Pontoon Boat Disaster


My parents didn’t swim. When we went on vacation at Clear Lake, and Dad wanted to take us out in a rented pontoon boat, my mom objected. 

Dad won in the end, and the five kids put on our life jackets. I think my mom did, too. I am sure my dad didn’t wear one.

We were puttering around the lake, Dad at the helm, when the engine made a popping noise and died. Dad climbed over the railing to get to the engine.

“Get back into the the boat!” Mom screamed.

Dad coolly ignored her and poked around the engine while standing in knee-deep water.

The front of the boat had risen up while Dad, at 200+ pounds, stood on the engine deck. I grabbed the wire railing as my mother continued to scream and my dad continued to ignore her.

My OCD childhood. Back then, I was referred to as a nervous child.

Instead of me remaining calm, sure that my dad wouldn’t slip and drown, I imagined all the terrible things that could happen, would happen, if he didn’t get back onto the right side of the railing.

Oh, to be ten and to be afraid of literally everything! Maybe that’s why I turned to writing, as a way to calm myself down. Plus, people with OCD have great imaginations.  If I could put it on paper, maybe I could control the ending.

The pontoon rental got towed to shore, and I was never so happy to get off of a boat.

Since my parents didn’t swim, we didn’t do anything water related except fish from the safety of the shore. Iowa is filled with lakes, but I only remember Clear Lake.

We rented stinky little cottages that smelled old and damp, where my mom would scatter the morning’s coffee grounds on the floor to sweep up the dirt and dust.

The sound of the screen door slamming behind me, as I ran outside to take in the blue water, blue sky and the fluffy white clouds, comes back now.

Lots of lake vacations have blended into one over the years. The creaky bedsprings and the stinky, lumpy mattresses. The brown walls and brown furniture. I can see the faded flowered curtains at the windows, streaked from recent rainstorms.

One time we left the lake vacation early, since Dad’s back hurt from the lousy bed. We headed out into graying weather which turned to rain. As we drove into the storm, the back seat filled with children and baby Jim in his car seat up front between my parents, the rain got so heavy that Dad had to pull off the road and into some farmer’s driveway to wait it out. It was dark out, either from the storm or from the time of day. I can’t remember.

As lightning flashed and thunder cracked around us in the car, I questioned our safety.

“Don’t worry,” Mom said. “The car has rubber tires. Even if lightning strikes the car, we’ll be safe.”

Lightning could strike the car? Oh, crap. I hadn’t thought about that.

We sat there for several minutes, waiting for the rain to let up so that Dad could see to drive. He played around with the radio station but got mostly static. I looked from side to side to see how my siblings were doing.

I was definitely winning in the freaked-out category.

Who knew it was OCD that was making my brain play out worst-case scenarios, yet again? 

It’s a miracle that I ever did anything. I guess OCD comes and goes. It’s always there, but in different strengths.

Some days it’s just a weak cup of coffee; other days it’s French Roast — the worst days it is a double espresso.

Maybe that’s why I gave up coffee. Nope, it was my stomach. I can’t blame that on OCD.

Wait – what?

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