I know this because I happened to be standing about 10 feet away. I also know this because I checked the pool thermostat after hoisting the livid bull shark from the driver’s side of his zero horsepower Cozy Coupe.
Let’s get some specifics out of the way. Yes, my youngest son, Cal, was technically inside the car when it plunged into our still-wintery pool. And yes, I have been made very aware (thanks to my lawyer wife) that admitting this event to 34,000 households could very well instigate a visit from Child Protective Services.
Before the bureaucrats send Russians to raid my hard drive, here’s what happened:
Each day, when I get home from work, my two sons stick to a rigid routine. Mainly, they attack my legs when I walk in the door and then desperately squeeze their bodies toward rays of light emanating from the back yard. It’s not like they’re locked in dungeons for the first 11 hours of the day. It’s just that the chemical composition of dirt creates a magnetic pull toward little boys. And besides, I’d rather they play outside than add to the nation’s obesity epidemic by eating cheese spread on the couch whilst watching re-runs of animated Monster Machines.
Most days, I don’t even walk inside until dark, which means I’m in dress shoes, slacks and some sort of button down as we enjoy the open air.
Our activities in the backyard border on hypnotic. Hank, our now four-and-a-half-year-old monsoon, has a motorized Jeep that circles the pool as he imagines race cars on his bumper. Cal stands to the side of the Jeep with his thumb extended.
Most days, Hank lurks by his baby brother, pretending Cal doesn’t exist. That means the toddler must find his own activity, which usually includes throwing something valuable into the pool.
Like his brother before him, Cal whimpers until I hand him one of my golf clubs, which I use to angrily swat weeds growing in my St. Augustine. He doesn’t want to swing the club like his proud father. No, he’d rather slam it against concrete and then watch it disappear in the deep end.
Once Hank has finished his 6-lap race, and once I’ve netted my expensive golf club from the deep end for the fourth time, I usually encourage something more constructive.
Cal is led to the trampoline – the one with a net (here’s looking at you, CPS). Meanwhile, Hank proceeds to remove every rock from the planters in our yard because he’s on a “Creature Adventure.” Creatures, it turns out, are anything with a pulse. And these days, about the only pulse a kid can find in a back yard is an earthworm.
As Cal bounces around the net, Hank grabs earthworms by the handful and places them on our concrete patio. And right about the time Hank scuttles back to his rocks in search of more fish bait, Cal escapes his trampoline and lunges for the worms, apparently because they move.
Without fail, Hank and I both run toward Cal and plead for the worms’ lives.
And this chain of events happens nearly every day, until last week, when Cal got sick of our PETA instincts.
As I helped Hank remove a particularly heavy rock, Cal walked around the pool (just as he always does) and got in his car. Most times, he’ll sit in the same position and turn the steering wheel because he hasn’t learned how to shuffle his feet and make the car move forward. At least that’s what I thought.
After pulling the rock for Hank and watching his utter joy at a gold mine of armless slime, I heard a small gulp. It actually sounded like Cal had found my golf club and rinsed it once again. Except that isn’t what happened at all.
I’m not sure what triggers this instinct, but just the sound of moving water tightened every muscle in my body. And when I turned around and saw a red and yellow plastic car floating in the pool, I threw my glasses to the ground and made a leap that, in hindsight, must have looked like a rabid wildebeest being chased by a swarm of bats.
I’m not sure how long it took me to get to Cal, but I know the dress shoes and button-down didn’t aid in my aqua-dynamics.
After lifting Cal to dry land, pulling myself from the water, and then removing my wallet, car keys and, yes, phone from my pocket, the two of us bristled off to a warm shower and a good laugh.
When we made it back outside, fully dressed and thawed, Cal did what every semi-intellectual kid would do: He walked to his still dripping Cozy Coupe and turned the steering wheel. Then he walked to the edge of the pool, got on his knees, stuck his hand in the water, and looked at me with a smile the size of our yard.
Meanwhile, I grabbed my golf club and slammed it into my heart, just to get it beating again.