This week, as part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I got in the pool to swim laps. My goal was twenty minutes. I am not a swimmer, but I move my arms and legs in order to stay afloat and propel my body, so I burn calories and use muscles.
I swam for ten minutes in some version of a doggy paddle, then flipped onto my back.
Heaven. The water covered my ears and the voices of others in the pool area receded. I was back in the womb, but with language. This, I thought, was a good reason to come back to the pool, beyond resolutions or calories.
Then it hit me. My father and I in the pool at our apartment complex. I’m somewhere between three and four.
My father was an amazing swimmer, having spent summers at his parents’ cottage on a small lake in northern Michigan. His young face, more cleanly shaven or maybe just stubble less obvious because not yet gray. His hair dark black and full, even fuller because it was the 70s. Sideburns. Going underwater without plugging his nose. Demonstrating. Eyebrows crazy from rubbing the water out of his eyes. Snot in one nostril blown into the pool, making his daughter laugh at her naughty daddy. Then putting her on his back, her hands clasped around his neck, forearms on his shoulders, feeling his muscles move beneath the skin as he swam back and forth across the pool, careful not to let her face dip into the water. Her strong daddy. Her protector.
And tears. A grief bomb and a gift. Time retrieved.
And so I keep swimming.
And hoping for another trip around the pool with my dad.