Monday, January 18, 2010

Holding My Breath Underwater

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved swimming. I am that person who can stay in the water for hours on end, while my skin gets wrinkled and my lips turn blue, before I even consider getting out. While some kids were great at the front crawl or standing on their hands, my talent was the number of seconds I could hold my breath for underwater. I always bugged anyone who was around to count for me, but usually it was my Dad that would do it without a complaint. Sometimes he’d count really fast and make it seem like I had been under for half an hour, and other times he’d challenge me by counting the “Mississippi” way.

When I was in my early twenties I took an amazing job working at Club Med, Huatulco, for six months. Although I mostly worked in the mini club with the kids, I sometimes helped out a friend at the snorkeling shack as well. Even though I would teach the guests how to snorkel wearing all the equipment, I never used the actual snorkel for breathing when we went out into the ocean. I didn’t need to because of how long I could hold my breath for. Even when I took a few scuba diving lessons during employment in Club Med Ixtapa a year later, I was having trouble with the tank, because I was so uncomfortable with excess air coming at me. I tried to assure the instructors that I didn’t need to use the oxygen tank, and that I could go down to the bottom of the sea holding my breath for ages, but they didn’t want to take that chance on me.

So here I was finally figuring out how to breathe easy on land, as I blogged about 2009 being one of the most difficult years of my life, and trying to find the silver linings amongst all the heartache I had already encountered. Then what happens to me within the first week of 2010? My dad dies! It’s as if the forces of the universe were like “Hey, we keep trying to knock her down and she keeps getting back up. Let’s give her the biggest whack that we possibly can.” So they did, and I have never fallen so hard in my life. Will I be able to get up after this one? I’m not sure yet. Only time will tell.

There have been a few strange issues surrounding my Dad’s death. First being, we still don’t know what caused his death. My parents had been on a three week cruise, and they docked in San Diego on January 3rd, preparing to come back to Toronto the next day. That night, my dad was having trouble breathing and my mom called an ambulance right away. In that small pocket of time between getting off the ship and coming home to Toronto, my dad passed away of congestive heart failure due to an unknown reason. We are still waiting on the blood work. At the moment, all I can do to get through this right now is to understand that it was his time and not an accident. The guy went on a three-week vacation, had the best time of his life and then died with my Mom, the love of his life of 47 years by his side. If we could choose our own death plans, I’d say sign me up for that one, because the way my Dad died is a hell of a lot better than some of the other alternatives.

In the hours that followed my father’s death, I found myself trying to hold my breath a lot, which is much harder for me to do when I’m not in water. I had to make some of the most heartbreaking phone calls of my life to people who loved my dad and needed to be consoled. One was to my Aunt Lois, my dad’s sister, who was on a cruise ship that was ironically headed towards Haiti, right before the earthquake. She got off in Puerto Rico and flew home. It’s uncertain what her fate would have been had she not had to come home right away.

It’s now been exactly two weeks since I received that phone call from my Mom, and after making it through the funeral, where I gave the eulogy, and the shiva, where hundreds of people were coming through our house every day. I am somehow still standing.

To be honest, I was going to throw in the towel on this blog. I just felt so destroyed and didn’t think I could continue writing about things, that in hindsight, don’t seem as important anymore. However, an old friend/camp counselor of mine emailed me when she heard the news about my Dad, and encouraged me to continue to try and find the silver linings within all the unfortunate circumstances that I have been hit with over the past year. She believes in my theory that the silver linings are always there, even if it takes a while to find them. So although this has completely thrown me for a loop, and I can’t even be sure that I am making sense anymore, with time I will try to find the silver lining as best as I can.

I will tell you this, I miss my Dad more than I ever thought possible. It is the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life, and it saddens me that I am going to have to find someone new to count the seconds for me, while I continue to hold my breath underwater.


  1. I will count the seconds for you anytime. Beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful and compassionate writing. Just like you. Xoxo.

  2. your blog is beautiful. not a dry eye...

  3. Wow Andrea. I'm impressed by your strength. Keep taking things one day at a time and remember to breathe:)

  4. How beautiful! Just try to be strong. You have so many people who love you and care about you. And remember, although you may not hear his voice, I truly believe that your Dad is counting those seconds.

  5. You are a brilliant is with you!! Continue to write wonderful stories.. I remember the morning he called me at 8am to run alog St. Clair to get the National Post...I struggled from empty box after box to find one.!!He was so proud to share his daughter's fame with the world!! Love Auntie Lois

  6. Sounds like your Dad is pretty special.
    I'm sorry to hear of his passing. You keep on keep stronge..and your right, if we could choose our exit that sounds pretty good. take care