There are few things in life that can produce a zen like state of bliss for me as well as swimming. I love the Darth Vader-like echoing sound of my breath while I’m swimming laps or diving down underwater. Ever since I was a child my allure to water has been strong. I’ve always felt more comfortable living close to water than I felt living inland. When I’m on a warm weather vacation I can stay in the pool for hours at a time until my skin shrivels up like a raisin. It won’t surprise even the most amateur astrologer to learn that I am a water sign through and through, born right in the heart of Cancer. I may be crabby at times and I may like my shell, but get me back to water and I am nourished in every way.
Last weekend I took my final outdoor swim of the season at our neighborhood public pool. This summer more than any other in recent past, my time spent at the River Park outdoor pool was special. The thing that made it the most special for me was the fact that my wife Christiana (and our little wonder inside her belly) joined me for the majority of my visits. For the past three summers I have bought the 3-month adult lap swim pass for $40 which allows me access to the adult only swim times. The River Park public pool is typically flooded with droves of families all day long, but at the evening lap swims there are often as few as a half dozen people. Swimming laps on a summer evening has become one of my greatest joys. How lucky am I to have a wonderful Olympic size pool just minutes from my backyard?
This year over an unusually hot 4th of July weekend, I realized I hadn’t been to the pool yet this summer. It was about 5:30 pm on Saturday evening. Christiana and I were deciding what if anything to make of the rest of our night. The combination of the heat and a mid-aternoon nap had both of us feeling sluggish. A lazy night on the couch with a pizza and a movie was starting to look like the most likely plan, but both of us were restless. I looked at Christiana and said, “Would you like to go swimming?”
Her sleepy eyes perked up a bit as she answered, “Maybe? Where would we go swimming?”
I looked up the River Park pool schedule online and sure enough adult lap swim started at 5:45 pm and ran until the pool closed at 7:00 pm. I feverishly packed up our towels and other supplies to save every possible minute of my potential salvation by the water while Christiana bought our lap swim passes over the internet. By 6:00 pm we were splashing around in wonderfully refreshing cool water! Well I was at least…
Now I’m one of those people who jumps in the pool right away no matter how cold the water is or what the outside air temperature is. Let’s just say Christiana is a bit more of a ease her way into the pool sort of person. I would say she likes to wade her way in. Christiana likes to stick a toe in the water first….and then go one step down on the ladder…. and then get in up to the waist only….and then eventually plunge underwater but only after a good bit of conversation and consternation. On this particular sizzling hot Fourth of July weekend Saturday evening I had enough time to do a number of laps before she was fully into the pool. My mind began to wonder how Christiana would fare on cooler summer evenings.
Fast forward to last weekend’s final lap swim of the season and things looked a bit different than that sizzling Fourth of July weekend evening. The sun sat a good bit lower in the sky, the pool chairs and facilities were a bit more weathered than they were at the start of the season and most importantly it was only about 60 degrees outside. There was a big part of us that considered skipping our last chance of the year, but I really wanted to go so we grabbed our swimming things and a book just in case we wanted to just sit by the pool instead. By 6:00 pm we were at the River Park pool one last time for the season along with one or two other brave souls.
In typical fashion, I walked around to the 9-foot deep end and dove right in. Even by my polar bear standards this water was a bit shocking. A stretch of August nights in the low 50s had dropped the water temperature drastically. I swam my first length and told Christiana that it would get better the more I moved so I kept swimming. For about ten minutes she tried her best to get in the pool but each time she did, she would only get to about her knee caps before she would climb back out shivering. By then I had done about 10 laps and felt pretty good. It was cool but my heart rate was up and I was getting into a groove. I could see her disappointment, not only in potentially missing out on the last swim of the season, but also in succumbing to not getting in the pool because she was too cold. I could see that she was starting to judge herself.
I knew it was a decision that she had to make for herself. She said to me, “What if it’s too cold for the baby and it’s too shocking?” I simply answered her question by saying, “Women have been swimming in cold ocean water in Ireland and other places in the world while pregnant for hundreds of years and that I was sure it would be okay….” I then continued with my laps.
On my next return length I saw that she had grabbed a kick board and was standing on the walk down staircase. I swam by her and smiled. By the time I took my next length and return she was in the pool up to her waist. As I was finishing up what was to be my final lap, I saw that she was heading towards me kicking furiously with the kick board, submerged all the way into the pool. For the next ten minutes we swam side by side and chatted. I swam a slow breast stroke with my head above water and she used the kick board and worked out her legs as she warmed up to the cold water. We did one final length together as the clock ticked its way towards the 7:00 pm closing time on the last day of the 2017 season.
As I climbed out over the edge at the end of our final lap I looked back out across the magnificent Olympic sized pool that has been such a big part of my last few summers. I looked my half full bottle of water and my trusty old goggles and the setting sun over the trees and I wondered. I wondered if I would ever be back here at River Park Pool again?
With our first child on the way and some uncertainty about our living situation there is at least the possibility that this was not just my final lap swim of the season at River Park, but perhaps my last time ever at River Park pool in general. I grabbed my phone and snapped a shot of the moment for my eyes to remember, but in truth it was the picture imprinted on my heart and mind that will forever be the most brilliant.
What I realized in that moment in time at the edge of the River Park pool was that my entire life has been full of so many final laps. It’s when we carry the memories with us but let go of the attachment to the particular circumstances that we truly have the chance to live to the fullest and grow. There will be other pools, other summers, other challenges and other things in life to dive into….either headfirst or by wading in slowly.
As a father I have so many exciting final laps ahead of me yet. Our child’s final lap of only being able to crawl will lead to the first day of walking. Final lap of kindergarten will lead to the first day of 1st grade. Final lap of training wheels will lead to that scary first ever solo journey on a two wheel bicycle. And so on and so on….As with everything in life it’s a matter of which lens you choose to view the situation.
I celebrate each the final laps ahead in my journey with the deep sense of knowing that each one opens up a infinite number of new doors to explore. For all those who have asked me how I intend to manage being in my 60s while my kids are in school I say this:
I’m ready to dive in!