The Time My Grandfather Saved Me From Drowning While Holding a Glass of Scotch
by Drew Holmes
To celebrate Thanksgiving, we traveled to Kentucky to visit Jamie’s family. We decided to make the drive in two days, and there was an indoor heated pool at hotel on the. A dip before bed was just the treat the boys needed after a long day of driving, so we suited up and headed down to the pool.
While swimming, Sam insisted on being held the whole time and Timothy kept pacing the deck, nervous to get in the water but excited for the chance. This made sense, as Sam had no swimming experience and Timothy’s lone swim lesson had occurred mere days before the strictest COVID shut down.
I thought back to my experience with the water. Not much older than Sam, I was visiting my grandparents who had a large in-ground pool in their backyard. There was a wide deck surrounding it making for a perfect racetrack for me (on a Big Wheel) and my sister Heather (driving a go-cart). Everything was fine until I came around the turn, was bumped by the go-cart, and landed in the water.
At that age I did not yet know how to swim. Sinking to the bottom of the deep end, what was only a few seconds felt like eternity and I was helpless to save myself.
Of the many adults present, my grandfather reacted fastest. Fully clothed (and with a glass of scotch in hand) he immediately dove into the pool, put the glass on the bottom, and lifted me to safety. After I was back on the pool deck, he retrieved the glass then went inside to get dry. The image of him at the kitchen table using a hairdryer on the cash from his wallet is forever imprinted in my memory.
Unexpectedly falling into the pool created in me a fear of the water that took many years to overcome. We tried numerous swim lessons at the Y, kickboards, and various floatation devices. Nothing gave me the confidence in the water to venture beyond the shallow end. Finally, my grandfather found a lifeguard at the Y who was willing to come to his house and give me lessons at his pool. She worked with me at my own pace and slowly I built the confidence needed to finally learn to swim.
By the end of those lessons, I could swim laps, do handstands, and even dive into the pool. At Boy Scout Camp a few years later, I would earn my Lifesaving merit badge, which is centered around water safety and swimming proficiency.
The early failure and many starts and stops on the way to my swimming success is similar to a beginner’s journey to learning to play a musical instrument. Sometimes they need to overcome difficulties with performance anxiety or even switch instruments to find the right musical voice. The way to music making is not always a straight line. Rather than allowing these divergences to derail the process altogether, we need to encourage students to press onward and find their own unique way. Early failures do not need to be the end of a student’s musical exploration, but rather the start of a new path that was not evident from the beginning.
Today, the world is opening back up. Seeing their eagerness to swim, Timothy and Sam are enrolled in lessons. They were both timid at first, hesitant to get into the water, but over the past few weeks the improvement in their confidence has been incredible. Their path to learning this new skill may be more direct than mine or there could be forks in the road that we do not yet see. Regardless of which way it goes I know they will find their way. The only certainty is this time there won’t be a scotch glass to retrieve from the bottom of the pool.