12 August 2011

Time to Swim

For last week’s blog post, I reviewed my exercise routine. Since the only comment related to fluid intake, you must think what I’m doing is ok. Well, I know what’s missing: swimming. I haven’t swum since we vacationed in Puerto Rico, years ago. I’m losing my gills.

My Life with the Fish
Warren (smallest) and family swimming, 
early 1940s.

When I was growing up, we spent a month or more of many summers at a freshwater lake, swimming on or under the water almost daily. 

Eventually, instead of renting, my parents bought a cottage--everyone called them “camps”--a short walk from a small Adirondack lake. 

Warren working 
beach construction,
early 1940s.

My father would
drive up after work if he could get away or join us on weekends. Swimming and fishing, stirred by Adirondack air, was his miracle elixir.

Absent lightning, my parents swam regardless of the air or water temperature. “Go take a dip, you’ll feel better,” they would tell me, no matter how well I felt.

Warren (front) and friends 
on the beach, mid-1950s.
When my father was no longer in prime athletic form (he was a jock through college), his dips were indeed dips--in and out. 

My mother, in contrast, holds records for the longest dips ever achieved swimming back and forth, parallel to the beach, in the slowest while still advancing crawl. Go get lunch, come back; she might still be going.

Uncle Max was even more interesting in the water. Although he only visited us once at camp, his unique prowess was legend. A master carpenter by trade, Uncle Max could stretch out on his back, hands cupped behind his head, and float so high in the water, anyone would think he was on an inflatable raft. 

As far as I know, our other relatives were just plain swimmers or beachgoers, except for my brother. He was a certified Water Safety Instructor. That got him a job at a summer camp, which led to a severe ear infection, which led my mother to extol the virtues of ear plugs for a year whenever I swam.  

Advanced Swimming

In the summer of my 12th year, I went away to a coed camp for a month. It was a crash course in living away from home, in a cabin with 15 other boys, and learning how not to roll off an upper bunk bed.
No, the test pond was big and deep, not a dried 
out farm pond with Warren’s son and niece.

During that month, I was certified for Advanced Swimming. The final test had us in a pond, swimming in a circle for hours, showing correct form with different strokes and kicks. The water was cold and dark. They told us the pond was a converted cesspool or sewage lagoon. I think they were joking.

Swimming Instructor

When we moved to the Washington, D.C., area, we lived a short walk from a community swimming pool. It was an excellent venue for teaching our son, Noah, to swim. Stick your face in, lie on your back, you can float, I’ve got you, stop screaming, lie on your stomach, kick…I can swim!

When we moved again, our best option for swimming was a hotel pool, where Noah’s swimming improved to the point that I could almost keep up with him. He later took a few weeks of formal lessons to improve his strokes and learn a dolphin kick, which a frog like me could never teach him.

Wrap Up

I’ll have to get moving on this quickly. I missed the Swimming World Championships in Shanghai, but if I work hard, there’s the London Olympics a year from now. 
The closest I ever got to London was a Heathrow Airport hotel when my plane was delayed in one of The Emirates.  

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week.

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