Granny never talked about the Lusitania, I quickly learned that such a topic was off limits. Most days she would sit on a chair by the fire, hunched over her knitting. Sometimes I would sit for lengths at a time in the round bath, enacting a full scale battle; suds were perfect places to hide battleships from the roaming eyes of submarines. Low sonar sounds would pause momentarily as they surfaced. Panic ensued on an ocean liner as a torpedo tore into its side. “Abandon ship!”
At the public pool the smell of bleach was thick in the air. A young lifeguard tried to establish some sort of order with a group of kids engaged in horseplay. I slipped into the deep end and did a few leisurely lengths of the pool. I quickened the pace, thinking of the up-coming competitions. All of a sudden I panicked. My arms and legs were useless. Above muffled screams and shouts slowly disappeared as I floated helplessly towards the bottom of the pool. I could hear the pounding sound of my heart. When I came to I was lying on a deck chair. A crowd had gathered. A lifeguard asked, “Are you okay?”
When I got home my worried parents said that I would have to go to the hospital for tests the following morning. Granny arrived from upstairs to see if I was okay. She ushered me into the sitting room. A cup of tea and biscuits were in order. I sat by the roaring fire on her favourite chair.
“It must have been terrible when the Lusitania sank” I said, cupping my hands around the piping hot mug. She grew tense.
“It was,” she said “though I was lucky to have survived”.
I looked at granny, her white hair and her wrinkled hands, and pictured her struggling to survive out there in that giant ocean, in that pitching ship.