Our Best Vacation Ever…2003

by admin on October 27, 2008

Originally published in 2003 as part of a larger yearly newsletter we call “Hindsights”.

My parents lied to me. They not only lied to me, they deviously kept a secret. Throughout the early years of my marriage they never uttered a peep. As I naively cared for and reared my toddlers into pre-teenhood, the conspiracy of silence was deafening. Yet 2003 would be the year Jeanne would come to know the truth, the raw, unadorned , naked truth that every parent eventually discovers…..

Teenagers are expensive and high maintenance creatures.

Of course, no sane parent is going to jeopardize their chances of becoming a grandparent by telling their newlywedded offspring that any cute little babies they might have will eventually mature into independent thinking, clothes lusting, car craving, food vacuums otherwise known as teenagers.

The year 2003 saw the last of the kids leave the elementary things behind and become a teenager. With all three children now firmly ensconced in the acne generation, they have supplanted the farm animals as the most expensive mammals to feed and house. The family experienced a new dimension of wealth redistribution with the local grocery store, Wal-Mart and the Dermatologist becoming the main beneficiaries of our monetary expenditures. Jeanne and Tim can bear witness that a 150-lb 15 year old boy can actually eat more per week than a 1000 lb horse thus negating the phrase, “Eat like a horse” when applied to a teenager.

And teenagers consume gasoline at a rate surpassing their consumption of food. Having a learner’s permit but no money to afford the very expensive yearly insurance, Mom got drafted to be either the chauffeur or the de facto driving supervisor whether she wanted to go to that teen clothing Mecca known as the shopping mall or not. Being the supervising adult to a newly permitted teenaged driver has allowed Jeanne to hone her blood curdling screams of horror to perfection. Getting teens through the beginning driving years unscathed is probably also the source of most gray hair in parents who wear it as a badge of passage. When Abby slammed on the brakes to come to an almost complete stop on a mega highway to let some car merge in, Jeanne could feel clumps of hair on her temples instantly “boing” into gray, forever marking me to other knowing parents that I survived. Barely.

While teenagers can eat a family out of house and home, they are also a source of great joy and, in the case of one teen, a lifesaver as well.

Our Best Ever Beach Vacation

Our family went to Oak Island for a short vacation this past August. It turned out to be the best vacation we have ever had.

We hadn’t planned on taking a vacation this year because of a lack of financial resources. But in mid-August, Tim’s boss suddenly gave him a cash award for no particular reason and on short notice, Tim decided we needed a vacation. Unbelievably, Jeanne found an oceanfront house for rent for three nights AND arranged for 2 college students to farm sit which was downright miraculous. Within days of Tim’s windfall, we were on our way to the beach.

We arrived at the beach house at 3:30 pm Saturday and Tim and Nathaniel immediately hit the beach after unloading/unpacking while Emma stayed in the beach house. Abby and I went grocery shopping. We completed our shopping and on the drive back to the house, I was commenting to Abby that I hope Daddy was being careful in the water because the waves looked very rough. Abby assured me that she felt Tim would be careful with Nathaniel and Emma but I was thinking back to a vacation we took in 1986 in which Tim had foolishly played in very heavy surf with no consequences.

Abby and I arrived back at the house and were carrying bags of groceries up the stairs when we were met by Nathaniel and Emma who said, “Daddy got in trouble.” They didn’t appear distraught so I knew he was OK but then Emma went on, ” … and the ambulances came and paramedics and everyone was watching….”

“Ok, Emma, April’s Fool! I didn’t fall for that, ” said I. But Nathaniel was waving a copy of a release form in which Tim had signed releasing the paramedics from taking him to the hospital. Huh?! At that moment a very ill looking husband emerged from the shower and the story got pieced together as we sat in the living room.

Tim and Nathaniel had gone swimming in what was very rough surf that we realized later was preceding a storm and Tim had swam out to water over his head. Nat in the meantime was heading back to shore to get the boogie board. Tim realized he was caught in a very strong rip current heading straight out to sea and as he tried to swim back in, he exhausted himself fairly quickly. He has a thyroid condition where extreme exertion for even a short time can utterly drain his muscles of the ability to even work. He knew he was in deep trouble because just the effort of keeping his head above water was exhausting in the high waves. He tried to keep track of his attempts to swim back in by counting how many light posts on the Long Beach Pier he was at. For those of you familiar with the Long Beach Pier, he was about 4/5ths of the length of the pier in the water.

He told us he knew he was in a serious position because his vision started to blur and he was getting disoriented. He made a calculated decision to call to Nathaniel for help who was halfway between him and shore. In his mind, the choice was either Tim drowning or risk both of them having trouble but he figured that Nathaniel was fresher than he was and took that risk. He called out to Nathaniel who at first thought he was joking (we’ve since disabused him of ever thinking that again) but then swam out to him, leaving the boogie board behind (he says the surf was too rough and the board was dragging him slower). Taking his father’s hand, he started pulling him towards shore. He even had the presence of mind to realize the rip tide was the worst three feet beneath the surface and encouraged his father to get his feet up higher to keep from being pulled by the rip tide.

