By Ralph Hood
We aren’t big on rites of passage in this country, but they are here, nevertheless.
There are a blue jillion definitions of rites of passage, but the one I prefer is an obvious step up from childhood toward adulthood. It doesn’t mean you are fully adult—you still can’t vote—but some real adult accepted that you have moved up a bit.
Now, let me tell you about my father…
“Daddy” was a right confident man. He had lived in Brunswick, GA, very close to the beaches for more than two decades at the time of this story, and knew about things like tides, rip tides, and sand bars.
Daddy certainly knew it was very dangerous to wade out to a sandbar at low tide. Even I knew by age 12 or so that the tide might come back in faster than you could swim back to shore. As the water came in—or went out—rip-tides could be produced.
Both of us forgot about that one day when my age was somewhere near 13. The sandbar was close to shore, and both Daddy and I could swim that far easily.
But we had my brother Jimmy (now Jim) with us. Jimmy, four years younger than I, had suffered serious ear trouble from birth. Getting water in his ears was risky business, so he had not learned to swim as yet.
Daddy and I both realized about the same time that we had a problem. The water between us and shore was now over our heads. One of us had to swim back to shore with Jimmy hanging onto his back.
There was no alternative. It had to be done. The longer we waited the more risky it would become. Daddy had to make the decision and I saw it torment him. He felt responsible. He was older; I was younger and had at least some training in lifesaving.
Daddy finally decided that I should take Jimmy. Jimmy—a gutsy soul—did not panic as I feared he would; he did not even struggle. He hung on and we swam across.
I was proud as punch, Daddy was relieved beyond belief. I found out decades later that he dreamed of that event for years.
Jimmy? I asked him recently if he was scared during the swim. He doesn’t really remember the entire event!