By: Jordan Westenbroek
All throughout the course of my life, I’ve been the master at tubing. I learned to be brave on the tube like my mom, who enjoyed being thrown outside of the wake, most of the time. Mom wasn’t an expert and she didn’t get on the tube too often, but when she did, I loved watching the excitement dazzle in her priceless blue eyes.
“Are we there yet?” I repeat again from the back seat. We’re driving down the lake-view road, minutes from our destination. I am watching the calm water out the window and it sure didn’t calm me down. It only built up my excitement more. Camping is one of my family’s many traditions. We go down to lake McConaughy in Nebraska each year, and skid across the water each day when we tube. Just thinking about the fun makes me bounce up and down in my seat. It always makes me tingle up inside and then those emotions spill out and end in a result of an anxious smile spread across my face at the moment I realize we have reached our destination. Excitement boils inside me, getting me pumped up and ready for the adventure. No sorrow no pain, just pure excitement and adventure are curled up within me.
Dad parks the truck and seems to tell us to get out, but I’ve already taken the pleasure of hopping out of the compact car. The crashing of the waves on the beach and the gentle breeze of the wind compels me toward the sticky sand, but before I can get any closer, Mom grabs my shoulder and pulls me back to unpack the camper. I sigh and walk away from the lake, frustrated that I was so close to my dreamland of relaxing on the peaceful water, beneath the bright sun. I feel like my imagination has been stepped on, thrown away, and forgotten just by one simple gesture.
Finally, when all my clothes are put away and my sleeping bag is folded neatly on my bunk, we spring towards the golden beach and I immediately fall in love with the warmth of the sand under my toes. Our neighbor’s entire family has already set the beach up with tables for food, lawn chairs, and tents to block the sun. My eye catches a glimpse of the boat, anchored in the glassy water. My heart melts waiting to dive into the waves and let the moment drench me with fun.
“Alright,” Ben announces grinning, “how about all of the parents take a turn on the boat before the kids snag it away.”
“Good idea, let’s have Ben, Alissa, Patty, and I on the tube the first round,” Steve shouts. My mom steps up to the challenge waving goodbye to me and my sisters. They all shuffle into the boat and drive away pulling my dream with them.
I am furious, they knew I was anxious to tube, and they just left without me. I stomp returning into the chilled water and try to keep track of the boat with all of the parents laughing and having a grand-old-time on it. I grab a bucket and fill it with water. Since I obviously can’t ride the tube yet, Jaylyn and I start making a river in the sand to guard our sand castle. I plop down on the compressed beach and decide to get to work, still upset that they left without me.
Eventually, out in the distance I see the boat heading towards us. I manage to instantly pull a giant smile on my face as I know it will finally be my turn to ride the thrill-seeking tube. As they get closer and closer my grin disappears when I see my mom holding the side of her head. Worry builds up in my heart and flows through my entire body with a snap of my finger.
“What might have happened?” and, “will she be all right?” Are the questions that keep running up and down inside of my mind as I keep looking over at her. They pull up and I approach Mom in the water. Dad lifts her out and sets her down safely next to me. He rarely carries Mom. Something must be wrong.
“Why are you holding your head?” I question, gulping as I speak. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Jordan. Ben and I just bumped our heads on the tube,” she mutters sweetly as she grins a meaningless smile, “now you go ahead and don’t worry about me.” I know she’s trying to assure me she’s all right, but I can tell she is lying. Heartache and sorrow wash inside me, like the lake out in the distance.
Soon, it is my turn to tube, but I am not as excited because I am still worrying about Mom. I hop on the tube and press my legs on the bitter cold drips stuck swishing around on the seat. The motor starts spinning, and instead of the normal wave of happiness rushing through me, I feel nervous about my mom.
Suddenly, for a simple moment my glorious smile and enjoyment flashes on instantly, like when you first turn the nozzle on in a sink and the water pours out. It happens so fast, I almost forget about Mom hitting her head. She said she was fine, so I have to believe her to let my glory of tubing come seeping back inside me where it belongs. I feel like my missing puzzle piece is back in place. Why worry about a simple bump? All I know is it shouldn’t distract me from my wonderful day at the lake.
Later when we get back to the beach my grin turns off again. I feel like I am a light switch turning on and off, over and over again. In one second my smile spreads all over the place, then abruptly shuts off because Mom is tipping everything. When she eats, her fork is at an unusual angle. When she has a drink in her hand, she tips that over and liquid pours out. Everything my mom holds, tips. My worry grows and grows until I know without a doubt something is majorly wrong.
About five weeks later, after a CAT Scan and a MRI, the doctor’s tell Mom she needs brain surgery. The day my mom goes in to the hospital, I wish I could be there, to be right by her side the entire time, holding her hand. I want to encourage her and cheerfully build her strength back up every step of the way, but I can’t. Like any kid, I have to go to school.
“Good luck!” I whisper while I hug Mom as she steps into the passenger seat of the car.
“Thanks,” Mom sighs as she waves goodbye. Dad winks in the drivers seat and pulls out of the garage.
All day at school I tap my feet, waiting for the bell to ring so I can go see Mom in the hospital. When that magical bell rings, it’s music to my ears. I sprint out of the classroom straight towards the car. The whole way to the hospital, I can’t hear anything other than the loud booming of my heart. Boom! Boom! Boom! I feel like my feelings are on an emotional rollercoaster, instead of being my usual happiness at the front of the ride, I am nervousness shivering at the wayback of the coaster, tucked in a ball with anxiety towering up inside me.
When we walk to the hospital room, the first thing that I notice is all the tubes and machines hooked up to my mom. She smiles and joyful tears drip from her eyes. I can’t help but do the same. Tears line up on my eyelids and rush down the side of my cheeks. I hug Mom and then all the worrying questions come out.
“How was the surgery?” I mumble, still scared there was a slim chance that it might not have gone well.
“It was a huge success!” Moms smile grows as she speaks. The whole family gathers around Mom and gives her a giant hug. I gasp a sigh of relief. All of Moms headaches would be gone, literally.
Soon enough, we return to the lake. Mom won’t ride the tube, and I understand that completely. She has been through a lot in the last past few weeks. Because my mom is my tubing inspiration, I become scared and frightened at the sight of the tube.
I get on, promised by the driver that we would go slow, but when I reunite with the water, I feel there is no sense in letting my fears get the best of me, so I give Dad the signal to go faster. Jordan is back. Back with the tube and back with the lake, without letting my fears get the best of me.
This joy all bundled and cooped up inside of me, is the best feeling. This joy is tossed in with happiness and laughter, some of the strongest feelings I can dream of.
I am happy it all races back inside me. I decide to never let my fears take over and control me because this joy that has returned to me is the greatest feeling I know, and I never want to let it drive past and leave me behind, ever again. This is me, and I am proud of who I am, no matter what fears try and pull me back from accomplishing my goals. The light switch has decided to stay on. My grin returns for the millionth time. This is me. Confident me, who won’t let my fears get in the way of anything.