Saturday, July 25, 2009


Someday, I’ll tell her how hard it was to let go and how her terrified screams broke my heart. But for now I’ll remind her that God is always with us. Someday I’ll express the magnitude of my regret for putting her in that situation. But for now we’ll focus on how brave she was to get back on and keep going. Someday I’ll be able to convey how 20 seconds turned into an eternity as I watched her float down stream out of my reach. But for now I’ll explain how I knew in my heart that the only way for her to be safe was for me to let go. Someday, she’ll understand that even moms make mistakes and the best we can hope for in those situations is that everyone will learn something. I know I did!
Thursday, while in Pigeon Forge, we went tubing. We went with a company called River Rage, mostly because they were the cheapest. When we got there, we were advised that we should take the "lazy river" trip instead of the more intense section of the river. And with the exception of a terrible spot to enter the river (in the middle of the most intense section of that ride) it was a great hour-long float. There were some mini-rapids but mostly it was a float down the river. Mator took turns riding on mine and Andy's lap while Doodle was tied to us and Muffin was pretty independent. We were feeling pretty bold when we finished and were considering doing the more intense section of the river.

There were several factors that contributed to our decision. First, we talked to some ladies who had done that part of the river and they hadn’t even gotten wet. Also, although they highly recommended that we not take that part of the river, the company did not prohibit it. I think what did it for me was the fact that I tend to be a pretty…hmmmm…what’s the opposite of conservative parenting? I’m the one who rolls my eyes (out of sight of the kids) when someone tells me my child is too small (by 1”) to ride a ride. I don’t let my child’s tears get them out of doing something they’re afraid of. When their swim coach gives them a hard time, I don’t speak ill of her, I simply tell them that is her job and it is my job to tell them how great they are doing. I stopped cutting the hotdogs into fingernail sized bites when they were 18 months. I am someone who does NOT want the merry-go-round removed from the playground because someone COULD break their arm on it. What's one broken arm compared to thousands of fun rides? In other words, I don’t want my kids to have irrational fears of this world so I make my decisions that way. This time, we were wrong.

We entered the river at a very calm point and decided that until we had a good grasp on what to expect, I would tie Muffin up to me and carry Mator and Andy would tie Doodle up to him. The first set of rapids was fun but Muffin was nervous. The second set of rapids were tough. Muffin bounced out of her tube and I grabbed her life jacket. But as I held her for that split second, I knew that I was holding her down in the rocks and rapids and if I let go, she would simply float the twenty yards down the river to the slow current where we would catch up with her. But there was no time to explain that to her. And as she floated away from me, her terrified screams were heard by all the campers on the side of the river who were watching. They were also heard by a young lady (probably 11 or 12) who was swimming in the river, looking for her dad’s glasses. She grabbed Muffin and pulled her to the side. Andy got to her first and heard the young lady's comforting voice calming Muffin, “Is that your dad? Here he comes. He’ll be right here.”

The adults nearby came down to check on her and noticed that her shoulder was scraped up pretty good. It turned out that it was a group of Boy Scouts that were camping and, naturally, they were prepared. I left Mator with Andy on the side and followed Muffin up to the camp where a U-Haul trailer was filled with medical supplies. They cleaned her up and sprayed a liquid bandage on it. As we climbed back into the rafts, I yelled up to them a final thank you and said, “You were an answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I had to pray!” Needless to say, Muffin was not excited about getting back on the river but we were assured that we had gotten through the roughest part. There really was no choice but to continue to the exit of the river because our only other choice was to walk down the road to the business where we had started and we had no idea how far that was.

So we continued down the river and I was beginning to second guess the choice we had made. The next set of rapids surprised me. I reached over to try and steady Muffin and calm her and then hit a rock with my tube. I fell out of the tube and Mator went with me. The next 45 seconds were a blur for me. I grabbed Mator’s life jacket with one hand and the tube with the other. I kept going under but everytime I came back up I could hear Mator and Muffin screaming. When I pulled Mator close to me, the current pushed me over her, forcing her into the rocks below us. So I pushed her away from me, still holding onto her jacket all the while trying to roll over the tube because it was upside down. I saw my sister in law down the river and wondered if I let go of Mator if she would be able to grab her. Finally the river calmed and my brother had floated up next to us. I threw Mator up onto his lap and she quietly shuddered. I pulled myself onto the tube and looked at Mator. I thought that her leg was broken. From her knee down were gashes in her leg and it looked limp. Muffin was just terrified. We made our way to the side and saw that the river exit for another company (River Rat) was right there.

At the same time, Andy and my dad’s tubes had all but completely deflated and were worthless on the river. I took Mator and Muffin out of the river and gave the others our tubes. We walked up to the River Rat (the other company) exit and I was a little nervous to find that they were closed. So we went to a campground next door and they volunteered to call our company for a ride back. By this time I knew that Mator’s leg was not broken and both she and Muffin were in good spirits, happy to be out of the river. As we waited for the ride, we talked to the campground owner who told us, basically, you get what you pay for. Our deflated rafts were one thing, but she said that the other company would never have allowed kids as young as Mator (and probably not even Muffin) to go on that part of the river since a recent rain had really swelled the river. I don’t blame River Rage, ultimately it was our decision. And it was a bad one. But I would recommend paying the extra $5 and going with the other company.

The one funny thing that happened as we were waiting for our ride was Mator. She looked at me and said, “Who was that girl who saved me?” I said, “That was me, honey”. “OHHHH! I wanted that girl to save me!” She was mad because she wanted the girl who had pulled Muffin out of the river to save her too!

Now, having put it all down for the world to see, maybe someday, I'll close my eyes and not see the river rolling in front of me, see my child floating away and hear her screams and feel completely helpless and guilty at the same time.


Stace said...

woo. I found myself leaning into the computer to read the post! Seriously. I agree with you about people getting too hung up about "someone could get hurt", etc. It sounds like it will at least be memorable. With all the adrenaline that ran through your bodies, I am sure this one will be ingrained into your memories!

Misty said...

My family and I went tubing in June. The same company, the same part of the river. It was AWFUL!! I could hardly walk for days afterward. I was so scraped up and I thought I broke my knee on the rocks. Definately not fun and definately NOT something I would do again.