As I went to answer the door I thought, "What now?" All I wanted to do is clean the house. I'm not a particularly tidy person but the house we had just moved from was quite small in comparison to our new home and there always seemed to be something to clean.
Ben's father Rob was at the door. As I opened it I remember briefly thinking that I was still in my jamas.
I invite him in and as I looked at him, he didn't seem to be himself. Rob always has a big smile on his face and was always out and about with his kids. He is very, very tall but not at all intimidating and all the kids in the neighborhood like him. That day he was very serious. In my mind I thought what now?
We sat at the table and right away he said he was very sorry about what had happened. He said it had never ever even come close to happening before. I said don't even worry about it, no big deal.
At this time I notice that he is very pasty looking and his hands have a slight tremor to them. At first I'm wondering why? Just because Chrissy got wet? Then my mind started to wonder and I'm thinking blah, blah and not really paying attention to him. Then I hear him say," I called Kathy and she was so upset she came right home." I said, "It's okay Rob." " She got a little wet." Then my mind started thinking about New Years Eve and I tuned him out. ( Gee, I look back at this and think I must have adult ADD.) Then I heard him say I only had to swim 7 or 8 strokes to get her. That got my attention. What the fuck happened I thought? I really did think that bad word. I won't use it in the hard copy. Then Rob said his chest was still pounding.
At that point I asked him what exactly happened. Not in those words but something like that.
Apparently, the kids were all sliding. There was quite a group of kids. Ben has 4 younger brothers and sisters. Plus Jordan, Kadie and Chrissy. Everyone had gone down a few times and when it was Chrissy's turn again Kadie was the only one at the bottom of the hill. The boys yelled down to her that when Chrissy got to the bottom, Kadie needed to grab her so she wouldn't hit the bank hard. Chrissy came down and when Kadie went to grab her she grabbed Chrissy's shoulder and instead of slowing her down, Chrissy leaned all the way back and shot like a bullet up and over the bank of snow.
Right out into the river. The cold, rushing river. She landed still on the sled and started to get carried down the river and the sled tipped and she went tumbling into the rushing water.
Kadie started to go in but the water was very cold and she didn't know how deep it was and she got scared. Rob's girls started to scream and panic followed.
Rob was in the house and came to the door and from his porch he could see Chrissy floating down river. Later he said that her jacket was all puffed up and it looked like angles were holding her up. (When really what it was is Chrissy was wearing a down filled jacket that was three sizes too big for her. When it started to get wet the air went to the top and actually was a flotation device. It probably helped save her life.) Anyway, Rob jumped off the porch and hauled off down the hill and jumped into the water. He tried to walk to get Chrissy but the current was too strong and he had to swim. He grabbed hold of her as they were getting close to the ice. (I don't have to tell you what that would mean if she had got to the ice on her own, I try NOT to think of it.) Rob hollered for the boys and they came out on the ice and Jordan tried to lift her but she was water soaked so Ben And Michael had to help. At the same time Rob's twin girls saw her new boots floating and they fished them out of the water. The sled had already disappeared. Rob got himself out of the water and told the boys to get Chrissy home right away. It took all of them to carry her. Chrissy cried that she had lost her boots and at that time the boys didn't know the girls had found them. (We live right across the street so it wasn't that far that was why they didn't take her in Rob's house.)
That afternoon when Dave called to check in I had to tell him what had happened. He was very upset with me as I was with myself. He said I should have been there and I cried, I know , I know! To this day I blame myself for her going in the river. All because I wanted to clean the damn house. It might not have prevented her from going in the water but I would have been right there to go in the water when she was only a few feet out not fifteen like when Rob had to get her.
New Years Day Dave and I went to Rob's and stood on the top of the bank. As we looked down we could see where Rob ran down the hill. There were only six foot prints and they were spaced so far apart it seemed that he flew. We stood there holding hands and looked at the river rushing by. It was ice on both sides and opened about six feet in the center. I think that was when it really hit me that Rob, wonderful, wonderful Rob, had truly saved our daughters life. To this day every time I see him I want to hug him and say thank you. There is no amount of gifts, money or gratitude that I could give him for saving my child. All I can do is say thank you and remember that Chrissy's life was spared and God must have big plans for her.
After that day no one went sliding down the hill that year. The next winter not only did they bank it really high with snow they also put up fencing.
Chrissy didn't go sliding the rest of the year or even the next. By the following year what had happened was a distant memory. All she remembers is that her boots came off her feet. Now she is a champion sledder but we don't slide by water anymore.