Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Never Told Her

My mother was afraid of the water and I caught her fear just like I caught scarlet fever from Billy Thomas when I was four. Lots of people are afraid of the water and avoid it unless its a tub or shower or maybe a shallow pool. What is interesting about my mother is that she also loved the water. I caught that too.

When I was nine we moved to a house on the beach on Summerland Key. I mean right on the beach; the ocean was fifty feet from our back door! We would fall asleep at night to the sound of the surf.

In spite of this I couldn't swim. Just never learned how. I could kick and flail and stay afloat for seconds but I was tense and fearful and hated to get my face wet. This was my relationship with the water for almost forty years.

My husband and I had friends with a time share in Grand Cayman. Every year they came home with thrilling stories of snorkeling adventures. They'd spend hours watching the ocean and walking the beach. When they invited us to spend a week with them I jumped at the chance, but I was worried. I couldn't swim. I wouldn't be able to enjoy the ocean with everyone else.

That's when I decided to become a swimmer. The local community college had a pool that opened to the public for several sessions each day. I bought a snorkel and a mask and decided to put my fear behind me. At first I would only swim in the lane next to the side of the pool. Knowing I could reach out and grab onto something solid made me brave. I swam four times a week for several months and eventually became a confident swimmer comfortable in the water.

The trip was everything I imagined it would be. The front deck faced the ocean and the setting sun. Our friends, the most welcoming and gracious of hosts. In the mornings we had coffee on the deck watching the sea. Evenings we were back with a glass of wine and the setting sun, hoping to catch a glimpse of the caribbean green flash. We didn't but it never mattered. The beauty and the companionship made it worth while.

Several years later our friend was diagnosed with cancer. After surgery and treatment the doctors thought she had a good chance. For a while everything went well and she regained her strength and her hope. Then the cancer returned. This time to her brain. Six months later she was dead.

Kathy was a vibrant and funny lady who loved her family and her friends. She loved life and she loved to laugh. Because of her I can swim and I now swim regularly for fitness and for fun. Her fearlessness pushed me to try harder and go farther. She never knew that. Because I never told her.