Eli's biggest fear is open water.
More importantly, being stranded in open water. If I were to tell you he watched Jaws as a kid, you'd understand exactly why.
Precisely one month and one week into our new marriage, his biggest fear came true and I was to blame.
Okay that sounds bad. I didn't leave him in the middle of the ocean like he was planted on a raft and left to let the sharks encase him until he was surrounded. We weren't even near an ocean. We were in the middle of a very large lake in northern Michigan. What I didn't realize, though, is that much to my surprise that very large lake is apparently just as scary as an open ocean even though there are no sharks, nor whales, nor jellyfish. (I don't actually think he's scared of jellyfish, but I am so there's that).
The last week of July, 2017, we found ourselves on my family vacation in Northern Michigan. We sat by the beach, traveled on the boat, enjoyed some sunshine and chronicled the details of our recent wedding to all that asked. Everything was as great as one can imagine a vacation is, until one member of our family decided to suggestively tell us we should go kayaking.
Mind you, I'm a fan of kayaking, but at that point in time I was perfectly content to sit in my chair on the beach, feet in the sand, book in hand. I had no intention of removing my utterly comfortable butt from the imprint it made in my beach chair.
Then Eli gave me a look. You know the one that has puppy dog eyes and pleading lips, begging you to move to do something they want to do? Yeah, that one. He gave me that look. And, alongside the encouragement of those around me, I couldn't compute a logical enough reason to stay in my profoundly pleasant spot. So, reluctantly, I stood up and treaded toward the kayak in the water.
Now, I'm assuming you all have an idea of what happened out in the water for me to say his greatest fear came true. Eli will fight to his death to tell you I stranded him out there in the water, leading us to our first real marriage fight. However, it was simply miscommunication.
Sliding into my seat I embraced the cold water drifting into the base of my kayak, shifting my mindset to the enjoyable time we were about to have. We paddled out against the waves, working our arm muscles as we moved further and further away from the shoreline. Far enough out into the lake, we stopped to take a break and watch the sun set. (Romantic, I know).
That's when it started.
Eli asked if I was ready to head back to shore, to which I answered yes. He started heading back while I embraced the view for a few seconds longer. When I did turn to start the voyage to shore, he was a good 20 feet ahead of me. As he stopped to turn to make sure I was treading with him, the waves hit him at just the right angle, forcing him out of his kayak and into the water below.
Me, being the oh so nice wife I am, (right?), paddled up to him to see if I could help. As he held on to his upside down kayak like a life raft, I casually found my way in front of him until I could see his face, asking if there was anything I could do. Much to my unawareness, his frustration began to build at the simple fact that not only could I not help, I was also blocking his way to shore.
Over the wind riding along the waves I thought I heard him say "just go in", to which his story says, "move from in front of me". Miscommunication at it's finest, y'all.
From what I thought I heard, I decided it best to do as he asked and find my way back to my seat on the beach. Still sitting in my kayak paddle in hand, I swiftly turned and began rowing with the waves back to shore, leaving him to drift alone until the current could bring him to land.
Lesson to wives: don't do this.
Setting my feet back on the sand, I pulled my borrowed kayak up the beach and sat back down. All around me, those in our beach party began asking where Eli was out of disdained concern, to which my reply was always, "he's fine he's floating back in with the waves." At that truth, I picked up my book and started reading, only to have my visibly furious husband walk up to my seat 45 minutes later.
He had drifted to shore safe and sound, with plenty of time to think about how I had wronged him.
And he was right.
It was so much more than me just turning and paddling away. I, knowing his fear, left him stranded in the water simply because I was too prideful, not wanting to hear what he was really trying to ask me. I heard a tone I didn't like in his voice, exemplified by his fear of open water, and fled the scene at the first sight of trouble. Was he right to yell? No; but did that justify my leaving his side? Not at all.
Miscommunication began our first fight of marriage, and we all know it won't be our last. We did learn, though. Sometimes it takes swallowing our own disdain for the situation at hand, as hard as it may be, in order to step into the other's viewpoint. And, not leaving your husband stranded in a time of need.
Side note: in case you're wondering, we have yet to go kayaking together again since this incident. Someday day, maybe.