Meanwhile on shore, Tim’s first call to Nathaniel had been seen by a woman five houses down and she too at first thought Tim and Nathaniel were playing. However, she quickly realized they were in trouble when she saw them both struggling. She called to her husband and gave him a hand signal while pointing towards Tim and Nathaniel. Both her husband and friend ran into the water, yelling to Nathaniel to swim parallel to the shore to escape the rip. By the time the men reached Nat and Tim, Nat had been able to pull Tim from water well over their heads to chest high water (Nat’s chest which being taller than Tim, still meant Tim was not able to touch the bottom) despite not being a particularly strong swimmer. Tim had been weakly swimming to help Nathaniel as much as possible but he was going downhill fast and even though they were now in chest high water, he had lost the strength to stand up. He said once he felt the men’s hands on him, he knew he was safe and he collapsed and they dragged him the rest of the way in. He lay on the beach panting for air and the woman directed Nathaniel to call 911.

While all this was going on, Emma was totally unaware and had been singing in her bedroom while she unpacked. The song verse she was singing as Nathaniel burst into the house to use the phone?

When the storms swirl and rage,
There are mercies anew.
In affliction and pain,
You have carried me through.
And at the end of my days,
When Your throne fills my view,
I will sing of your mercies anew.

Mercies Anew by Mark Altrogge and Bob Kauflin

Upon being informed by Nathaniel of what had happened, she immediately ran outside, stopped on the dune boardwalk bench to pray and then ran to her father who was still lying on the beach while Nathaniel waited outside the house for the ambulances. Two ambulances and a large beach patrol jeep finally came and the beach jeep used the beach access to get to Tim and they brought him out to the ambulances. They were concerned he had inhaled water (which can cause pulmonary edema as the salt water pulls water from your body into your lungs) but he had only swallowed it. He signed the release form and was helped into the house with a paramedic under each arm. Jeanne was still unaware of anything at this point. It seems I left my cell phone plugged into the car charger while I was shopping and never heard the seven phone calls Nathaniel made.

As he was telling us the story (it had only happened a half hour at most earlier) he proceeded to vomit up about a half gallon of salt water. He looked terrible, was still panting and was pale. He told us that in the midst of this experience he had pondered that this might have been his last minutes on earth and he had what he called “super faith” that God in His sovereignty was in control of the situation. He was certain that if Nathaniel had not helped him, he would have drowned. Abby was sobbing by this part of the story and jumped up, hugged her brother sobbing, “Thank you, thank you”. We had been telling her for months that her brother clearly had leadership qualities and would be someone both sisters could rely on in later years but that’s hard for a proud older sister to accept sometimes. I think she is perceiving her younger brother in a whole different perspective….the boy is becoming a man.

Tim took a long nap and he stilled looked pale and clammy which had me concerned. I still wasn’t convinced he didn’t need to go to the hospital. I called our homegroup leader and pastor to inform them plus get prayer that Tim would not suffer a bad thyroid “crash” as a result and spend the rest of his limited vacation lying in bed. Tim later said he would have gratefully lain in bed given the choice of being dead. God mercifully healed Tim and he proceeded to enjoy the remainder of his vacation by swimming in calmer seas, jet skiing and playing with the kids. We enjoyed one of the best vacations we’ve ever had with plenty of family closeness and laughter.

The rest of the story would come out later. It turns out the woman who first saw Tim in trouble is named Lynn England and married to Ron England, one of the men who pulled Tim out. Ron’s friend Dennis was the other man. Both Ron and Dennis have ten years of lifeguarding experience EACH, including beach lifeguarding. The hand signal Lynn gave her husband was an agreed upon signal they had in case of trouble. Who would have thought that out of the maybe dozen or so people out on the beach at that time of day, many of them children, that there would be two lifeguards with an attentive female among that limited number? Lynn went on to tell us that in all their years of vacationing at the beach, this was the first time they have ever been on the beach at that time of day after a ten hour drive to get there. In fact, the one teenaged family member insisted they leave home at 5 am and once at the beach, the toddlers were begging to be taken to the water which explains why Lynn was at the water’s edge to hear Tim. Oak Island beaches are not guarded by lifeguards nor are they heavily populated even during the summer season so a whole series of events occurred which put this extended family with two adult male lifeguards on the beach at a time they never have before just so they could be there in time to help rescue Tim. So, next time your teenagers pester you to do something RIGHT NOW or the toddlers are whining to go somewhere, you just might be walking in the will of God to do it.

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