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The "Wu Word" Blog

November 2019

The Swimmer

I was in lane two when I first encountered the swimmer. 

Lane one by the wall is my favorite lane because it has more space for me to do my stretches every ten laps, but that particular after-work swim to de-stress had me swimming in lane two to avoid the ‘circle’ swim that every swimmer knows about and avoids out of impatience and desire of personal space for ‘his’ or ‘her’ own lane.  My prescription goggles were foggy. I was underwater, slammed my hand against the wall, and just broke the surface to try to catch my breath when I heard the swimmer exclaim: “You certainly know what you are doing!”

I pulled off my goggles and squinted.  With my horrific eyesight without my glasses, all I could make out was an elderly gentleman who looked in his mid to late 70’s.  He was completely bald.  He was slim and well-built with certainly less love handles than me.  He had a big grin that revealed gaps of missing teeth.  His eyes shined like a young and excited child discovering something wondrous and wonderful.

He exclaimed happily: “You are a good swimmer!  You must do this a lot!” 

I was uncharacteristically awkward and wordless. It is unspoken swimmer rule that swimmers do not stop for small talk in the middle of vigorous and driven laps.  He was breaking the unspoken swimmer rules.  I uncomfortably gave him a half smile and nod alongside my squint and said, “Uhmm…thanks.”

Back under the water I went.  However, each time I came up for air, the swimmer boomed joyfully, “You know what you are doing!  You must do this a lot!  You are a good swimmer!”

I started to get annoyed.   I knew I should not have been annoyed.  He was so endearing, sweet, and clearly just being friendly, but my swim strokes were slower and sloppier because he kept interrupting me.  When I stopped shyly thanking him for his compliments, he slipped under water swimming slowly, steadily, and smoothly like a graceful gazelle. 

When I left the pool grumpy that I had a slower swim, he said with his huge smile, “I’ll see you again!  Keep up the great work!”

For three weeks, I kept encountering the swimmer.   I began to notice little things about him.   He wore dark blue trunks and black sandals that he would dip into the pool.    It took him up to 30 minutes or more of when I was about to leave the pool for him to even get into the pool.   He paced back and forth on the pool deck.  He then paced back and forth on the steps into the pool.  He always came with his aide who barely even looked at him because she was so busy with flying fingers texting on her cell phone.  Every now and then, the aide’s head popped up from the phone to encourage or scold the swimmer, “Get in the water!  It is good for you!”  or “Don’t wear your sandals into the pool!  You have to go into the pool with bare feet!”   Most of all, I noticed that other swimmers stayed away from him.  Just like I had.  We had been in such a rush to get our swim routines over and done with so we could return to our other menial and supposedly necessary tasks that we had ignored and excluded him.  I was ashamed.   

The Swimmer

However, worst of all, other swimmers complained about him.   They called him “grumpy” (I did not see that at all) and claimed that he kept disrupting their swims.  After a swim that was thrown off by the swimmer, I glimpsed each disgruntled person march over to bored lifeguards to gripe about the swimmer.  I felt bad for the swimmer, so I one day took the plunge of purposefully choosing to swim with him in a lane.  Lane one.  My favorite.  He looked surprised and asked, “So, you swim there and I swim here? Just the two of us?”

“Sure,” I replied with a big smile. 

He looked at me like he was trying to figure out what the catch was and then what to say.  His confused tension faded away and his eyes sparkled with joy.  There was that big gap-toothed grin again.  He said to me softly, “You are kind.”   
 
On the day that I swam with the swimmer, I spoke with his aide.  She told me about the swimmer in the midst of furiously texting, “Anyone who meets him knows something is wrong with his mind.  His memories are going.  But, he just wants to make friends and connections.  Swimming is good for him.  His mind and to meet other people.” 

With a towel wrapped over my shaking cold body that was dripping with chlorinated water, I looked at the swimmer who was methodically swimming underwater.  I knew all too well how necessary swimming was in my life.  It was my therapy.  It was my security.  It was a happy place I slipped into to actually try to FORGET a bad day and bad memories and moments rather than REMEMBER them, but it was also the place I received clarity, strength, rejuvenation, and a different perspective on bad moments and memories.  Yet, here was the swimmer trying to bring clarity to his losing mind and memories all through swimming.

The Swimmer

With a towel wrapped over my shaking cold body that was dripping with chlorinated water, I looked at the swimmer who was methodically swimming underwater.  I knew all too well how necessary swimming was in my life.  It was my therapy.  It was my security.  It was a happy place I slipped into to actually try to FORGET a bad day and bad memories and moments rather than REMEMBER them, but it was also the place I received clarity, strength, rejuvenation, and a different perspective on bad moments and memories.  Yet, here was the swimmer trying to bring clarity to his losing mind and memories all through swimming.

One day and I think maybe after all the complaints from all the swimmers, the swimmer did not show up.  The day turned into days and weeks.  The swimmer was nowhere to be found.  I found myself thinking and wondering about him when I was underwater in my favorite lane one.  I was remembering his slow and steady strokes that were a reminder for all of us and me to stop and slow down rather than rush and ignite anxiety and impatience.  Remembering him was a reminder of how utterly powerful our mind, moments, and memories are.  I could hear his voice reverberate in my mind under the water, “You know what you are doing!  You must do this a lot!  You are a good swimmer!” and, especially, these three words that made all the difference in the world to me that day that I swam with the swimmer: “You are kind.”  
 

The Swimmer

Memories are so important.  There are so many memories and moments that I actually want to forget or erase because they hurt too much, but then there are also so many memories and moments that I wish I could relive again because of how happy they have made me.  I think remembering the and having good  and bad memories are what contribute to the creation of us and our lives. 

The Swimmer

Do we remember more so the bad memories rather than good memories?   What, if any, memories have you wanted to erase from your mind?  What memories and of who come back to you when you least expect it?  What is your earliest memory?  What are some of your more memorable memories? Who are we if it were not for the power of our mind and memories?
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 
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