August 22, 2023 My 84th Birthday

“Watch out for the Drop”, I hear my older cousin Pat say.  “What’s a Drop” I ask just as I am pulled into one. 

We are at a place called White Bridge on the Poestenkill Creek, just outside of Eagle Mills, where we go regularly to swim.  It’s fairly shallow along the shore, which is about as far in as I ever want to go, since I can’t swim.  It’s rocky, but the water is cool and I feel safe there, surrounded by my father, mother, aunts. uncles and cousins. 

I don’t know why we always go there, probably because it’s close to home and it’s free. For a large Italian immigrant family, it’s the perfect place to play for a few hours after work, before it gets dark, or on a weekend.  The odd thing about it is, with the slippery rocks,  and swiftly-running water, it isn’t a very safe place to swim.  There’s no life guard either –  a very odd place for a family of non-swimmers like mine.

Today is very hot, and my seven year old self is following my cousin Pat and his friend Peter as they walk along the shore.  Pat is three and a half years older than I and so js Peter, our neighbor.  I don’t have any other cousins close to my age, so I always tag along with Pat and his friends, and since they’re older, I think they feel obligated to look after me.  

As we walk along the shore, Pat warns me to watch out for a drop, or a sinkhole in the lake, but I have no idea what he’s talking about. Suddenly, I am up to my neck in water, and as I try to walk backwards out of the hole, I keep getting pulled deeper and deeper into this whirlpool.  It’s such a surreal feeling, like I’m completely alone.  I don’t panic, but I don’t know how to save myself.  I can see my father walking our dog, Tiny, along a path way above where I am drowning.  I call him, but he can’t hear me above the rushing sound of the  water.  Pat and Peter don’t know how to help me. 

So I am resigned to drowning, since I have no way of escaping the force pulling me down.  Suddenly, I feet someone grabbing me and scooping me up out of the water.  It’s Ray Bardelli, a friend of my father’s from work, who happens to be standing waist-deep in the water right next to the drop – completely unaffected by it.  As he sees me about to drown, he just reaches over and pulls me up.  Looking at Ray Bardelli with his dark hair and handsome face, I think, “ This must be my Guardian Angel. He just saved my life”. 
My parents, of course, are extremely grateful to Ray for his heroism and my mother insists on rewarding his kindness with her home-made Italian sausage, which we deliver to his house the following week.  It’s ironic that Ray and his wife live next door to a cemetery.  It turns out that besides his job at the Watervliet Arsenal, Ray sells gravestones on the side.  I think, “Gosh! If he hadn’t saved me, he could have made a sale”.  I am even more grateful to him now I think about it that way. 

So I survived the drop.  I’ve survived my parents, aunts, uncles, Pat, Peter, Ray Bardelli, even my dog Tiny.  As I look into the future I see that if Ray hadn’t saved me from that drop, my son Steve would have been dropped, son Mike, dropped, son Jim, dropped, daughter Karen, dropped, granddaughters Cyane, Ellery, Vega and Delphine – all dropped.  Someday, if they ever read this, they will realize how close they came to being non-existent. I wonder how many times over centuries my own existence hung by a happenstance, a thread, a drop.

One thought on “A Drop in Time By Geri de Seve

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