By Charles Towne
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers; they will not sweep over you.”
I was born on an island located on the beautiful Fox River that flows near the small town of Oswego, Illinois. The Fox River is mysterious and somewhat unpredictable; very much like a beautiful woman. She, the river, could go for years without showing her ugly side by overflowing her banks, but when she did, surprise! Thank the good lord if you have never been flooded out.
A serious flood will invariably wreak havoc as nothing else can. Property is often swept away, homes and vehicles ruined, and sometimes people are drowned. But then, gradually, the river would return to the confines of her banks, and the cleanup began.
And there is the mud!
There is nothing like the stinking, slimy, sticks to everything mud left after a flood. Everything that has been under water is coated with a thick layer of mud. Floors will have as much as two inches of the gumbo like corruption. Walls will be black with the stuff.
Are you beginning to get the picture?
During a flood, a boat is essential, for attempting to swim those rampaging waters just might end up as your final act, your last hurrah.
I swam the flood one time and soon discovered that fools especially need God’s care.
The floodwaters forced high above the confines of the river’s banks had carried our boat away the previous night, thus leaving us marooned and at the mercy of the river. During that same night as we lay in our beds, there were strange sounds, whispers of movement that was hard to decipher. Soon we realized that the grinding, scraping and, rumbling noise that could be more felt than heard, where the rocks and boulders being tumbled along the river’s bed by the inimitable force of the rushing, dark waters.
The river was swollen with spring snowmelt, and on its crest rode all sorts of detritus. A dog house, half submerged with a floating something that no longer tried to swim on the end of its tether. A rubber hip boot, a child’s doll, the entire front of a house with its door hanging open in welcome; a rocking chair, an old tire, all drifted past on their journey from somewhere up there, to…where?
I don’t remember why it was so important for me to reach the mainland that day. Perhaps it was a hot date, but fools don’t usually need a cause for the things they do. Wrapping my clothes in a piece of oiled canvas, I donned an old pair of cut-offs and launched myself into the flood, swimming toward the opposite shore.
“Swim little fishy, fast as you can, and he swam and he swam…” That was me. I swam, and I swam, and I swam…
The swimming was futile. I was trapped. I had spent my life on the river and thought that I knew her. She had been my friend, an intimate, and here she was, trying to kill me.
I knew that the river was constantly changing. I learned very early in life that every time I stepped into it, though it appeared to be the same, it was a different river. I discovered that the river wore a mask with two faces and the face that I saw that day was not smiling benevolently, and it wasn’t the clown face of comedy, no, in fact, it was scowling at me, dark, ugly, threatening, and full of malicious intent.
I was at the quarter waypoint. Branches and small trees swept past me on the crest of the flood. I knew that if I were to become entangled in the branches of one of those tumbling trees that would be my demise. Frightened, I was tempted to turn back. To heck with whatever so urgently had been calling my name!
But I kept swimming.
As I struggled in the river’s embrace, I glanced upstream and there, bearing down on me was…?
A dead cow, spinning lazily in the current, one unseeing eye staring at me in morbid curiosity as it swept past almost close enough to touch. The cow grinned at me; its teeth bared in a terrible rictus of agony, fear, and death.
I swam and finally, what seemed like hours later, almost at the limit of my extremity, my feet finally touched bottom, and I staggered from the river’s deadly embrace.
Exhausted, fearful of what might have been, I looked across the river to my starting point and was grateful that I was alive. I had been swept at least a quarter of a mile downstream from where I had started my fool’s errand.
And yet the river was still trying to beguile me with her beauty for when I gazed upon her surface there was nothing that warned of any danger, in fact, the surface was deceptively calm, almost serene.
It is not what is on the surface that kills; it’s what is hidden beneath, those deadly undercurrents; why else do they call them “undercurrents” if not to pull you under?
But that, or so it seems is life, yes, life and caregiving; is like a river.
A CAREGIVER’S PRAYER
Dear Father God, you are my keeper and protector; you have always been there for me, even when I thought I was alone. As the waters of life at times seem about to overwhelm me, you have always carried me to safety. I praise you and thank you for watching over me when I was foolish enough to think I could do it on my own. Walk with me now oh Lord, and buoy me up. Hold me today that I may be what you desire me to be. I praise you; I exalt you, I glorify you oh mighty God. In Jesus’ holy and beautiful name I ask this, Amen.
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.