I swam!

Okay… document today as a momentous time in my life. I swam today. In order to understand the magnitude of this feat, you have to know the history.

It all started back in 1982 when my father lived in California. While Bud lived in LA, my brother and I would go visit him for the summer. I liked the trips because I liked Bud well enough at that time. What I didn’t know was that Bud may have been exposed to napalm or Agent Orange when he was a Marine in Vietnam and that said exposure may have left him slightly… psychotic. Summer of 1982 is when I met the real Bud.

It was a nice enough day. The temperature was hot, the sun was blazing down on us while we played in Carson City. The pool out back was a staple in LA and being an Ohio girl, I was in awe the first few weeks out in Cali. Bud’s pool was nine feet at the deepest end and maybe three or four feet at the shallow end. During the day, I would wade in the pool, you know, walk from one side to the other in the shallow end, carefully aware when the water came dangerously close to my chin. One particular day, we were in the pool when Bud got off work. The details leading up to the traumatic event are lost on me, but I remember the rest with clarity. I was minding my own business, standing around watching my brother and stepbrother play near the pool and Bud throw them in. Being the only girl, I so wrongly assumed that I wouldn’t be a target for such shenanigans. Boy was I wrong because next thing I know, I’m reeling into the water, trying to process exactly what I’d done to deserve such cruelty.

Now…. being a kid, my logic wasn’t quite as developed as an adult. As I’m flailing and slowly drowning, I had the bright idea to drink the pool water. Besides the fact that it had chlorine in it and I don’t know how many dead bugs, it would have been impossible to drink all that water before I died. I let that plan go and decided that life wasn’t on my side and I would die in Cali, away from my mother. While I see my seven short years flash before my eyes, I hear Bud screaming ‘Swim, dammit, swim!’ as if these magical words would instinctively make me know what I’m doing. Well they didn’t. All they did was make me panic even more. Pressure on top of panic… never a good combination. Anyway, I suppose Bud finally realized I really wasn’t going to swim and would drown from exhaustion if he didn’t get me out the water. I have no clue what happened after he got me out, but I’ll go ahead and guess that I passed out from shock and somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, a brand new pool phobia found a home.

For the next 27 years, I seriously avoided going into the part of pools that came past my chest. It was so bad, that one time, when I was 14 down at the Glenville pool, one of the boys I liked tried to throw me in and I tried to pull out his jugular. I would still walk around in pools though and go to pool parties, but to get in and put my head under the water, let alone actually swim, was never part of my plan. After I had kids, I decided that maybe it was time to let that fear go and learn to swim in case they needed to be rescued, but suffice to say it still took 13 years after that to get it together. Derek’s father tried to teach me to swim. Lauren’s father tried to teach me. Derek tried to teach me. All to no avail. I wanted to let my fear go and get on with my aquatic life, but the fear crippled me.

So here I am at 34. I finally decided that I was going to learn to swim this summer. It was do or die because if I didn’t learn at my own pace at home, the Navy would teach me in an unkind way in February. Yesterday, I thought I talked myself out of the fear with logic. Yeah right. I stood looking at the water and the water looked right back at me, taunting me, tempting me, teasing me, mocking me, saying “remember 1982?”. I even heard it call me a sucka and I bought into it for a minute. Rod gave up on me and said that until I dealt with my fear of actually going under the water, I wouldn’t make any progress. Ugh. This morning, I was ready. I’d talked to myself good and long. Gave myself a vicious mental shake and put on my swimming gear. Rod said he wasn’t going to the pool, so I took Lauren with me. Who would have known that my girl would be the breakthrough I needed to go under water? Her smile, encouragement and dares helped me realize that I could do it and in order to prove to her that she can do anything, I had to do something. I kicked away from the wall and made it two strokes the first time. Know what she said? “Good job, Mommy! You can do it!” and I went right back to that wall and did it. I made it from one side to the other. Next thing I know, Lauren and I are ‘swimming’ from one side to the other, sitting on the pool floor, making water angels, playing copy cat games and having a grand old time. I’ve now found a new activity I enjoy. My next goal is to learn to swim in deeper water. And I owe it all to my daughter.


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