Danger

A couple of years later, we moved into our new house. It had a big backyard that was still just dirt, so we got to design it how we liked and that included a pool. I always wanted a pool of my own, especially now that I had kids, because some of my fondest memories were swimming in my grandparents’ pool every summer. Safety was obviously a big concern since our kids were only three and five years old at the time, so we had them put a fence around it, and anytime they were near the pool, we wouldn’t take our eyes off of them, not even for a second. We waited all summer long with great anticipation as they slowly built our pool, and I couldn’t wait to take my first dip.

As circumstances would have it, the first day we could finally swim turned out to be a cold, overcast day with the temperatures in the fifties, whereas the rest of the week was in the eighties. I wasn’t about to wait another day though since I had to go back to work the next day. “Kids, let’s go swimming!” They were more excited than I was, so we all put on our suits, grabbed some towels, and headed out. The water was fresh out of the hose only a couple days ago, so it was about as cold as the weather. Our excitement overruled any discomfort, and besides we had a shallow area that was just a couple inches above my ankles.

I brought out the video camera to film the kids’ first foray into the pool. As they were splashing around, I looked down at the camera which I figured was not even for a second to turn it on and to see if it was recording. Suddenly, I heard Kaveh yelling, “DADDY, DADDY!” I looked up and saw that Kian had wandered too far out and fallen off the step into the deeper part of the pool. His head was bobbing up and down, gulping for air and struggling to keep afloat. I was standing only about three steps away from him, so I dropped the camera and was able to grab him quickly out of the water. He didn’t even cry, and we told him how impressed we were that he was able to keep himself up like he did.

Pooneh came home a few minutes later, hustled us all inside, and wondered what had inspired me to take these kids out in the cold pool on such a blustery, gloomy day so they can get sick. I’m just glad she didn’t have to witness his head bobbing up and down in the water. I learned a hard lesson: what may seem like “not even a second” when you are distracted by something else, can easily become longer than you think.

A couple months later I went out with the kids to the pool after a windy day to clean out the leaves with a skimmer. I remember thinking how relaxed I was and lost in my thoughts as they sat on the deck playing and watching me do what dads do. I was standing on the fire pit and went to step down to the deck level. Instead of watching where I was stepping, I had my eyes on the kids so that I didn’t whack them with the long skimmer I was holding. The next thing I knew my foot never touched the deck; it plunged about three feet straight down into the pool, and I was helpless to catch myself from falling. My head and face slammed down onto the flagstone border with such impact that it broke my sunglasses and I nearly passed out. I started moaning and groaning and bleeding profusely from somewhere on my face. I got up but had to sit right back down again for a few minutes because my head was throbbing, and I also felt pretty dizzy. Kaveh and Kian looked worried and kept asking if I was ok. I just knew I had to get back inside to get the kids away from the pool.

I looked in the mirror to see what damage had been done and saw that I was bleeding from my upper cheek next to my eye. I sat down on the couch with ice on my face in agonizing pain to collect my thoughts. By this time, my kids weren’t too concerned about me anymore. They were running all over the place, chasing and fighting each other, and generally just being really annoying. I kept telling them to stay inside but they wouldn’t listen.

I called Pooneh at work to tell her what happened and to see if she could get off early to watch the kids while I went to lie down. She heard all of the chaotic yelling from the kids and my voice was pretty shaky, so she got really worried. She said she would come home as soon as she can. She called back about five minutes later to check on me and let me know she was leaving, but things had finally settled down, and I didn’t feel like getting up again to answer the phone. She tried again and finally Kaveh answered. She asked him what we were doing and why I wasn’t answering the phone. He said I was laying down on the couch and Kian was playing outside (even though he was actually in the bathroom). I asked him who was on the phone but she already hung up. Figuring I had been rendered unconscious, she called 911 to check on me and the kids.

