Today Will had a playdate with Matthew, his best friend. It was decided that I would drop off Will at the pool, where Will and Matthew would swim under the supervision of Meg, Matthew's mom and my good pal. Will taught himself to swim this summer, and has become a strong but cautious swimmer, sticking to the shallow end and the slide.
It wasn't until I got home that panic seized me. What was I doing letting Will go to the pool without me? What if Meg began chatting with a friend, lost sight of Will, and he got tangled up with some other boys and was held under without anyone realizing what was happening? What if he drowned? It was all I could do not to yell to Jack and his friend Aidan to jump in the car; we were going back to the pool to save Will.
It's hard to explain how visceral this all was, how scared I suddenly felt. I went deep into my imagination. You're having a perfectly normal day, better than some, because the weather is lovely and it's a holiday, so there's not all that driving around to do. And then the phone call comes, and your whole life changes because you were stupid and neglectful...
It is nearly impossible for me to imagine life without Will. A future without Will. Will not growing up, becoming a man. But this afternoon, I let myself feel it. And I knew I couldn't survive it.
I kept an eye on the clock. I'd dropped Will off at 12:30, and Meg's plan was to take the boys to her house around 2. Every minute that passed was a minute closer to that time when Will would be out of the water and safe. Meg won't lose sight of Will, I kept telling myself. There are lifeguards there. Will is strong and won't let himself get in harm's way.
Slowly, the imaginary grief of losing Will left me and I went about the business of my afternoon. When the phone rang at 4, I knew it would be Meg reporting in (we do this, just to keep the other updated on the ongoing successes and failures of the boys' playdates). "We just got back from the pool!" she said. "I couldn't get the boys to leave!"
Ever since he's been home, I've kept my eye on him. Not because I think anything's going to happen to him here (except that if he keeps practicing his slides across the family room carpet he's either going to break a leg or get a serious rug burn). No, I just want to keep him in my sights, pay attention, commit his lovely and wild five-year-old self to memory
How strange to feel like I almost lost him today.
My husband met a bear today. In the woods. By himself. A million miles from nowhere.
I'm sure it's a story he'll be telling the rest of his life: The Time I Almost Got Eaten by a Bear. He's a good story teller, and he'll embellish and exaggerate and make it funny. And there are funny parts to it, like when he thought about getting his camera out and taking a picture of the bear, but then thought better of it. He imagined his mauled body lying across the trail, his camera in his hand, the park rangers shaking their heads at his idiocy. "Shoulda run," they'd be saying. "Idiot shoulda run instead of taking pictures."
He didn't run when he saw the bear crossing the trail in front of him. He backed up slowly, and then a little faster. The bear was distracted by the sound of branches breaking up the hill, and my husband hoped she'd follow that noise instead of his scent, but she turned back to him and approached. He backed up, she walked toward him. Finally he scrambled up an embankment so he'd look bigger to the bear. He continued to move away from her, picking up a big stick as he did. She didn't scramble after him, and must have lost interest, because after a few minutes she let my husband go on his way.
What an exciting story! What an adventure! How close my husband came to being eaten by a bear and I didn't even know it! What a fun phone call that would have been--when it finally came; how many days would I have waited until they found him?
Now that I've written this story down, I don't want to think about it anymore. I don't want to wrap my overactive imagination around it, sift through alternate endings. I think instead I will let the story mellow a bit and soften around the edges, until it's nothing but funny.
That should be in about a hundred years.
21 minutes ago