This summer in Columbia has been absurdly hot. Columbia comes by its tagline of “Famously Hot” honestly. When it’s 100° every day, you really can’t go outside unless you are getting in a pool. Just about every day during the week, I pick the kids up early in the afternoon and we go home and swim. They took lessons at the beginning of the summer and after spending hours in the pool they have both become fish! They dive for toys, they swim back and forth, they jump in over and over again. But more than just being an activity for them though, it’s an activity for us. In the pool I don’t have to worry about falling over or be concerned with one of them running under my feet. We can all act silly together.
I can still walk around okay day to day, but it takes all of my concentration. I am constantly staring at the ground in front of me making sure there is nothing that is going to grab hold of one of my toes. In the back of my mind I am always aware of the consequences of one misstep. Walking around the yard, they know to give me space. They can run around, as long as they keep their distance. Even when I pick up James at school, I know to brace myself so that when he runs over to give me a hug he doesn’t knock me over. But in the pool we don’t have to worry about that. I can’t really use my arms to swim, but can keep up with them enough just kicking my legs. They can climb on me. I can give Mary Adair bucking bronco rides. James can give me a big bear hug and then we can jump up and down in the deep end, springing off the bottom of the pool. In the water, I can pick them up and wrap my arms around them.
There are also nice little discrete accomplishments that they can achieve in the pool. Last summer, Mary Adair was growing more confident swimming but still needed to grab the wall every few feet. I encouraged her to try and go a little bit further and a little bit further without holding on. Finally I convinced her that she might be able to swim the whole way across. After doing it, she was so proud. I didn’t really feel pride in her accomplishment, swimming across the pool isn’t the most impressive thing she has done, but I felt joy. Joy in seeing her pride in herself. The same way I felt joy this school year at how proud she was of her reading or of being able to solve little math problems. James realized he could swim without his floaty a month or so ago and I got him to try swimming across the pool. When he did it, mostly I had to fight to not laugh, seeing him climb up the steps and stand on the edge of the pool Ronaldo-esque, shirt off, hands on his hips, with his chest puffed out. Like his dad, he doesn’t really hide his pride. I could hardly hide my joy.
Mostly, the pool has been a place this summer where we can interact somewhat “normally”. There are plenty of other things that we do together and will continue to do together even as I become more limited physically. The simple conversations we have alone in the car on the way to school are a treat that we will eventually have to give up, but I know there will be something else we find to share. For now though, even without being able to throw them across the pool, or being able to do the craziest dives, playing in the pool is still something we can do together. And at least for the summer of 2016, that’s pretty special.