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Old 07-16-2017, 12:18 PM
  #18

Our neighborhood had a beautiful pool; double Olympic size with swimming lanes on the far side for the adults and plenty of room to splash and play for the children on the near side. In the middle of the pool was a 20 foot deep section, and we had 4 platform diving boards of various heights. To a 10 year old child, those boards were monumentally high and were held in great esteem as the "someday we'll be old enough to go off those" challenge.

It took me a good part of the summer just to have the courage to jump off the lowest one, which was about 8 feet from the pool surface (we had regular size boards a bit further down, but I'd aced those as a 7 year old). One horrendously hot day, when even the pool water wasn't all that comforting and felt more like bath water, there were several of us having a snack during "adult swim". I was watching my friend's older brother go off the very high dive, which to me was about 100 feet high, but in reality was probably only 25 feet high. He made it look very easy, and I made the mistake of saying that out loud. Somebody remarked that it was easy for me to say that but I'd never have the guts to actually do it - and you all know what happened next.

The climb up those multiple sets of ladders was one of the most terrifying experiences of my young life. I knew better than to look down, as I had a slight fear of heights, so I just kept climbing - willing myself to get to the top, walk to the edge, close my eyes, and just jump. I made it to the platform and froze - unable to move forward to the edge or backward down the ladder. I must have stayed there for what felt like hours but was probably only 5-6 minutes when the lifeguard whistled for me to move, as others were waiting. I didn't know what to do, as I found myself unable to move in any direction. One of the teenagers who was waiting to climb up on the next platform down, asked if she could climb the ladder to me and help me either get down or go off. My angel, Melissa, climbed up and got behind me. She broke my trance and offered to either help me climb down or walk me out to the edge. I'm not sure what I answered, but I must have said to go off because the next thing I knew, she was holding my hand, walking me to the end of the board.

I'm still nauseated just recounting the story 30 years later, but the fear that gripped me as I peered over the edge of that 25 foot platform was paralyzing. My friends were cheering me on, and Melissa, who was still holding my hand, told me to look at her instead of looking down. As I broke my stare at the water so, so far below and looked up to her, she smiled and jumped - with me still holding her hand. She let go about halfway through the fall, and I hit the water a few seconds after she did. I kicked furiously to the surface and emerged to a round of applause from every single person at the pool. Apparently my drama at the top, which I was fairly oblivious to in my sheer panic mode, had engaged all of the pool spectators.

Shaking, I climbed out of the pool where Melissa scooped me up in a big hug. I never made it back to that highest platform that summer, but I totally owned the 8 foot and 12 foot platforms. I was determined to make that high jump as my first jump for the following summer, but we moved over the winter, and I never did get to conquer that fear again. And now that I'm in my late 40s, there's no way I'm ever going to!
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