Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Worst That Could Happen

The year was 1988. The diver ascended the ladder to the concrete platform, taut with confidence borne of years and years of training coupled with natural ability. Just scaling the ladder would have been a problem for many, but it was as natural to him as climbing into bed at night.

A million eyes around the world fixed on the diver as he gathered himself into intent purpose at the edge of the platform, meters above the water. He rehearsed the dive, visualising it in his mind, reminding each muscle to call up the sensations of the perfect movement, to perform with the exactitude of clockwork. Confident of the beauty he could elicit with the dive, his body tensed for a second, and he sprang into space with joyful and taut discipline.


He'd miscalculated. His head hit the unyielding concrete platform edge, an obscenity embedded in grace. So unprepared for the jolt, he didn't feel it at first. All there was time for was confusion before he hit the water. The dive was lost. Somehow he hauled or was hauled out of the water and was able to gather his wits. Afterward, he apologised. "It's a shame that anyone watching this should have had to see that...especially children....I'm so sorry..."

That was Greg Louganis at the 1988 Summer Olympics men's diving championships. He recovered and managed to distinguish himself in spite of the horror, but as it turned out, a whack on the head became the least of his problems.

But that whack is the kind of thing that replays itself again and again, before it ever happens, in the minds of many parents of a child about to be launched off the concrete platform of home into the wide world. After 18 years of shepherding a child through the obstacle courses of life, and bringing them to a point where they can even think about ascending the ladder to that platform, you can't imagine the pride as they poise themselves to perform in public. When the child gets to the launching place, a parent knows it is because that child is meant to be there, and the parent had this precious opportunity to be a major part of it. After so much practise, so much training, so much heart poured into this one launch, failure isn't invited to the party, but it can crash the scene anyway, and no one is ever ready. All you can do now... is watch.
Someday, you watch the faces of parents at their childrens' graduations. You'll see relief and pride, but you'll see a certain vigilant alertness about their expression. They'll look like Secret Service agents at a party for the President. Always watching. High-fives and thumbs up and smiles....but parents will just never give up watching.
Sobering update, later in the day: Wade Steffey's parents' watching has come to an end, most likely. A body was found this afternoon in a heretofore double-locked high-voltage power room in a campus dormitory. Please say a prayer for his mom and dad...this is exactly the sort of nightmare of which I speak. Wade's been missing since January 13, and the last place he was seen was in the vicinity of the dorm, trying to get in after hours because he needed his jacket. There are going to be alot of questions to answer, but I can only say, God have mercy on him and especially on his parents. And if this isn't he, may mercy rest on whomever it is and their loved ones.


Blogger The Clinging Vine said...

[shivering] Ugh! I well remember watching Louganis hit his head on the board and fall into the water. =8^o

It was frightening, and I couldn't imagine being his parents. :^(

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Heidi said...

Yup, I remember that, too.

but what a horrible ending for that college boy. Sad, sad situation. Lord, have mercy

10:22 AM  

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