When i was about eight my mom started seeing a man from the college of muscicians she worked with. He was by appearancr soft spoken but in reality anything but that. He was nothing like my handsome manly Father, a contrast of studious; nervous, and uptight. i didnt like or trust him. He was not fond of myself or my younger brother either. My brother was demanding and constantly in need of attention. i was a tom boy who played in mud at any opportunity and picked my nose as a hobby. He suffered our company in order to date my mother who was really beautiful in spite of having the progressive illness of multiple sclerosis. He courted her with weekends at a bed and breakfast. We were dragged along as extra baggage and expected to be on our best behaviour. What that was supposed to be?? we had no clue. John Denver played every other minute while i tried not to get in trouble for punching my irritating brother or get scolded for something i wasnt aware was intolerable. My brother and i formed an alliance for the only time i can recall in our lives. We had a mutual enemy. We danced together and plotted mischief in a hotel ballroom. Looked adorable for my moms camera that evening and the next day in the Smoky mountain riverwaters splashing away innocently. But my brother and i were using our lifelong skills at getting each other into trouble to break the mans patience. We caught frogs and crawdads at the river and brought them as gifts to his squeamish hand. We alternated whining and needy cuteness with undermining his appeal by tattling if he was harsh. It was a planned and effective assault that made our mom hold him at arms length and earned us some knowing resentful looks from her suitor. The last weekend they went out was a difficult health time for our mother. Summer heat drained her energy and her symptoms increased. They robbed her of dexterity, balance, and free motion. Sunday was a busy church day. Her job as a Episcople church organist went poorly as she stumbled over the complicated movements and challenging arrangements. She made it through, but pain and anger vented its frustration in our direction. The afternoon was a lakeside church picnic complete with the best fried chicken i had ever tasted. My brother and i ate like bratty pigs and enjoyed watching the tension building to self destruct with moms boyfriend. After lunch we got to swim. Pre-floaties era, i could swim like a fish and loved water. Any chance to go to the river, lake, or local pool was a thrill for me. But today was a first. Our family was vegetarian and it was the first time i had ever eaten real fried chicken. The heavy greasy meal sat on my stomach like a rock and far out in my swim i began to cramp up with a terrible stomach ache. i was immobolized with the pain and was to far out to float back. i panicked which made my predicament worse. No splashing, only screaming for help and sinking after a weak attempt to beat the pain. i was terrified, alone, and helpless as the water became a sinister killer. i remember the breath of it filling my lungs. No air, choking and gagging on it and trying to struggle back to the surface. Then arms grabbing me. Wrapping me in a firm hold and dragging me the long way back to shore. i was aware of only the terror of my drowning until we were safely on land. Frantic church women rushed to towel me as i coughed up the water i had sucked down. My throat burned and i couldnt stop shaking and coughing. My rescuer sat next to me. It was the boyfriend. The man i disliked so adamantly had become my hero and saved my life. i fell in love with him and John Denver in that moment. It was the last date he ever asked my mom on and i never saw him again after that day.
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