I’m sitting on a concrete and tile bench at water level watching my girls rock their swimming lesson. My oldest is way more advanced than I was at twelve. She is a natural fish at eight.
My youngest was a bit more of a worry. We’d worked together at the local high school pool and I got her to maybe 20 yards, to me and back but she lacked drive.
She really started taking off when my friend and running buddy/mentor (don’t tell him I wrote that mentor part, Laura) Grateful Jim started taking them swimming while I was out running with the boys. We call him Grateful Jim (or Grateful for short, or Great One in my case) because he truly is the most grateful man any of us know.
Grateful Jim was a special forces medic in his younger days. He’s as tough as they come – in fact, about ten years ago, on my first ever ten mile run on snow and ice covered roads he slipped at the turn around and went down. He dusted himself off and ran all the way back – with two broken ribs.
In any event, Grateful Jim is tough like that about everything, including teaching my kids to swim. One of his favorite sayings to them is “what’s the difference between five feet of water and fifty”. When the girls shrugged he said, “nuthin’, you can’t touch in either one”.
So while I may have gotten them started, he honed their skills. No excuses and no life jackets. Now I know for a fact, my girls were never in any danger, not for a second – he refers to them as his de facto grand kids and treats them as such…but I also know he made them work for their ability to swim and it’s paid off.
While all of the kids in my youngest’s class were screaming, thrashing and wailing at the prospect of learning to float on their back, my five year old daughter was out there floating around with no assistance – the only one in her class.
Meanwhile, my oldest and I have been tending to plans to do some kid Triathlons this summer – and that’s what this is really all about. My girls were brought up in an environment where exercise; running, riding and swimming are not only a way of life, it’s what we do for fun and we do it as a great big, extended Grateful family.
On the other side of that, I had a cousin die of a heart attack two months ago. He was three years younger than I am.