It was a sunny, beautiful Labo(u)r Day weekend in northern Indiana. I awoke from a pleasantly fitful sleep on a futon in the middle of a construction project at the rather late hour of 7 am and wandered outside to find out what everyone else was up to. On my way to scope out the ornamental pancakes under development, I gave my cousins some high fives and issued “good morning”s to new guests that had arrived the night before.
Noticing that the speedboat was gone, I walked to the end of the dock to wave as my parents water skied by in tandem. Before heading across the sand for this purpose, I mentioned to my sister that I would keep the “woohoo!”s to a minimum so as to not disturb any neighbors who might still be sleeping or hung over. When I reached the end of the pier, I quietly yelled a singular, mellow “yoohoo” at the passing speed boat.
Then I realized my huge mistake: I had become, at such an impressionable age, a human target for my father’s antics.
He and my mom had already circled the lake a few times and, as is typical and customary for skiers, they were going to ski in to the beach from the boat to avoid having to swim a long distance back home. My mom, dropped her ski rope, sank, and began to swim the remaining 30 feet [that’s like 400 centimeters or something] to the beach LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.
[Did I mention that not only is my mom a seasoned medical professional who has saved the lives of two of my dad’s brothers, she is also an expert in common sense who goes by the moniker “Oh Great Wise One” for several reasons, each more exceptional than the last? All of this is true.]
My dad chose another tactic. Keep in mind, we are talking about a person who has on various occasions (1) broken his ear drum while trying to execute a fancy water skiing move, (2) cut the limb on which he was sitting from a tree while he was still on said limb, causing him to lose most of his pants while our 75-year-old neighbor tried to save him by deploying a ladder through overwhelming laughter and guffaws, (3) tore one of those all-important knee ligaments while sliding into home plate playing baseball, (4) cut his hand with a saw twice in one year (the same year at the tree thing), leading to endless family jokes and a ridiculous Christmas morning where he received 71 individually wrapped gifts that made up the My First Craftsman 71-piece Toy Tool Set, (5) taken small children onto the roof of a Chicago bungalow and told them to flap their arms so they would fly when they jumped off (we’re fine, thanks), (6) tried to light roman candles while holding them in his hand at the behest of his mother (this took place about three weeks ago, at the same summer cottage). I think you get the picture.
This bastion of Good, Safe, Wholesome Ideas (pretty sure it says that on his business card) decided that it would be funny to splash me with water as he came in from the lake, sort of like this:
Unfortunately for El Timmo, he was wearing two skis instead of one, and he was sporting two cunning bright orange ear plugs and a knee brace because of (1) and (3) above, respectively.
While I would have said at first blush that he was not in a great place from which to be pulling hijinks, he figured this out for himself fairly quickly. As he released the ski rope and headed straight for the end of the pier, I saw his delightedly gleeful expression transform in a very short period of time as he rapidly realized his inability to steer. I can only imagine that his changing facial expressions were accompanied by the following thought process:
1. Big Mischievous Smile: “hahaha, I am going to splash her so bad!”
2. Big Smile: “oh, man, she is going to get her pajamas completely soaked! hehehe.”
3. Smaller Smile: “huh, I can’t turn. This is probably because I am wearing two skis instead of one (see image above) and I have a bit of a bum knee.”
4. Very Tiny Smile: “I am approaching an immovable pier made of wood and metal at an unsafe velocity with two sticks strapped to my feet.”
5. Goofy Grin: “I’ve had a good life, and at least I’ll go out with a loud bang. Literally. I am going to bang into the pier and die. Farewell, world!”
6. Loud bang.
This was the second time in as many summer cottage visits that I’ve had the opportunity to use my 9-1-1 voice. (It sounds like this: “MOM!” only more screamy.)
But my dad, tenacious to a T, managed to sort himself out and get upright and immediately say “Why are you screaming? You’re going to wake up the neighbors.”
[Everyone is always so pleasant and supportive when I express concern for their well-being. Like how my grandma came over to my birthday party to show everyone the bruises she got after our boating adventure.]
With a glare that really meant “I’m glad you’re not dead and thanks for waking me up better than any cup of coffee could,” I trudged back to the house of pancakes, leaving my dad to deal with his tangle of three water skis (one from an earlier [mis]adventure), life jacket, ski gloves, and wounds. As I approached what was promising to be a much less eventful breakfast, my tiny cousin asked me, using her father’s words but her own pipsqueak voice “Whatcha makin’ all the racket for?” My uncles followed this up with “Why were you screaming? You need to calm down.”
When I reported that my dad had hit the pier, the Pancake Maker proclaimed “It’s his own fault – you don’t need to scream about it.” Potential brain injuries (sustained, imagined, or pre-existing) be damned! If somebody looks like they are in serious trouble, the appropriate response is, I now know, total silence.
As my dad limped to the porch for breakfast, his wounds belied the intensity of the situation that induced screaming, making the reasons for the screaming a bit more obvious to the uninitiated. At the last tally, he had one huge welt on his right arm (from scraping along a pier post), a black-and-blue-and-red-and-purple broken big toe twice the size it should be, and some light bruising in other places (possibly where my mom punched him for being irresponsible), all accompanied more bravado than was strictly necessary. He regaled the crowd of breakfasters with tales of his skiing antics until the Pancake Maker said that he knew what Tim’s problem was. At some urging, the Pancake Maker revealed: “You want me to feel sorry for you with your broken toe. Boo hoo. But your problem is that you hurt yourself while you’re goofing around. You’re skiing and everything’s going fine, and then you get giddy like a school girl.”
My dad replied — as only a loving, respectful, diligent, kind, supportive father could — by pointing at me and saying “I learned that from her!” [This exemplifies, better than anything else, why we had to teach our German exchange student the phrase “throw you under the bus.”]
Maybe I am the pinnacle of giddy-like-a-school-girl behavio(u)r, mister, but I am not the one who needs to keep my foot elevated for the next week.