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The Final Dive
It all started when I was only a young child. I did the typical things that every kid did, you know hide and seek, cops and robbers and all that good stuff. But no matter how much I tried, I was always treated differently. I never fully realized why, until I was digging around in the basement looking through this mysterious trunk.
I slowly opened the lid of the trunk, trying not to make any noise. I had to stand on my tip toes, just to see over the side, and I needed a chair to stand on so I could see inside. On the top, there was a shiny disc. I couldn’t make it out at first, but as I cleared away the shorts and pictures of a man that looked like my dad. That couldn’t possibly be my dad; this man was skinny and was on a diving board. I took the metallic disk from the trunk, and brought it up to my dad.
“Daddy, what is this?”
“Well son, this is my gold medal from the Olympics.”
From that day on I knew that I would become an Olympic diver, just like my father. But back then it was different. My family was always there for me and they always encouraged me to do better and go that extra step. It was all great until my father got hospitalized.
I made my way up the endless trip of stairs to the ten meter platform. I stop on the five meter and stand in awe at the platform that is still five meters above me. All I can think about is this next dive, my favorite dive. Dive number 301 inward dive pike D.D. 1.8. If I manage to score 5 ½ points from each judge, I will win this meet and make it to the final trials. Unless Nathaniel Coxley, my archenemy get above 7’s. I make it up to the top of the ten meter, just in time to see Mr. Coxley dong his final dive, a double back flip with 2 ½ twists. He leaves the platform and the crowd explodes as he makes his entrance into the water. “Scores,” the announcer chimes in, “8 ½, 8 ½, 8 ½, 8 ½, 9, 8 ½.”
“Next up John Randolph.”
The crowd is silenced as I get into my starting position. I stand there cautiously breathing in deep slow breathes. I concentrate, but I can’t get this feeling that there is something wrong out of my head. It has to involve my dad, but I don’t know what it could be. I jump from the platform enter my pike and crack. My hands break the surface of the water. I pike save to minimize my momentum through the water. I surface and exit the pool. I look up at the scores and I have won! I have just beaten Nathaniel Coxley for the first time ever in my career. I am going to the finals. I glance into the audience, but I don’t see my mom. I start heading towards the locker rooms when I hear my sister’s voice call out from behind me.
“John, we need to hurry, dad is sick.”
I rush into the locker room to get out of my Speedo and I throw my pants on as I am running out the door into the parking lot. I find my sister and mom sitting in the car crying.
We exit the parking lot and get to the highway. The car ride to the hospital was silent. No one talked about how I did or about the meet at all for that matter. The only noise I heard was the hum of the engine, and the sniffling from my mother and sisters tears.
We arrive at the hospital and before we can even come to a complete stop, my mom turns the car off and we run into the hospital room where my dad was laying in bed, struggling to breathe. He had tubes coming out of his chest his arms, everywhere. He looked like a machine out of one of those horror movies from the 50’s.
“Dad,” I yell trying to stay tough and not cry, “Dad I did it! I won the meet; I am going to the finals!”
“Johnny,” his raspy voice was difficult to understand, “Johnny.”
“Yes dad? Yes?”
I lean in to hear what he has to say.
“Johnny, congrats. You have always been an excellent diver. You…you could be great, you could be the best, but remember…”
I interrupt him, “Remember to practice. Yes dad I know. I will practice everyday until the day of the finals, and then everyday after that.”
He tried to take another breathe to finish what he was saying before I interrupted him, but he couldn’t, he was getting weaker and weaker by the minute. As I approached his bed side, his EKG makes that hated sound. The long annoying beep, that no one ever wants to have to hear in real life.
Doctors run into the room pushing us aside. They start to do CPR, but it is no use. My father has died. I turn to my mom and go to her. I pick her up and hold her in my arms crying. As the doctors leave, I make my way to my father’s bed side and drop to my knees crying.
“Dad? Dad, please wake up. I need you here more than ever right now.”
Two years have passed since his death, and everyday I wonder what he was trying to say when I interrupted him at the hospital that day. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question what advice he had for me. Maybe he had a trick to diving that he was trying to tell me, maybe it was a life lesson, I say to myself, but it is no use. I will never know what he had to say to me.
These past two years have been brutal, I have missed many family events for diving, but I figured that my family would understand, but they don’t.
As the day of the finals moves closer, I start spending more time with my diving coach then I do with my own family. I start pushing them away and soon it became evident. I have lost all connections with them. Every dive meet I look into the audience to see if this was gong to be the meet that my mom actually shows up or my sister, but never have they. I look over at Nathaniel and see him with his mom and dad after every meet. How is it that a man that spends so much time with his family, but still has such a great diving career? I mean I have spent so much time with my family up until my dad died, but I now I spend no time at all with them and I am still struggling to beat him.
As I neared closer to the day of the finals, my priorities changed. I was strictly trying to make my father happy, but now all I care about is winning this diving final and make it into the Olympics. I have never felt so bad about myself until the day my phone rang.
