When I was a kid, out attending my sister’s wedding in Miami, when my nieces and nephew were still just a future twinkle, we all went down to the ocean.

I loved to swim. I mean LOVED it. Had been swimming since around three, and if there was water, it was nearly impossible to get me out of it. Every time we went on a family trip that involved an overnight stay, my parents tried to find a motel with a pool, because they knew I would make good use of it. And our neighbors, the Warrens, who still lived on Faust in Detroit, had a pool that we took full advantage of.

I was twelve years old this time, I think, and we were warned to stay close to the shore. To stay where we could feel the sand beneath our feet, was the warning I remember. But something  terrifying happened that day, something I remember with startling clarity.

I don’t recall exactly how it happened. I do remember that I couldn’t feel the sand under my feet anymore, and when I looked at the shore it seemed much further away than it had been just moments before. I was caught in an undertow, and it sucked me down, hard and fast. I managed to pull up enough to cough out a yell for help before being pulled under again. My sister, who was probably only feet away but seemed miles away, did what in retrospect was a very stupid thing to do and swam out to me.

Then she too got caught in the undertow. But she is 13 years my senior, and her first instinct was to save me. The lifeguard came out and rescued us both. I coughed up a lot of water that day, and could have killed my sister for coming out to get me. But I love her to death, and would have switched places with her had the shoe been on the other foot.

There are many things in life that draw parallels to “undertows” in life. Alcoholism is one such thing. It can drag us under if we are not careful. Finances, love, among other things.

Have you had an “undertow” experience? A real undertow or a metaphoric one? Care to share?