About two minutes later, five big strapping paramedics and firemen showed up at my doorstep. They sat me down and assessed how I was doing with questions and brief exam. This really freaked the kids out, and they both started crying and calling out to me from across the room, “Daddy, are you going to be ok?” The paramedics were really great with talking to them and provided them both with plastic fireman hats which they thought were the coolest thing ever, so they quickly forgot about me again and started playing firemen.

Pooneh came home just as they were leaving and took me to the emergency room for a CT scan. The doctor told me there was no bleeding into my brain, but that I broke my face in two places and probably had a concussion. He put a couple stitches in the gaping wound next to my eye and referred me to a specialist. I guess one could say I was lucky because it could easily have been much worse. I could have passed out and rolled into the pool, and I don’t think my kids would have been strong enough to pull me out or even lift my head out of the water.

            Another episode that nearly took my life and left my kids fatherless was when I went hiking by myself on a trail called Bear Canyon near Mount Baldy. I was on my way back and decided to put on my headphones and listen to a Furthur concert that I had just been to and downloaded. I thought it would enhance the atmosphere to hike with music in the background, but instead it just distracted me from my Zen state of mind that I like to maintain when hiking in beautiful nature. As I was taking off the headphones and fiddling with my phone, I happened to glance ahead and saw a humongous black bear climbing up the hill and stopped on the trail just ten feet in front of me, effectively blocking my path home. She didn’t look aggressive or agitated, but rather just calmly stared at me without moving.

I remembered back to the last time I encountered a bear at Kings Canyon National Park. A couple of experience hikers started banging two big sticks together to scare it away and shouted, “Go away bear!” This worked and the poor frightened bear sauntered back up the mountain. With this in mind, I backed up a couple steps and uttered the same phrase, “Go away bear.” However, seeing how close she was, I didn’t want to alarm her, so I didn’t shout it in a threatening manner like the hikers; I just kind of suggested it. Needless to say, she didn’t budge and just kept staring at me like I was an idiot. Then I heard some more rustling coming up the hill, and to my horror, her cub arrived to join her.

Knowing how aggressive and protective a mother bear could be when her cub is threatened, I figured I was probably going to be dead and torn apart within a couple minutes. I vividly recall a sinking sensation in my chest and thinking that God wasn’t being fair. I felt that I didn’t deserve to die so young with a loving family at home wondering where I was. I searched around for anything I could use to defend myself which was a big rock on the ground. As they both continued to stare at me, I picked it up and repeated my warning to them, “Go away bear.” I realized that I was probably doing the one thing I shouldn’t be doing, which was threatening the bears with a stupid rock and warning them with words that bears couldn’t possibly comprehend. Therefore, I decided to take a different approach. I turned my back to them and walked away without looking back, literally entrusting my life to blind faith. I got about ten feet before I turned around to look, and to my relief they continued their trek up the mountainside. I thanked God and apologized for being too judgy towards Him. Nevertheless, the whole way home I kept freaking out and jumping like a schoolgirl by every creeping, scurrying, or rustling sound I heard around me.

Published by swojtowich

I am a physician, story writer, husband and proud father of two sons. I enjoy travel, exercise, and reading/writing books.

9 thoughts on “Danger

    1. Exactly. Scary times, never know when those moments may occur. I guess they could at least sound cool to their friends when they say their Dad was killed by a bear instead of missing a step!😬

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  1. Walking away was the correct move when the Bear is with her cub. Threatening it with a rock is the move that works best when the animal is acting aggressive or coming toward you without cub nearby. They are not all that different from human reactions unless they are very hungry or wounded. I just watched a guy scare off a huge Rhino just by holding a stick and yelling at him.

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  2. It’s a good thing I didn’t know about it at the time. I would have freaked out and then sent you a million prayers! Dad said you really have a way with wild animals. Do you remember the mountain lion in your front yard and do you remember the rattle snake in the middle of our path as we were walking and a girl told us “don’t you see the stop sign?” You probably shouldn’t go to any zoos or wild life areas. Ha ha😃

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