Mrs. Green did not always love to swim in the ocean. Early on in her marriage she was afraid of many things. The ocean was one of them. She had spent many years as a child trying to embrace the waves and the strong current on the beaches of Maryland and Delaware. Time and time again she found herself scraped up by the sand, tumbling backwards with water up her nose.
It was one trip in particular that changed not only how Mrs. Green felt about the ocean, but how she felt about life. The Green’s, Silvia and Sam took a trip together a few years after they were married. They were so excited. They planned the trip for months in advance. They saved and looked forward to it during the long cold days from January to the hot, hot days in July. They packed up their cars and headed to Bethany.
They were going to spend the entire day on the beach. They had beach chairs, blankets and coolers full of drinks and sandwiches. Mrs. Green set everything up. She had a book in hand and settled herself in her chair with her sunglasses on and her feet buried in the warm sand.
Mr. Green, Sylvia and Sam spent the day diving into the water, body surfing, and floating way out beyond the break of the waves. Mrs. Green waved and sat hot and sandy on the beach. She stood with the lap of the waves brushing over her feet now and then to try and cool off. Mr. Green, Sylvia and Sam kept asking her if she wanted to come in. Mrs. Green offered to serve lunch. They tried to call her from the water laughing and splashing. Mrs. Green offered them a cool drink. They offered her the inner tube and the raft. Mrs. Green put on more sunscreen.
The entire day went by. Mr. Green, Sylvia, and Sam had a wonderful time. Mrs. Green felt crispy, sticky, and hot. It was later that night when they were alone that Mrs. Green confessed to Mr. Green that she was a tiny bit afraid of the ocean. She wanted to join in but she wasn’t quite sure how.
The next day Mr. Green was prepared. He was excited to show his knew wife just how fun the ocean could be. He held her hand and out they walked early in the morning before most people were up. The tide was in and the waves were big. A little boy and his grandfather were the only ones in the ocean. They were riding the waves in on their bellies and laughing and having a grand time. Mrs. Green bravely followed Mr. Green into the water. When the first wave came Mr. Green held her hand and said,
Mr. Green dove under and pulled Mrs. Green with him. She came up sputtering and gulping just in time for the next big wave. Mrs. Green pulled her hand away and was smacked in the face and tumbled backwards up onto the sand. As she tried to stand up the water around her was pulling her body out towards the next big wave that hit her right in the face.
She wiped the salt water from her eyes and looked up. Standing on either side of her was the little boy and his grandfather. They offered her a hand and helped her to her feet just as Mr. Green was riding in a big wave next to her. He said thank you as Mrs. Green caught her breath. Mr. Green held her hand again and slowly walked her out into the ocean.
The morning went on. Sylvia and Sam and other vacationers soon arrived at the beach. A group of young teenage girls set up their chairs right next to the Green’s on one side and the little boy and his grandfather set up their chairs on the other. Mrs. Green sat on the beach and regrouped after lunch. She had two bruised knees a scrap on her back and red eyes from all the salt water.
It wasn’t just her knees that were bruised. Mrs. Green’s ego was a little bruised as well. She heard the snickers of the young girls as she tumbled up onto the shore. She saw the whispering that went back and forth. She watched as the little boy and his grandfather road on the waves with ease. She heard Mr. Green, Sylvia, and Sam having a grand time and Mrs. Green felt just as she was, on unsteady ground and all washed up on the shore.
The little boy and his grandfather sat down on their chairs next to Mrs. Green. They had seen Mrs. Green try again and again. They had seen how she kept getting up and they had seen the snickers of the young girls. The little boy looked over at Mrs. Green and it was as if he knew just how she was feeling. He was watching Mrs. Green as he took a huge bite and swallowed his baloney sandwich. He looked out at the ocean and said,
“You are not going to give up, are you?”
Mrs. Green looked in the very same direction as the little boy. She took a deep breath and tried hard to remember who she was. She remembered that Mr. Green, who was her family, was very important to her. She remembered that they had come on this trip to spend time together with their good friends. She remembered that she had always been an active and vibrant part of all the things they did. She remembered that she was not someone who easily gave in to the opinion of others. She knew that the girls who were snickering at her did not know her. They did not know she was fiercely determined. They did not know she was not easily shaken. She was a person who wanted to be part of life. She was not someone who sat on the shore. Mrs. Green remembered that she wanted to learn to swim in the ocean. She looked at her bruised knees and scraped up hands and silently prayed for help.
She looked over at the little boy. He and his grandfather were now looking her right in the eye. She sighed a heavy sigh, pulled herself together and said,
“I don’t want to give up.”
It was at that moment that the grandfather stood up. His grandson stood as well. He offered Mrs. Green a gentlemanly hand and said,
“That is just what I hoped you would say.” They walked to the water and he asked Mrs. Green a question. “First of all you have to know what it is you want to to do. What do you want to learn? Do you want to get past the waves and float around? Do you want to dodge the waves and dive under? Do you want to ride the waves and body surf?”
Mrs. Green was starting to feel like herself again. She knew the answer right away. She did not dodge or float. “I want to body surf.” She said.
“Great!” said the grandfather. Knowing what you want is step one. Step two is being committed to it. You have to walk out before the wave breaks. You can’t be afraid of it or you will wind up washed up in the sand. You decide on the wave you want and you take it on. Get down in the water and kick your feet. Watch my grandson.”
The little boy walked out beyond the white surf. He got down in the water, chose his wave, turned his back to it, looked over his shoulder, and began kicking his feet. He surfed right onto the beach with ease.
The grandfather looked at Mrs. Green. “Step three is all about the right timing and not giving up. When do you take a wave and when do you let it pass you by. Waves are like opportunities and people. Some will build you up and help you along, and some won’t. Choose wisely.
Mrs. Green laughed, “Some will wipe you out.”
The Grandfather smiled, “Then you have to get right back up again.”
Mrs. Green wiped out several times and got right back up again that afternoon. The voice in her own head, the sound of the waves, her laughter, and her family and friends drowned out the snickering and whispers on the beach. Mrs. Green learned a lot more than how to swim in the ocean that day.
When it was time to pack up all their stuff and leave the beach she turned to the Grandfather and his grandson and asked,
“What are your names?”
The Grandfather said, “It is easy to remember. I am Big John and this is Little John.”
Mrs. Green shook their hands, thanked them and said, “Oh, you can be sure, I will remember.”
Copyright Terri Neagle Donaldson 2015
Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.