Swan dive

I find it very difficult to believe I am the parent of a 24-year-old. Good golly! When did that happen?

In honor of Maggie’s birthday, which was on Oct. 18, I have to tell a Maggie story. The funny thing is that it’s actually a Nick story, but the way Maggie told it when she was younger made Eric and I laugh so hard, I figured I’d use her version.

When we lived in Zion, Ill., there was this little park that had an island surrounded by a moat. Well, Maggie called it the moat. There was a bridge so you could get onto the island, which was home to a bunch of ducks, geese and swans. They swam around in the moat and waddled around the island and all learned that humans equaled bread.

We went there quite often to feed the birds in the year we lived in Zion. It was the fall of 1992, Nick would be turning 2 in December, with Matt to be born a few days later.

It was the weekend we were moving to the Great Lakes Naval Base, just a few miles away. We had finally been granted base housing, which takes about a year wherever you go. It was also Maggie’s seventh birthday. We had a Burger King party for her and some buddies, and later that day we showed Nana and Poppy (my folks) the island of birds. They were visiting from Forest Lake.

Nick toddled around with a chubby fistful of crackers, which is what we usually did. Feed the birds crackers or bread. I think Maggie was holding Nick’s hand, but I’m not exactly sure. After all, it was 17 years ago.

Suddenly I heard Maggie gasp and I turned to see Nick standing in front of this huge swan. His little arm and fistful of crackers were halfway down the swan’s throat. He wasn’t crying or making any noise at all – just nose to beak with a mega-swan the size of a Volkswagen. Or at least the size of a not-quite two toddler.

Here’s is where Maggie’s description of events gets great.

“Then, from across the island, Nana comes at a run yelling, ‘Hi-yi-yi-yi-yi.’ She body-slammed the swan and totally took it out!” Maggie would tell people.

I laughed every time. I’m not sure where the “Hi-yi-yi-yi” part came from and am positive my mother has never made that noise, but I like Maggie’s version.

I told my co-workers the story the other day and one of them laughed.

“I had no idea your mom was so bad-*ss,” one of them said.

Excuse the phrase, but I couldn’t think of a good euphemism for that, especially since it perfectly matched a statement my son Nick made a few months ago.

The little not-quite two-year-old has since gotten much bigger and will be 19 this December. Geez, another little kid growing up on me!

Anyway, my mom and dad, who now live about a mile from our house, didn’t show up for Nick’s graduation ceremony this spring. I was immediately worried, because that is so unlike my mother. I knew she hadn’t been feeling well for the past couple of weeks. Later that day Dad called and said he had Mom in the emergency room. She ended up having an emergency appendectomy at about 4 a.m. the next morning (Memorial Day, which is odd, because Eric had his emergency surgery on Labor Day). The surgeon told my mom and dad that from the look of the appendix and area surrounding it, she had probably been walking around with a burst appendix for about two weeks.

Because I know my mom and I knew it would be bothering her, I made sure to tell Nick right away why Nana hadn’t been at the ceremony. I knew she’d be worried about hurting his feelings by not coming. I told him she had gone two weeks with a burst appendix.

“Wow, I had no idea Nana was so bad-*ss!” he said, incredibly impressed and with no hurt feelings.

Of course she is. She even tackled a swan for him. A swan dive?