The longest moment


Oskar was invited to Margot’s birthday party today. This was my first birthday party with Oskar and I was a little excited, too. The two of us arrived at the condo and there was a nice birthday party setup just next to the pool. Margot’s dad, Rob, welcomed us and after we had handed over the present to Margot he offered a beer. Things went well.

I had brought a swim suit for Oskar and he was very keen to go to the pool where many kids were already playing in the water. I helped Oskar change, told him where he was allowed to play in the pool and then watched as he had fun in the water.

Very nice. I soon connected with another tenant of the condo, also German, and we were chatting while watching the kids in the pool. At one point I lost sight of Oskar, but did not think much of it at first. I looked again and could not see him. A little startled I looked more intensely where he might be hiding.

Now, this pool is split into two areas: on the left was a shallow pool for kids to play in, maybe 50 cm deep. The photo above shows Oskar jumping from the little wall into this very area of the pool. As you move to the right, however, steps lead into the grown-up pool. I would realize later that this pool was even 150 cm deep, in fact an unusual depth for a condo where most pools are 120 cm deep.

I had told Oskar to stay on the left hand area, but when I could not spot him I slowly looked to the right.

And there he was. What I saw shook me like nothing I have ever seen before.

There was Oskar. In the deep pool. Under water! A sad green blop in the water, trashing, struggling for air. I did not think. I just walked into the pool with my clothes on and pulled Oskar out. We both were shocked. Once on the deck, Oskar was of course crying madly. What must have happened is that after jumping several times into the shallow pool area for the kids, he likely saw some of his friends who were wearing water wings or had a floating tire on the other side of the pool. They were not playing where the pool was deepest, but Oskar did not realize this, of course, and then must have jumped to join them.

I have to assume that he was startled by the fact that there was no ground as he hit the water and he likely panicked. I would have wished that he had recalled his swimming classes, but I guess this happening was just too unexpected and he lost control.

Here’s what haunts me: I do not know how long he was struggling for his life. When it happened I was chatting and I simply did not see him jump or even moving to the other side of the pool. I should have, but I did not. I did not! When I got him out he did not spit out any water and the fact that the whole thing went down without anyone but me and the other German I chatted to noticing probably means that only a few seconds passed before I saw him. But not knowing for sure is killing me.

Once we had overcome the scare, I knew I had to make sure Oskar was not traumatized by this. I had also brought my swimming trunks, so I asked whether Oskar would go into the pool together with me. Surprisingly he said yes without much ado. Thus I changed, too, and then I carried him as I walked into the pool. I first walked to the place he had jumped into and showed him how deep the water there was, explaining that a pool might have different depths. We then walked to the kids’ area where he was at first sitting on the little wall, not wanting to do anything. 10 or maybe 15 minutes later he started to go into the water again. At first I had to be with him all the time, but soon enough he did not care so much anymore and then he jumped and happily played and ran with the other kids through the water.

At the time the cake was served, everything was very back to normal.


I was relieved. We stayed quite long, but eventually I declared that we had to change back into our dry (in my case still wet) clothes. When I took Oskar home we had this conversation:

Leo: Did you like the birthday party?
Oskar: No!
Leo: Oh. Why is that?
Oskar: I wanted to stay longer in the pool…

I guess that’s as good an outcome as I could have hoped for, given the circumstances.

But in spite of this, after the experience today I am not sure I can ever shake off the demons that touched my heart and soul today…

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