Refuse to Drown

It is a wonder to watch your boys turning headlong into adolescence. On Saturday, we visited the park, where the younger boys made good use of the playground as Isaac practiced basketball. I watched him dribbling, he trying to cross the ball between his legs, trying to do all the tricks of the professional trade.

"Can you help me learn the spider drill?" he asked as he squatted over the ball.

"Sure," I said, and he passed me the ball. I squatted low, dribbled the ball between my legs, first in the front--right hand, left hand--then in the back--right hand, left hand. The sight would be awkward to any passerby, a thirty-six year old squatting over a ball and practicing ball-handling drills with a third-grader. I don't suppose I dreamed I'd ever do the spider drill after high school. Some skills, though, the good Lord allows you to maintain so that you can pass them down the line.

Across the playground, Jude was pushing Titus in the swing. Titus was strapped in with a shoulder harness, and Jude pushed him higher and higher. The two were laughing so hard that I was concerned they might pass out from oxygen deprivation. Ian was in the swing next to them, belly down, flying through the air and yelling, "dum, dum, dah, dah! Superman!"

I don't suppose I ever dreamed it would work out this way, me the father of four boys. I don't suppose I ever considered how full a life can be.

Perhaps that's why I've been slow to review my friend Shawn Smucker's latest co-authored project Refuse to Drown. There is a foreboding sense that nothing this good can last forever.

Shawn sent me the book a few weeks ago, and I plowed through it, unable to put it down. Refuse to Drown is set against the backdrop of a triple homicide that occurred in Manheim Township, PA, in 2007. The brutal murders were perpetrated by Alec Kreider, son of the book's author, Tim Krieder. Through a series of events that culminated in Alec's being committed to a mental health facility, Tim discovered his son's involvement in the crime and was faced with an unthinkable decision. Would he betray his son's trust; would he turn his son into the authorities?

It is a jarring, startling, up-ending sort of graceful read. It's the story of murder, yes; even more, though, it's the story of coming home, of a man finding faith through unbending love and forgiveness.

As I read the book, I considered Tim as a young father, he pushing Alec in the swing, or teaching him basketball drills. I considered him watching Alec open presents on Christmas, or cooking pancakes for him on Saturday morning. I considered the everyday, mundane tasks of raising children, considered the joy in watching a child grow into adolescence. And this is when the book sunk its teeth into me, where it took hold and wouldn't let go.

Couldn't I find myself in Tim's position on day? Isn't he a normal dad just like so many of us?

There is a strange solidarity hiding in the pages of Refuse to Drown. I suppose it is some kind of recognition that this story could be mine, could be any of ours, really. It was the recognition of kindred values, of enduring love and boundless forgiveness. As I read the book, and with every turn of the page, I found myself offering a prayer for the book's author, for his family, for the family of the victims. I suppose that's what solidarity does.

If you have a little discretionary income taking up space in your piggy bank, grab a copy of Refuse to Drown. It might change the way you pray for your children, sure; but there is no doubt it will change the way you pray for your neighbor.