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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Riptide

I met Roxy when we both worked as houseparents at a Christian group home and school named Rolling Acres for retarded and disabled children. It was a nice brick complex with home cottages, school rooms and dining hall, located in northern Minnesota. I was a houseparent and provided after school and evening care for my ten boys, and Roxy was a houseparent in an adjacent cottage, with half a dozen girls in her care.


At the time I was quite young and idealistic, this was the second or third job that I had ever worked. In fact, during the interview I told the facility director that I could not do the job, but he had such pleasant confidence in me and insisted so much that I show up for work the following Monday, that I did. Roxy and I soon became friends and she moved in with me at a cabin that I had rented. But I rarely saw her as she was a party girl, and I was not, preferring to read or hike.


Soon Roxy confided in me that she was pregnant, and I was happy for her, but worried when she said that she did not know if the father was a boy she had been seeing or his father. She was distraught. She asked me to support her in getting an abortion, but I could not. I urged her to keep the baby. Later she said that I talked her into keeping the baby. She was a very good houseparent so I probably did tell her my thoughts on the matter, that healthy, caring women should have babies. At the time she responded that I would have to be with her at the birth and help her care for the child throughout its life; but then she abruptly moved out. She just stuck me with the rent, and I lost touch with her.


Later, while I was waiting for deployment to West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, I met up with Roxy where she was living in southern California, in Hayward out of Oakland, and I stayed with her for a few days. She was not open with me but I was too young to know how bad a sign that was. She insisted that I look in a box of mementos of the baby she had borne. I saw the large raspberry birthmark on its face, and I understand from the papers that Roxy had given the child up for adoption within the first year.


Roxy was unpleasant with me but I stayed around a little while hoping to recover our friendship. So when Roxy said that she wanted to go swimming in the ocean I ignored the overcast sky, the brisk breeze, and off we went. She drove us a ways away to find a particular beach that she knew and then she waved me ahead into the water while she fiddled with this or that. There was a sign posted on the beach, which I later found out was a warning against RIPTIDES in the area, but Roxy steered me away from the sign, I did not read it, and into the water I went. I walked out thigh-deep then slipped into the outbound pull of the ocean. Almost immediately I felt that encompassing pull of a rapid riptide grabbing my arms and legs, my body. I knew what it was but I did not know that I should swim parallel to shore to escape that narrow column of water rushing out to sea with me. I instinctively stroked upward and ballooned my lungs to move myself up to the surface of the water, into the two or three inches at the top where the water did not move so quickly, held back by surface tension between the water of the riptide and the weight of the air above it. By smooth, steady, rapid, desperate breaststrokes and frog kicks I was able to swim back to ankle-deep water, which still sucked mightily at my feet as I staggered to shore. And there was Roxy, halfway up the sandy cliff, headed back to her car. She meant to leave me there in the ocean. My God, she tried to kill me!


She tried to kill me in the riptide.

collage by Annmarie Throckmorton, copyright 2023

(riptide is screen captured for non-commercial use)



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