At the Y, the senior citizens’ conversations in the women’s locker room teach me how to be. One elderly lady said, “I was going to go the store, but I can’t remember what I was going to get.” Another asked, “Were you going to bake?” The puzzled woman responded, “No. I don’t think so.” Another asked, “Were you going to try a new recipe?” “No. No new recipe.” “Did you run out of something you need in the bathroom?” With great patience and understanding, they help each other. I hope my friends are like that for me when I get older. Last Thursday at the Y, a senior said, “Oh my, I forgot that yesterday was the third Wednesday of the month, and I missed our lunch.” Another said, “Oh we missed you, but I forgot that Tuesday was the third Tuesday, and I missed breakfast with my book club.” As the ladies commiserated about the complications of the calendar, I asked, “Is today the third Thursday?” “Yes, yes, it is.” “Shoot,” I said, ” I’m supposed to bring desserts to St. Terera’s on the third Thursday. I forgot!” The faintest,concerned low murmur breezed past my ears, “Oh my, she’s young.”
Swimming is brutal. The persistent clock is the enemy. Improvement plateaus are endless. Our Valpo Masters coach Robert pushes us – the nerve of him. Where does he come up with his intervals? Sometimes I think he forgets we didn’t swim with him at Wabash. Lane 2 – Stacia, Tom, Olivia, and sometimes Jim – is my only motivation for getting in the Valparaiso YMCA pool at 5:30am. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We’re like a family – we encourage, we tease, and we bicker. And we get frustrated. We lost a beloved member Dave to injury, and now the traitor has opted to swim at Valparaiso University. We miss him and want him to come back, but he says we’re too fast. I say Lanes 3 and 4 are the speed demons. We’re fun.
Lane 2 puts up with corrections in grammar – “You are going to swim slowly not slow. Use an adverb.” Lane 2 puts up with getting smacked by my lazy left arm when I get tired. Tom got punched in the head last Saturday. Lane 2 shares tips – rotate, bilateral breath, explode off the wall, kick harder, try these hand paddles, there’s a deal on fins at Swimoutlet.com.
Lane 2 encourages; a simple “you can do it” is all it takes to make the interval. Our coach would prefer like less chatter from Lane 2, and maybe we’d each shave off a whopping two seconds from our best 100 if we knocked off the banter. But I go for the company. They make me laugh – really hard- at least once a day.
Lanes 3 and 4 are full of focused fast swimmers, some ranked nationwide as triathletes and masters competitors. They seem to glide effortlessly through the water. My husband Tim belongs in Lane 3, but sometimes he joins our lane when he feels like dogging it, usually on Saturdays. Lane 1 consists of the true heroes exhibiting perseverance; some could move to Lane 2, but they don’t. Maybe we talk too much.
Lane 2 is my home for now, and we’re an odd mix (redundant after already stating what time we swim). Olivia is thirty years younger than the rest of us, and we’ll miss her when she leaves for Penn State to pursue her PhD. I suspect that when Olivia is fifty, she will still be in the pool. I hope we have set that example for her. I hope she continues to smile, greet others warmly, and take turns leading. We all tell each other “great workout” and “have a good day” as we exit the pool. Little things are actually very big things. They keep me from hitting the snooze button.
This year, Tim, Kevin, and I visited Brendan in LA for Mother’s Day. We hadn’t seen Brendan since Christmas, and I couldn’t wait to get there. Memories of Brendan’s birth entered my mind. As Tim and I sweated out labor pains on June 20, 1990, the nurses asked me if I wanted the baby to be a boy or a girl. After loving Katie and Bethy, I responded with great serenity, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be so happy with a healthy child.” Three hours later, holding Brendan’s precious 8 pound, 12 ounce body, I wept, “I have a son.” Later, we were blessed with Brigid and Kevin, and the house was always full of a mix of genders. That was not the case on May 12th as I spent the day with Tim, Brendan, and Kevin:
Strolling down Venice Beach, CA, on a gorgeous, sunny day with my fair-skinned red-headed sons and translucent- skinned husband, I am loving life. How did I get so lucky to have these children?. “Brendan, I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday.” “Really.” I get a rush of emotion and briefly look away to collect myself. When I turn back to the boys, they have moved down the beach front. I catch up with Brendan, and I stop to admire the artists’ work at the outdoor booths. “Aren’t these earrings pretty?” I look up. Wait. Where’d you go? I spot him up on the left and hustle up to him. I say, “Smells like pot.” “Yah.” Street performers flip flop across the walkway. I say, “The acrobats are amazing.” “Yah.”I ask, “Did you see that guy spin on his rear-end to ‘All the Single Ladies?'” “Yah.” We pass a store, and I suggest, “Want to look at these shoes?” “I already did.” People of all sizes, races, ages, and styles dazzle me. I nudge Brendan, “Did you see that guy dressed like a super hero?” Yah”. Vendors sell everything from incense to rocks to skateboards to jewelry to pipes to Italian ice. “Want to try the dark chocolate cherries?” “Nah.” Looking at embroidered scarves, I state, “I have to go to the bathroom.” “You always have to go to the bathroom.” We pass a bookstore. “This is a cool book of quotes from famous filmmakers. Would you like it, Brendan?” “Sure. I can leave it out on my dresser and look at it once in awhile.” Are you kidding me? I meander further along the open air storefronts and become enthralled with a shirtless, young man’s explanation of the power of various agate stones, and I call Kevin over. “Should I get this one for Bethy? The guy says the stone enhances communication skills, and maybe Bethy would like it as a new lawyer?” Kevin looks at me like I’m nuts. I buy it anyway. I see that the back of his neck is turning a pale pink. “Did you put on sunscreen, Kevin?” “I’m good.” Through clenched teeth, I command, “Put on sunscreen NOW!” It sure is Mother’s Day. I linger over a display of beaded headbands while Kevin lathers up. I pull out my phone and text Katie, Bethy, and Brigid, “Next time, you have to come with us!” The girls would think the rocks are cool. “Did you see where your dad went?”