Sunday, August 05, 2007

A real life saver

Bud and I took a mini-vacation this week and spent a few days staying at a hotel (Bud's very favorite thing in the world) and taking day-trips to the beach. Much to my surprise, after one thrilling day riding the waves at the ocean, Bud was ready to return to the tranquility of the lake, so most of our vacation time has been spent at the very same beach where we've spent most sunny days this summer. (Luckily, though, vacation is really just a state of mind.)

The other day, Bud brought his four prized Teletubbies figures with him to the lake so that they could enjoy a little R & R as well. The six of us - the four Tubs, Bud, and me - were floating together on a blow-up ring when I heard the unmistakable sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. The two teenage lifeguards stood high in their chairs, blew their whistles, and announced that everyone would need to clear the water for 30 minutes after the sound of thunder.

I tried to keep my voice even and calm, unsure of how Bud would react to this unanticipated turn of events. Thunder has been one of the most powerful triggers for Bud's anxiety, yet he had barely reacted this time to the sound of the thunder in the distance. I explained that we needed to leave the water, and Bud suggested that it was time to leave the beach. I agreed and we started to make our way to the shore when Bud stopped in his tracks.

Tinky Winky was missing.

We started scouring the bottom of the lake in the area where we'd been floating, but the sand was kicking up and clouding the water as people all around us vacated the water. The lifeguards' whistles and shouts became more insistent and I could feel tension filling my body as I tried to lead Bud to shore: "We need to leave the water, honey. We'll get Tinky Winky later. He won't go anywhere. We'll get him."

Bud's anxiety kicked in and he started sobbing. "I need him!" he wailed. "PLEASE can you get him, Mama?"

I looked at Bud standing at the water's edge and tried to see the situation from his perspective: His friend - his best friend - his rock - was stranded at the bottom of the lake with a thunderstorm - the scariest event possible - getting threateningly closer. I looked at Bud's tear-stained face and saw his little body tremble and I scanned the beach trying to come up with a plan.

"The lifeguard," I said to Bud. "We'll ask the lifeguard to help us."

Bud trailed me as I walked down the beach toward the high lifeguard chair and approached the tall, muscular teenager who was shouting out to people still in the water.

I fumbled through an explanation of my problem - "My son, his toy, in the lake, he's panicking, it's a Teletubby..."

"I'll help you find it," he said.

Bud stood on the shore, his eyes red but his tears gone, as the lifeguard and I walked gently through the area where we'd been floating, our eyes scanning the sandy bottom. The lifeguard multi-tasked - scanning the bottom, blowing his whistle at lingerers, scanning some more, shouting to kids who would not leave the water, scanning again - as I searched and searched, worrying about what I'd do if I couldn't find the toy. I looked up at Bud.

"Did you find him, Mom?" he shouted, his eyes and voice full of hope.

"Not yet, Bud," I said, with renewed determination. I looked over at my teenage counterpart and wanted to explain to him how much this meant, how appreciative I was, and stammered again "Thank you so much... don't know what I'd do... autistic... really important to him..."

"It's no problem," he answered. And then, a moment later, he added, "Take your time. Really. There's no rush."

My shoulders relaxed and for the first time since I'd heard the rumble of thunder, I exhaled. Then I looked down, and there on the sandy lake bottom was our old friend, Tinky Winky, soaking wet, but safe and unharmed.

I reached down, scooped him up, held him over my head and turned back to the shore.

"You did it, Mom!" Bud shouted. "You find him!"

I turned to the lifeguard several yard away, still shooing swimmers back to shore, and held up the doll. "Thank you!" I yelled, and he waved and went back to work.

It's important work they do, those lifeguards. Every day they make decisions that change lives. Sometimes they really come to the rescue.

And sometimes - sometimes they get to be heroes.


gretchen said...

Such a happy ending :-)

I'm not surprised that YOU saw the importance of finding TW, but it is exceptional that you found a lifeguard who would do the same.

And I'm glad that Bud seems to be conquering his fear of storms?

Suzanne said...

