Today is the second Father’s Day in as many years that I will be spending the morning at a worship service, then afternoon with extended family. Previously, I’d taken the day off for the annual Childless Man’s Paddlefest – an event observed, now not at all, but then only by myself. However, today, as at about this time last year, I am a father.
Monday late afternoon or evening, for about a minute, I knew my son had died and held him in my arms helpless to save him. Out of desperation, I placed him on the living room floor and began artificial respiration. His 24 pound body was still HOT from the fever he’d been running, but his skin had turned a blue gray color and his eyes stared fixedly in the direction determined not by his mind, but by the position in which his head lay. His lips were blue. His body was neither rigid nor floppy.
Clear airway, tilt head, cover mouth and nose with my own mouth. Three breaths, instead of the prescribed two. Some chest compressions. Noise as the air passed out of his lungs, over his vocal chords, and out his mouth. My wife had already called 911.
Somewhere in all activity, I prayed while I worked, but not coherently. God doesn’t require my direction to work.
My son’s arms moved a little, but I thought that was just dead nerves twitching as the biomechanical mass shut down in no real order. Then he made a sound unrelated to CPR, and I listened for a heartbeat. It was rapid-fire. I listened for breath, and picked him up. He clung limply now to my neck and I took the phone from my wife. I don’t remember what the 911 operator said after I gave him details about our son’s condition and exactly where to find our house. The guy hung up or the connection was lost.
I could hear a siren, so carried my still breathing boy outside so the driver could easily see which house was ours. My wife rode with him in the ambulance and I followed in her car, which has the child carseat. At the hospital his temp was unreal high, but his other vital signs in the ambulance and in the ER were more reasonable. I still think the hospital should have kept him overnight and monitored him, but they concluded “Febrile Seizure” and with the okay of the on-call pediatrician, discharged him late that night.
By Wednesday, the fever’d gone and it has had no recurrence. He broke out with pink spots Thursday which seems to indicate he’d had roseola. Friday and Saturday, he was his usual happy, inquisitive, toddler-self. He still knows all the words, songs, and activities he knew before his fever and seizure. He seems a little more open-hearted, happy, loving since he got sick, and a little less arrogant. That made me worry about whether he might have lost a few IQ points due to sickness, but our pediatrician laughed at that, said there was no reason to think the fever or seizure had affected his mental processes. Maybe he’s more open because he knows we really will take care of him?
That’s the story of how I am still a father.
I woke up early Saturday, and got ready to paddle. Tsunami Chuck sold me a hand-held Quiver Sail that arrived by Fed-Ex on Thursday or Friday. Because I’m a miser, I’d agonized over the past year or so about replacing my Round-Up golf that had umbrella inverted and snapped in heavy wind by the small island on Tims Ford Lake sailing up into Lost Creek Branch. Should I buy a good golf umbrella, or ask for one out of somebody’s garage for free? So, when Chuck posted a classified about the Quiver Sail asking only $35.00 for it, I bought it.
Although the National Weather Service predicted temps in the upper nineties, it also predicted 10 – 15 mile per hour winds. A good day, I thought, to try out the new sail. I loaded gear and boat yesterday morning (because we looked at houses Friday afternoon/evening). I had trouble getting the boat on the roof racks – the front-door prop method failed spectacularly and cussed Godward like a heathen. Finally succeed using angry brute force in racking the 75# kayak, and drove out to the Woods Reservoir public access ramp off Old Brick Church Road in Coffee County.
I explained to God that the reason I was cursing was because of a circumstance so manifestly out of order that in my anger I was inviting him to observe and get angry about it with me. I said I would probably always thus bring wrong to his attention in the hope that he will take corrective action. I told God I would prefer not to feel the need to use profanity, but unless he altered my consciousness somehow, I would probably continue to express the things he’s used to hearing me express. Not defiant or disrespectful; transparent and real.
The ramp was not crowded and the put in was easy. Immediately, my injured shoulder communicated its distress to me, and I worked on paddling technique. That helped some. I was paddling in to maybe a nine mile per hour wind. When I got out by Elder Island, I turned the boat around and deployed the sail. Not much joy there in terms of forward momentum.
I paddled over to Morris Ferry Landing to see what the Arnold Engineering and Development Center’s base commandant has done in terms of public access. I found, to my surprise, a number of vacation trailers still in place and in use up in the trees above the lakefront. Many of the rickety, tin-sided dock structures have been removed. The covered dock by the cafe/store building has been removed.
The public does have access to the site in terms of boat-ramp use, bank-fishing, and swimming. The formerly public toilets have been padlocked, and I saw no trash cans. Simple steps that tend to limit the amount of time members of the general public will remain on site during normal hours of use.
I saw a couple bank-fishing, both of whom I tested when they were high school students, along with their year-old baby boy. An alert-looking blond-headed little boy sitting quietly under the shade of a tree in his stroller observing everything. I congratulated them on their little one, and the fact that they appeared to be catching a lot of fish.
Paddling back under the causeway to the AEDC side of the lake, I found the wind had picked up, but wasn’t blowing in the direction I wanted to go. I paddled back past the smaller Island of the Birds, and again deployed the sail. Worked better in a stronger breeze, but still slower than paddling. I sailed for awhile, then paddled back to the ramp.
Sons and Fathers
At the boatramp, I observed an ancient pontoon boat having engine trouble – whining at high pitch, emitting clouds of white smoke, then stalling out. Two or three men on the deckboat in early middle age. Parked by the ramp was a black Pontiac Firebird, like the one driven by Dwight Schrute (only Dwight’s is some kind of reddish color). Standing at the shore was a young man with long hair. He belonged to the car.
“Engine trouble?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “My dad can’t get it working.”
“You never know how your boat’s going to do until you get it to the water.”
Listening to the young man talk with his dad, it was obvious he wanted to salvage the situation for his father. He asked whether he should see about getting the father’s bassboat, and then called a couple of people to arrange its transport. It was important to this kid that things work out for his dad.
I recall when I was young and out for the day with my father sometimes things wouldn’t go as planned, and I always wanted to be able to alleviate his frustration by making things work out well for him. My dad’s tolerance for unexpected and confounding exigencies of circumstance was a lot lower than mine seems to be.
Now that I’m the dad, will my son be burdened with the sense that he’s got to make sure things turn out okay for me? I hope not.