I expected to have the community pool to myself one early Saturday morning, but as I was pulling on my cap and goggles, a family showed up. Two parents and a boy who looked to be about 7.
If you are a swimmer, you will understand my concern: kids splashing happily can get in the way of a swimmer intent on doing her laps. If you’re not a swimmer, you may have witnessed one of us having a meltdown because someone or something tried to get between us and pursuing our bliss.
So, I figured I’d secure a territorial agreement between me and the boy. “So, which side do you want to be on?”
“He’ll stay in the shallow end,” his mother said. Oh, no, that would not do at all. I do not have a poker face. She quickly continued. “Oh, of course, you are going to use the full length of the pool. Honey, you stay on this side.”
Satisfied with the agreement, I made a little more conversation with the boy. “Do you like to swim?”
“Sort of,” he said, leaning back on the edge of the pool with a ball in his hand. His parents had brought along a variety of pool toys for their son to play with in the water.
Spying an opportunity to be instructive — others might call it being bossy—I said, “You know, swimming is something you can do your whole life, even when you’re old like me.”
The boy assessed me for a moment, doing some sort of calculus about swimming and this goggled alien of a lady. Then, he laid the question on me. “Do you have any trophies?”
Huh. Great comeback, kid. So whaddaya got to show for all these years of swimming, lady?
“A few ribbons from when I was in junior high,” I said, thinking back to the suburban neighborhood pool in Maryland when my father was stationed at the State Department. “Everyone swam. We all got ribbons.” Yeah, it was a pretty lame answer.
But what I thought about as I pushed off the wall and into my swim was this: being here today, swimming in this pool today, is my trophy.
Four years ago in May—after a two-week Atlantic crossing on a cruise ship that an hour later departed Amsterdam for Norway—my heart stopped beating as I was wheeled into an Amsterdam ER. The emergency team revived me and sealed an undiagnosed burst aneurysm, but my body fought to stay alive for six long weeks in the ICU and left me atrophied, scarcely 100 pounds and unable to move. Six more weeks in the hospital’s recovery unit got me up on shaky legs to walk onto a plane home to Florida where I stayed under medical care for months of slow progress. It took me two years to fully recover.
That Saturday, I ran a mile with our rescue Lab Kumba. I can run two miles. Then, sharing the pool with the boy, I swam 1,500 yards. Then, I biked 5 miles with my husband. My daughter and her husband called me Iron Woman.
So, there you have it, kid. Every day since May 2019 is a trophy.
Thanks for the reminder.