Fear of Drowning
ArtAscent 2013: November V4 DISTINQUISHED ARTIST
My son confesses to me a fear of drowning. He cannot understand it, as he loves the water. A strong swimmer – stroke and pull, stroke and pull – through wave or current or chlorine. A love for the aqueous molecules that buoy his human cells. He needs me to explain to him why it is he fears that he will drown. He tells me that since he was very little he has had recurring dreams – menacing dreams, augural dreams – of drowning. I was not aware of this, never at all. I feel that somewhere I was inattentive. Somewhere or sometime I blinked and my little boy was visited by a fear. I thought I had done my part, I thought I had kept him safe from all those grown-up phobias that so bound our lives. But . .. . it is more.
His great-uncle drowned, apparently. My mother-in-law’s brother, at the age of eight. We have a photo of him, taken about age seven. He is posed in front of the body of water that the next year would take him. It is an eerie, portentous photo. But this photo has only recently come into our possession, I had never seen it before, and I know my son had not. The photo had been stored away under lock and key in a dusty, forlorn attic for years and years. And, this great-uncle was never discussed, never mentioned – as though his drowning was an irresponsible, shameful thing for him to do. I don’t even know his name. My son would not have heard of him; my mother-in-law did not acknowledge her brother – he was here too short a time to be of value as a memory; he has been discounted. How then, does my son have this fear of drowning when the only drowning in the family is forgotten and discarded?
Is it that my son has inklings of another life, lived by another and come to be finished in his? Or is it a memory, then, when finding no home in the hearts or minds of those it had expected to, it found its place, instead, in the vague, unformed mind and open heart of my son? To lie there, yearning, until upon sight of the newly-acquired photo my son says
“Oh, I remember this . . . . “