Part 3: Still Falling – Julie Swope

My propensity for descending went rampant in my forties. While on vacation with my sisters in Cancun, we had a carefree day on a trimaran. When the boat docked I tripped on a nail on the pier and fell into the ocean. While I wasn’t physically hurt, my travelers checks were lost to the dolphins and sea turtles.

As I floundered to get to land, I saw my sister, Rosie, trip on the same nail. Her fall resulted in a bloody gash. I watched helplessly from the water as two of the crew helped her hobble into the hotel. My other sisters were on the beach delighting in watching my clumsy exit.

We walked to the hotel, but could not find Rosie in the crowded lobby. Some international conference was beginning and people were swarming in all directions. I stalked to the front desk, and in a loud voice proclaimed, “What did you do with my sister ? We were all on the same trip, she fell on the pier, two of the crew helped her in here.”  The attendant was not familiar and had no knowledge of what I was asking. “I want to speak with the manager,” I demanded, increasing my volume. “I have had too many losses in my life and I am not losing my sister. Now, where is she.”

The manager told me they had taken her to a local doctor who was treating her, and assured me he would call my room when she returned. Tears burnt my cheeks as I stood sopping wet in acceptance. I found my others sisters and we returned to our room, but not before I caught the name of the convention, “International Symposium on Treating Menopausal Women.” I am certain I gave them an excellent example of identifying symptoms.

Two years later- Cancun, traveling with my sister, Connie. Once again I am enjoying a day on the trimaran. I relish the feeling of the wind on a hot day, sailing on the clear bluish green ocean. I find a spot at the apex of the boat, and let my bare feet dangle. I realize I will be splashed, but I want to be. The water is warm. If it is a moderately
breezy day the motor is off and we just sail in the power of the wind.

On the trip back to the hotel, two of the crew raise the spinnaker, and invite anyone who wants, to cast their fate to the wind. I watch a couple of blithe young spirits and it looks like amazing freedom. I volunteer. Some people are smirking probably at my age. I settle myself on the rope swing and I am hoisted into the air. I like this already. I throw my shoulders and back behind me, feeling like a kid on a swing who can touch the sky. I become more exhilarated. I hold onto the swing with my arms but position my seat to the back of my knees. I am the
most daring of acrobats.

The crew can control the height of the swing and seeing my abandonment  raise the height of the swing as the clouds darken and an unusually strong breeze blows. I am spinning in mid air. The rope swing is turning and turning. The space between the thick brown braided rope is closing in on me. I tell myself, “No, I am not going to die at the hands of a rope.”

I make a spontaneous decision. I lean forward and fall into the ocean. I land on the entire front of my body, not just my belly. I am hurting, but also embarrassed. I was sure everyone was looking at me and laughing. I flounder to the ladder of the boat and a crew member offers his hand to help me up. I tell him no, I am hurting too much, just let me be here in the water for now.

Over time I make it up the ladder, but strangely no one is laughing at me. It seems like this is a ghost ship. Where is everyone. I get my bearings and inch my way along the deck. Everyone is leaning over the back of the boat. There is a school of sharks they are feeding ! The sharks were the attraction, not me.

The following day I had massive bruising on the front of my body, places where I never knew people could bruise. I return home with my black and blue face. I tell concerned people what happened, but they just looked at each other and grin.

The forties were not over, but I need to continue at another time. As I am retelling, bruises are erupting all over my body.

By Julie Swope, author of “Of Roots and Wings”

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