How wonderful to know there are still kind-hearted youth!! restores my faith in mankind.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for an understanding lifeguard! Hooray for Bud for keeping his cool, and Hooray for Tinky Winky!

Glad it ended well!

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

So now you are making me cry just like Kyra does! So nice to hear that the teenager was understanding and helpful. I wonder what I would have done when I was that age (being such a rules player and all).

Anonymous said...

I think that's what's called a close shave!
So glad to hear that you managed to get away for a little break.
Best wishes

LAA and Family said...

Oh, I can relate to this event so much! I am so glad that you were able to find Bud's toy. It's so difficult to juggle keeping your child calm and solving the problem at hand. That is really something that Bud was able to keep his cool to the extent that he did while he saw that you were trying to help him! I have found with Samuel that his reaction in situations like this is closely related to how calm I remain. Congratulations to both of you!

christschool said...

What a wonderful teenager and mother. I agree with Gretchen, its exceptional to find a teenager, probably in his first job, handle his duties with such wisdom.

Glad Bud was reunited with TW and it felt so good (thinking of the Peaches & Herb song).

Anonymous said...

I'm crying. So nice to hear your story. I actually just got home from a very exhausting and stressful day at the beach where my 5 year old pooped in his bathing suit and I had to shower him in front of half the beach with him screaming at the top of his lungs. Wanted to just explain to the people walking by that my son is autistic, etc. Always feel badly for wanting to make "excuses" for him. It helps to hear stories like yours to see that I am not really alone. Also, nice to be reminded that everyone is NOT judging us and there are lots of people who can be understanding. Thanks!

Stimey said...

It's nice to be reminded that sometimes it is the simplest thing that makes the biggest difference. It can be so easy to make people happy; it's nice to hear about good people every now and again.

kristina said...

That's why their lifeguards-----I've had to talk to so many over the past few years to explain things about Charlie and they've always responded with thoughtfulness and been glad to keep an extra eye out for Charlie. Someone is training someone right.

Mom to Mr. Handsome said...

SUPERMOM to the rescue! Doesn't feel great to be able to come through for our children? The smile and cheers are what keep me going.


VAB said...

Very nicely handled, by all of you. Bud is going to be that much more confident for it.

GClef1970 said...

Oh my gosh, my heart was in my throat for you. I know that panic. Such a wonderful ending: a helpful and understanding lifeguard, Bud hanging in there while you searched, and the success of finding his best friend. :-)

Niksmom said...

Mom-NOS...sniffle, ditto waht the others said. See, you **are** ubiquitous! I knew it...Bud's known all along. Smart Bud. Smart Mom-NOS. Great lifeguard.

KAL said...

Happy story! How great for all of you - TW too! Glad you were able to get away, vacation IS a state of mind.

Anonymous said...

To find myself saying "Oh, my God!" to my computer screen....

I could feel your lack of panic, and your calming nature. Thank goodness for the heart of this teenage lifeguard.

And how GREAT of Bud to be able to tell you how he was feeling, all throughout.

I want to be you.

Mom without a manual said...

I am sure that Tinky Winky was as happy to see Bud as Bud was to see him!

That is great that the lifeguard was so helpful!

Angel The Alien said...

Thank God you found Tinky Winky! I'm 28, and I think I would STILL be traumatized if one of my favorite stuffed animals (I love stuffed animals) was at the bottom of the lake, during a thunderstorm, possibly lost forever. Bud is so lucky to have a mom like you who saw it from his perspective!

Daisy said...

I feel tears brewing. This lifeguard is priceless. He really knew what was important to Bud, and was willing to work to find it.

Steve said...

There are so many cool parts of this story, but the other commenters have touched on the best ones.

However, I have to laugh about the weather. We rarely have thunderstorms here, even in the winter, and especially not when we'd be out in the lake. If a bunch of people at the lake heard thunder around here, I'm pretty sure they would sit out in the water waiting to see some lightening. ;)

Ami said...

Have you considered writing a note to the facility to tell them what a great job that kid is doing? So often, we (generic we, I am not suggesting you personally) are quick to yell if we don't get good service, but sometimes don't mention it when someone does a little extra to help.