Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Thin Ice

I grew up in Island Lake, Illinois. It's this tiny little crap town that, oddly enough, has a lake.In my high school years I lived there with my Dad at my Grandmother's house, which was right on the lake. It always seemed like there were NO cool people who lived on my side of the lake and all of my friends lived on the other side. For this reason, most days, I'd ride my friend's bus home from school and get off at their stop, hang out at their house for a while and then walk around the lake to get home. During the winter months this trek was significantly shortened since the lake was frozen and I could just cut across.

In the winter of my sophomore year I was taking the icy shortcut daily and because it was sooo much shorter, I continued well into March, long after any sane person would walk on the ice. The ice was still pretty thick in most spots but there were gaping holes in other areas.

One evening I left my friend's house and started out across the lake. I knew right away that is was risky because I could feel the ice sink a little with each step, like walking on a mattress. I was able to see well enough to avoid the holes and just tried to keep moving. I made it about three-quarters of the way across the lake when I suddenly heard a loud wet crack. Luckily, I was able to grab onto the closest ledge of ice as I fell in so that I didn't slip under the ice. I tried to stay calm and made many attempts to pull myself back up on the ice, but the ice around me was just too thin to support me and would crack off each time.

This is when I began to scream for help for what seemed an eternity. Finally a girl in the neighborhood heard me and called the police/fire department/ambulance. Again, it felt like a year passed until any of them arrived. All during the wait, the girl talked to me, trying to make sure that I didn't pass out or go into shock or something. The whole time waiting, I was constantly flexing my toes and fingers. I didn't think I would die or anything, but I was scared as hell of losing anything to frostbite. The rescue teams had some difficulty reaching me, first trying a boat, eventually ending up using a diver dragging a rowboat. Once I was out of the water, I was fine, just insanely cold. I was rushed to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia and shock. It took forever for the violent shivers to stop and to actually feel comfortable again.

Once I was calmed down I received phone calls from concerned friends and family. My friends were planning on coming to the hospital to visit the next day, so even though I felt ok, I told my Dad I thought I should stay another day, just in case. When my friends showed up they brought gifts and cards, it was the best.

It was nearly time to leave the next day when my Dad came in and said, "Hey Son, can I talk to you?". "Sure", I said. "We found what was in your bag". I had no idea what he was talking about. Then from behind him he pulls out this book titled "Teen Depression & Suicide". I nearly laughed out loud when I saw it. I had been working on a report for Health class and that was the topic I'd been given. Once I explained the book, he was relieved, and we did have a little laugh about it.

I didn't give it any more thought that day, but later, once I had my own kids, I thought of how terrible that must have been for my Dad. First, to go through the trauma of finding out I fell in the ice and then to believe that it may have been an attempt at suicide. I've pictured the nurse or doctor pulling my Dad aside, saying, "Sir, we found this in your son's school bag". That makes me feel the worse than anything.

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