“Hello? This is Johnny speaking.”
“Johnny? Is it really you?”
“Who is this?”
“It’s Steph, your sister.”
“Oh hi,” I responded in a very calm unnatural voice.
“Johnny, you need to get home. Mother misses you very much. I… I got to go; I’ll call you at a later time.”
She hung up the phone before I even had a chance to respond. I tried to brush off that conversation and focus on diving, but something was wrong. I just couldn’t get rid of the thought of my mother when I was up on the platform. I failed three dives during practice and I just could not take it anymore.
A week until the big day and I spent all the time I could possibly spend working on my dives, making them perfect. Every minute of every day, I was thinking about diving and only diving. Each morning I woke up went through my stretches and strength and then headed out for a nice run to stay in top shape. During the day I would watch my films from the past tournaments to see what it is that I need to work on and what I have done well to get the best scores.
Finally it has come. They day I have been waiting for my whole life. This is finaly my chance to show my dad that I can be an Olympian, if only he was here. Upon entering the pool area, I make my way over to the diving tower and take a knee. I peer up at the ten meter board towering above me. I sit there a moment to take in the atmosphere and pray.
“Father, I know you are up there watching me on this day. I know I haven’t been there with my family when they needed me most since your death, but this is it. Dad I ask you now to please guide me through my dives today and lord I pray that you keep my father safe up there. I pray that you lead me into this event with a clear head and allow me to pull through in the end and come out with a victory. Amen.”
The first five dives go over flawlessly, as usual. As I warm up my next three dives, they announcer goes through the scores up until this point, and calls out the diver who have been cut from the competition. All right I am still in this and I am only down by ten points, which isn’t too bad considering I only have done my easiest and lowest D.D. dives. The next three dives didn’t go as well as I had planned, yet I still haven’t gotten cut. They announce the scores, and I have dropped even farther back from Nathaniel Coxley. We get into the last set of three dives. I have to score perfectly on these in order to edge Coxley out of the Olympics. I approach the platform for what I hope wont be the last dive of my career. I get into my position, but something is wrong. No mater how much I tried, I could not get this strange voice out of my head.
“Johnny...” The mysterious voice says
I try to ignore it, but it just will not leave my head.
“Johnny… you have disrespected me. You must stop this nonsense and go home.”
I get into my final position with my heels hanging over the edge of the platform. I put my hands in the air signaling that I am ready to go. This is it, if I move from here it is a failed dive unless I enter the water perfectly. My vision blurs and I feel like everything around me has changed. I look around and I am sitting on a street corner in front of a strange house. I look up towards the front door and I envision my father in the front yard throwing a ball around with a small child that looks a lot like me. But it can’t be, I am at the Olympic trials and he has died over two and a half years ago.
I snap back to reality and I peer over my shoulder and see my mom in the stands. I stand there a while longer and without thinking, I step out of position and head towards the stairs. I start to descend the stairs as the officials chase after me. They keep asking if I am all right, but I no matter how hard I try I can not answer them. I just keep making my way down the stairs and towards the audience where my mother is sitting. As I near closer, I realize that she is not there.
“Excuse me sir, have you seen my mother? She was sitting right here.” I point towards the seat where I saw her sitting.
“Johnny, no one was sitting here.”
“No, she must have been. I saw her from up on the platform.”
“And the winner is Nathaniel Coxley,” I look up at the score board and it shows that I have failed my last dive.
I run into the showers and sit there thinking about what just happened. It must mean something. I mean I can’t just see my mother sitting in the crowd and she isn’t there. I sit there thinking back on the day in the hospital sitting next to my dad.
“Johnny, congrats. You have always been an excellent diver. You…you could be great, you could be the best, but remember…” his voice is clearer than ever in my head.
“Remember what dad? Remember what?” I question knowing that I am only imagining this great conversation.
“Remember, that no matter how good you are, you well never be a champion unless you pay attention to your family.”
That’s it! I need to go see my mother. This is the only way that I can possibly make it up to them. I need to be there for them in their time of need. I need to be the son and brother once again.
I hurry to my car and rush to the house I envisioned while I was on the platform. I knock on the door hesitantly not knowing what to expect. My sister greats me at the door and we make our way into the house.
“Where is mom? I need to apologize to her.”
“Johnny? Johnny is that you?” a strange voice chimes in from the other room.
“Mom!!!” I scream trying to hold back tears. “Mom I am here for you. I have messed up and I am here for you. I failed my final dive but that doesn’t matter. I just need to be here with you mom. I…I love you mom. I really do love you. And Steph, thank you, and dad? I know you are up there watching this, thank you without you I would have never realized what it means to be a true champion. Those gold medals are just a piece of junk. The true medal is here in my heart, with our families name on it. Thank you.”
I burst into tears and collapse to the floor, quickly being grabbed by my mother and sister, both of which are in tears. “Mom,” I say, “Can you forgive me? I have lost sight of what is truly great to me and you are that thing.”