Take A Plunge


I had a wonderful week of vacation with my family last month at the Outer Banks.  It got off to a slapstick start.  We had just pulled up to our rental house, the same one we’ve used for four summers now.  Before the car was even unloaded, the three kids had changed into their swimsuits and dashed toward the dock behind the house.  I followed them, under the guise of providing “adult supervision.”

I didn’t realize the end of the dock was wet and slick.  I took one bad step, slipped, skidded, and tumbled into the water of Albemarle Sound, fully clothed.  Sploosh–an unexpected plunge into a different element, cool green fishy liquid.

Body-wise I was okay, just a bit bruised and scraped.  Pride-wise, about the same.  Unfortunately, my cell phone was in my pocket.  I got it out of the water quickly, but it could not be resuscitated.  RIP Phone.

Now that’s one way to unplug during your vacation: destroy your cell phone on the first afternoon!

My wallet was also in my pocket, and got thoroughly soaked.  My wife brought it in the house, took it apart and spread out its contents on the kitchen table to dry.   I always find it somewhat mortifying to clean out my wallet, even in private, and this was a semi-public airing of my business.  Thankfully, there was nothing too embarrassing in there, just an astonishing amount of tucked-away junk, half-forgotten, some things I perhaps was hoping to forget.  Business cards whose relevance escapes me.  ATM receipts I’ll never look at.  Department store charge cards I never use.

All the photos that were in my wallet were on display.  My daughters quickly noticed that all my pictures of them dated from their pre-school or kindergarten days.  (The youngest is in middle school now, the oldest about to leave for college.)  Why no recent pictures, Dad?

One reason, I protested, was that our photos are mostly digital now, stored on a computer, not in my wallet.  But to be honest, another reason is to hold onto images of my girls when they were small, when they could (and would) sit in my lap, when life was simpler.

We had a nice conversation over the old pictures, remembering missing front teeth and Sunday dresses now long outgrown.

Now I’m back at work.  I have a new cell phone, on which I’ve promised to load some recent family pictures.  And my wallet has been pruned to about half the thickness it was before it went swimming.

A week’s vacation is usually the longest my wife and I can afford to take.  Some years I’ve realized it wasn’t enough time, feeling I was just beginning to relax and leave my worries behind on about Day 6.  This vacation was good, though–truly refreshing and re-energizing.  A sudden dunking in salt water got it off to an excellent start.

I sincerely hope you got, or will get, some time away this summer.  My prayer for you is that you receive a bracing splash in the face.  That something surprises and delights you.  That you have an experience that reveals you, shakes you out of your routine and re-focuses your perspective.

John James

Photo (C) 2005 by Ingrid Lemme

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About John James

John is a Research Analyst for the Clergy Health Initiative. He has held research and administrative positions at Duke Medical Center as well as the Divinity School. John lives in Raleigh, the only male human in a houseful of women who look after him very well. He enjoys reading, writing, singing in his church choir, sports, the outdoors, his dogs, and listening to music.

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