What’s a guy to do when he is surrounded by women not making eye contact? For me, the answer is simple: write in my notebook.
I started a journal at my mother-in-law Aleta’s suggestion, who thought one day I should share some of my stories about being a stay-at-home dad. But I decided against it when our son Ethan was around three, because he did not like to be the center of attention. As he put it: “I don’t need to be the main character. Some do. But not me.” I continued taking notes, though, just so that I could remember all the love we shared and the fun we had together.
Everything changed on a beautiful day in August of 2010, just two weeks shy of his tenth birthday. We were frolicking in the surf of Lake Michigan when we were swept into a maelstrom. The waves came from both directions simultaneously, crashing over our heads with great force. It was like being cast into a washing machine.
Suddenly, we were several feet under water. I held him by the collar of his swim shirt while I tried to swim toward the disk of light above us formed by the bright summer sun. It was hopeless. We were sinking. Eventually, my arms and legs gave out, and I was certain we were going to die. Just then the oddest thought popped into my head: I won’t be able to tell his story.
After several minutes under water, I was pulled to safety by someone, who had attempted to save Ethan, almost drowning himself. I have no recollection of him swimming out to rescue Ethan, and I cannot account for my survival. I do believe, however, that I was spared to tell his story, which is a celebration of childhood, his as a very remarkable child who overcame serious health problems with a joyful disposition that was truly infectious and an instinct for having fun under the most trying circumstances and mine as a man-child finally coming of age through my love for him.