The Mighty Ali

Posted February 13th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Yet another update! I guess I'm breaking the rules with this one, as it's not really about saving money but it is about saving something else which is even more priceless. What I really want to do is have a bloody good howl but for some reason I can't seem to do that so I suppose you could call this blog therapy. Yesterday we came heartstoppingly close to losing our youngest son. Ali almost drowned in what was supposed to be an idyllic day at the beach. As I look at him now, contentedly curled up in his favourite chair, I can hardly believe he's still here. I almost have to pinch myself. And do you know the stupidest thing of all? He wasn't even in the water. It started out the most beautiful, perfect day. I had the pleasure of reuniting with an old college buddy I hadn't seen in 18 years and we were laughing about the irony of it all. Who would have thought as a pair of teenage metal-heads in the college canteen that almost 20 years later Jason and I would be going boogie boarding together on the other side of the world with my children? Well, the plan was to go boogie boarding together at Whangamata but as we ambled along the sand it became blatantly obvious that there weren't any waves. But it was no big deal, it was my aim to squeeze in as much of the gorgeous Coromandel Peninsula for my old buddy's benefit as I could, so we headed to one of my favourite places called Onemana. It's a pretty and peaceful little bay which always makes me feel like I've gone back in time - a bit like a Postman Pat village! We arrived there and saw to our dismay that the sea was even flatter so boogie boarding was out of the question but what the heck? The scenery was so stunning and the weather so glorious that we decided to stay there anyway. The boys were a bit miffed that we hadn't been able to find anywhere more exciting but that all changed soon enough.

While there weren't any waves as such, we soon discovered to our delight that the sea had a funny habit of slapping into the shore and drenching us from head to foot, before pulling away and dragging the sand back with it. The water temperature was divine and we were soon having heaps of fun, letting the water slosh over us and 'sand surfing' as the water dragged our feet. It was hilarious and we could have stayed like that for ages. Jason was out in the water and the kids and I were standing on the shore. Then we saw the wave. It came from out of nowhere and headed straight for Ali. Jason described it later as a white hand coming out of the sea to grab him and that's what it was like - we were all close together but it didn't come near the rest of us, it just seemed hell-bent on consuming the smallest among us. And consume him it did. With no time to act, we could only watch in horror as Ali was literally engulfed and disappeared completely from view, dragged helplessly deep into an unrelenting ocean. It was horrific and we knew that once he was in the sea there was no way we were going to be able to see him because of all the sand being thrown up into the water and the sheer volume of that single wave. I did the only thing I could do. I leaped forward and reached blindly into the ocean. I knew I had one chance and if I came across nothing, we would lose him and never get him back. I grabbed - and I found him. Oh thank God I found him. I picked up my precious tiny bundle and carried him out of the water, where he collapsed on the sand. He was in deep shock and it was obvious he had swallowed a lot of water. I was eternally grateful at this point that Jason was an ICU nurse but mercifully he began coughing and spluttering before finally giving way to tears. I've never seen him cry like that, it was gutwrenching.

As soon as he was able, he marched far ahead of us along the beach and climbed up to the top of a huge sandbank, where he sat for quite a while in quiet contemplation. Ali's always been the 'hard one' of my two boys and often ridicules me a little for being so over-protective but on this particular day he was grateful. As I climbed the bank to join him, he looked up at me with tears rolling and said softly 'I'm so glad I have a mum who cares about me as much as you do'. I thought I was going to cry then but I didn't. I'm crying now though just writing about it! Then he chuckled and said 'You always told me that if I got into trouble in the sea that you wouldn't be able to save me, but you did.' I think just for a while, I might have been up there with his dad in the 'hero stakes!' Then he defiantly wrote 'HA HA I'M STILL ALIVE' in the sand before running down the hill to join the others.

We're all staying home today, just chilling out and trying to feel normal again. You know what it's like when awful events keep on and on replaying in your mind, making you feel sick to your stomach and thinking 'what if?' 'what if?' - even though you keep telling yourself everything's OK and you don't need to keep thinking about it any more? It happened when we had our car accident a couple of years ago too but I know it will go eventually. I still have to keep going and checking on him though, and hugging him tight just to make sure he's really real. Sleep didn't come easy last night, the boys took a long time to settle and with their dad away we all huddled together in the same bed for the first time in years. The dogs all slept on the bed too and it was great, if not exactly comfortable! Ali is doing OK, still quiet and sounds a bit rattly still, not to mention a very sore throat and nose but he'll bounce back soon enough, it's the way he is. This morning I received an email to say that my friend and fellow blogger Jason had posted the photos we took from yesterday. A few of them brought back bittersweet memories, knowing what occurred so soon after these happy snaps but the most poignant of all was one taken of Ali just a few minutes before he was almost taken from us forever. In typical Ali style, he's in the face of the camera lens, puffing his cheeks out and flexing his muscles. Jason captioned the photo 'The Mighty Ali'. How very true that turned out to be.

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