The $25 Plunge!


Umm, no, this isn't me. If this was me, I'd be plummeting down feet first while holding my nose

My daughter Erin had just finished sixth grade when I lost my job at a small investment management firm. Unemployment was stressful but the good part of it was that Erin and I spent many happy days at Shady Oak Beach that summer.

We would wade out to waist-deep water, where I would hold my nose, dive under the surface and lie face down on the sandy bottom. Erin would then step on my back and “Daddy surf,” never missing an opportunity to plant her foot on the back of my head and grind my face into the sand. I loved it!

From the beginning of the summer, Erin was determined to jump off the high diving board but kept on chickening out. I offered her $5 as a reward but she couldn’t muster the courage to do the deed. I upped it to $10, but she just couldn’t do it. Each time that she tried and failed I added another five bucks. Her bounty eventually swelled to $25, at which point I said that it would go no higher. Finally, on the last day of July, she took a deep breath and took the $25 plunge. Victory was sweet . . . and profitable!

Then, gulp, it was my turn. I had always been afraid of the water. More than once, I took swimming lessons as a kid but always flunked out. The thought of finding myself in water that was over my head panicked me. As an adult, I could manage to dogpaddle in deep water but was very uncomfortable doing so.

The day after Erin took the $25 plunge, I fully intended to jump off the dock that served as the foundation for the high dive. Mind you, the dock was only a few feet above the water level. I called it the 3-D (Daddy Dock Dive), and I had promised Erin I would do it if she successfully took the $25 plunge.

Did I mention I was also afraid of heights? Every time I was about to leap off the dock, I froze, a giant ball of fear throbbing in the pit of my stomach. Erin was kind and understanding. Waiting with her friend, Julia, in the water below, she shouted, “You don’t have to jump” and “I love you!” Very encouraging, but I still felt like I had failed us both.

Four weeks later, Erin, her friend, Anne, and I headed for the beach. Treading water, Erin persuaded me to once again attempt the 3-D. Encouraged, I decided to try it in stages. I climbed up the dock ladder and, holding my nose, successfully jumped from the highest rung—but I still didn’t think I could manage to summon the courage to jump off the dock itself.

Then a realization hit me: it was now or never. It was the end of August and the summer was drawing to a close. I couldn’t let Erin down. I had to lead by example and show her that I could be brave too. I took a deep breath, leaned on top of the dock ladder, and jumped.

Exhilaration City! I was so proud of myself! My courage bolstered, I then jumped off the other side of the dock into deeper water. Next, I took a few running steps before jumping off the dock. I had done it! I had overcome my fears.

The next day, on our last day at the beach that summer, I stood on the dock and waved Erin over. While she watched in stunned amazement, I climbed up the ladder to the high dive—it seemed like there were three hundred steps! Standing at the top, I thought, if Erin was brave enough to do this, then I could be brave enough too. I walked out on the diving board, feeling a strange mixture of sereneness and terror as I looked down at the water so very far below. I smiled, and stepped off into space.

I could hear Erin and Anne screaming with excitement on my way down. And you know what? I survived. In fact, I jumped off the high dive twice more —and jumped off the dock a dozen times too—just to put an exclamation mark on the experience.

It felt good to conquer my fear, and especially because Erin was a witness to it. She inspired me with her bravery, and now perhaps my telling of this story will inspire others to face their own fears, no matter how insignificant those fears may seem to others.

As for me, my daredevil days are over—you won’t find me bungee jumping anytime soon. But I will always treasure the memories of that summer, a magical time of innocence, youth, and lazy days at the beach with the best darn girl in the whole darn world.

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2 Responses to “The $25 Plunge!”

  1. aleelavine Says:

    What a great Dad!!! Good for you for going for it…. it’s so difficult to get past that one point, but once you do. Triumph!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks, aleelavine! It’s easy to be a great dad when your kid is the best girl ever!

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