For those of you only tuning in to see if I’m going to talk about my sex life, you’re out of luck. My tell-all book won’t be out for another 30 years.
These next three posts will be true stories about three men who saved my life at different intervals, whose names I never learned, and whom I have never thanked. These posts will be my idea of therapy. Ridding myself of the guilt of owing these strangers and not having the presence of mind at the time to say ‘thanks’. “Know thyself” is good advice and I know myself well enough to recognize I am selfish. Being aware of this shortcoming helps me stay on the look-out for it and nip it in the bud when it raises its ugly head. But since these three incidents took place before I was fifteen, I hadn’t recognized all my fatal flaws as of then.
Before I start, I would also like to take this opportunity and apologize to all the people who gave me wedding presents and never received thank-you cards. For both weddings. Especially the first wedding, which was the largest and most expensive and didn’t last as long as the warranty on the gifts. One of the voices in my head says I should be mortified about this (not the failed marriage, came to terms with that…but about being too selfish, and lazy, to send appreciation cards…and I am mortified, obviously, or I would have forgotten about it along time ago), so I’m hoping writing about it will shut that particular damn voice up, once and for all.
Part one of my thanking strangers saga is very short. I was barely five years old and attending grade one at D.T.Walkom elementary school. It was late spring, school had just been let out for the day and I was waiting at the road for the school bus. It was a rural school and the ditches were deep and covered with snow but, unbeknownst to me, under that soft snow was a baby-sucking current of fast flowing water.
I thought it a good idea to throw my lunch box onto the snow covering the ditch. Why I thought that was a good idea I have no idea. Can’t always explain the things I do these days. Not a chance I’ll remember what I was thinking back then. But I remember quite vividly what happened next.
When I clambered onto the snow to retrieve my lunch box, my right foot broke through the crust of ice and I couldn’t get it out. Only slightly irritated me at first. But then the more I pulled, the more the ditch pulled back. To the point where I realized something had hold of me and was determined to pull me under the snow. I remember this realization very, very, well. I did not think of this ditch as spring run-off. I thought of it as a being. A very bad being. One of those beings my mother was always warning me about. This being wanted to hurt me. Many years later, Stephen King’s IT would remind me, all too well, of this time in my life.
Understandable reaction. Immediate panic. Those who know me know I do not handle fear well. And I don’t mind letting everyone know it. I started screaming full tilt once I realized the Ditch-Being was winning. And that’s when my first unrecognized hero showed up. He threw a long leg, clad in the narrow, tight pant of the time, over top of me and put his pointy-toed ankle boot on the far side of the ditch, then reached in and calmly plucked me out of the baby-sucking ditch. I seem to remember him looking like Buddy Holly. And he was laughing but I couldn’t have cared less. Pretty sure I lost my boots as well, and cared even less about that. I was safe and standing on the road. Still screaming, of course. Once I have an audience, I very rarely let it go.
Not sure if my hero was a grade eight student who simply looked old to my young self, or it was the older brother of one of my classmates picking up their younger sibling. But I do know for sure I never thanked him for saving me from that ditch. And though I might make light of the incident now, deep ditches full of spring run-off have drowned many a child.
So, thanks buddy. Finally.