lucky that at least for now, Rowan LOVES the pool. I want her with as many cool memories and as much skill and confidence as possible before she connects the dots.

  3. Pat, I am sure you will have those flash-backs for time to come. I hope and pray that Rowan don't realize that her mommy died in the water ( the ocean) and become scared of the pool and water. You singing to Rowan like that I am sure is a comfort for her to know you are there. Rowan is lucky to have a father like you raising her, there to comfort her, consoul her, and just being there to protect her. Prayer to you and her.