Last month, I told you about Jessie James Taylor who was knifed and meat cleavered while we visited Pikeville College. The near murder of the local Kentuckian concerned us and dashed our plans for a safer vacation than we had during the previous summer's seagull and clam episode. As horrific as the meat cleaver incident was, however, this past vacation became even more dangerous for my family and me.
Several days after the knifing, we went to Lake Cumberland so that we could go water skiing. I hadn't skied since my days in Dixon over fifteen years ago. The designated day for skiing dawned clear. I even checked the weather forecast on television; it was to be a good day on the lake. However, the weather became cloudy and threatening several hours after arriving at our destination. As the conditions worsened, my son, Scott, was skiing until I noticed lightning several miles ahead of us. In the time necessary to get Scott back into the boat, the storm front with rain leading the charge and lightning and thunder bringing up the rear rapidly closed the gap between us and the tempest. As we headed back to the marina some forty-five minutes away, the storm conditions worsened, making last summer's thumb episode look like a pleasant day at Great America.
I found myself having to stand up to steer the boat, because I couldn't see through the windshield due to the pelting downpour. This resulted in the rain pelting my eye glasses instead of the boat's windshield. It wasn't long before I had to stow away my glasses so that I could see where I was going. While the rest of the family huddled down in the boat, I stood there like some human lightning rod as the strength of the storm, the rolling thunder, the javelin-like strikes of lightning, and pelting rain swirled around us and the boat. Besides worrying about dying, all that I could think about was whether boats are grounded during an electrical storm while on the water. I tried desperately to recall my high school physics class, but that was thirty-five years ago. What can you recall from a class taken three and a half decades ago? If you can remember or know my physics' question, e-mail your answer to me for future reference.
The only thing that I did recall from my high school years was a stanza from a poem by Longfellow, "Sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all the hopes of future years, Is hanging breathless on thy fate!" My spontaneous recitation of these few lines was to give solace to my trembling family and me. It was quite a picture there on Lake Cumberland. I looked like a Wagnerian hero quoting Longfellow in the face of a threatening storm and lapping waves. Some more prudent sailors would have said a "Hail, Mary" or two. So much for a safer vacation. However, we all returned safely-though soaking wet and chilled to the bone.
What was interesting about our turbulent skiing trauma was how funny it now seems to us. What once had been terrifying is now something we can laugh about. Think of experiences in your life which in time have been transformed from a traumatic event into something that is amusing.
It is important that we all learn this truth about life. If we make this phenomenon a part of our lives and recall it while confronting some future problem, we can be less anxious and fear-filled about the storms of life that threaten to undo us. Realizing that you may view the problem differently in the future and may even see some humor in it will provide needed equilibrium while you get buffeted about by a particular worry.
In addition shared frightening situations often have the ability to bond people together like nothing else can. Wars or natural disasters can unite those who face the onslaught and survive. Here too, we can gain the courage to face dilemmas knowing that something good will result from that difficulty.
By linking humor and the bonding process together, each of us will be able to confront many of life's problems more courageously. We will be able to sail on into the future regardless of what may come our way. By the way, I still wonder about whether the boat was grounded or not. E-mail your answer to me.
This article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph.