Swim Little Fishy

1985, Elgin Ramada Pool — me and my brother, Mike

As 60% of the human body is water, we spend 10 months in utero swimming around in amnionic fluid and I happen to have been born under the sign of Scorpio, a water sign — it should come as no surprise that I love to swim.

My Gramma Ruth used to call me a “water baby.” My Mom insisted that if there was a body of water anywhere within walking distance, I would find a way of swimming in it. And, to my recollection, that is correct — I once swam in a particularly deep puddle in our yard, I swam in the icky swamp at the back of our family’s property in Kent, I swam in big bathtubs, hot tubs, endless pools, rivers and even a town fountain one time.

All three of us kids are water babies. My brothers were more athletic about it, they swam on swimming teams and were lifeguards. I took lifeguarding class and scuba class and learned how to do all the fancy strokes, but really I just liked to swim around for my own self, on my own terms.

Mike and I swimming in the Mississippi River, sometime in the 70s.

My parents live on a lake. As a family we regularly go to the ocean for vacation. In 2010, I saved my nephew, Issac from being dragged out to sea in a rip tide. When I was in high school I helped perform a rescue at a lake my friends and I were swimming at, dragging a 60yo man in from the water and helping the single lifeguard perform CPR while we waited for the ambulances to arrive.

When I lived in LA, I went on an afternoon scuba trip off Catalina Island, it was so fucking fun and cool. And, there was something magical about being under the water with mysterious fish and creatures. I felt a little like a mermaid, a little like an explorer.

I love swimming. I love being in water. I love the beach and the pool. Love it.

When Paul and I first met, I used to swim every day. Sometimes he’d come with me. Because I worked at home, it worked out — every day at 11am, I’d pull on my swimming suit and a cover up, throw on my flip flops, load sunscreen, water, goggles, a book and a towel into a totebag and walk the 1/2 mile up to the Chase Pool on Ashland. I’d swim 50 or so laps, then lay on a lawn chair listening to music or reading until I dried off, then I’d walk home. Sometimes if Paul was with me, we’d stop for sushi lunch on the way back.

Even when I was pregnant with Maddie, I’d go to Wells Park Pool (indoors) and swim laps there after work. I liked to think that my little fishy was swimming inside her Mama Fishy and as I pulled my very pregnant body through the water, I imagined taking her to her first swimming lessons and passing on my love of swimming to her.

I haven’t swam a single stroke in the two years since she died.

Me, my Mom and Dad and baby brother, 1983 — Priggie’s Lake Resort

Until this week.

After the miscarriage, I started to lose some of the extremely annoying weight I had gained in my two years of crippling depression. First five pounds, then 10 pounds, then 25 pounds… without doing anything. I lost 25 pounds. DURING CHRISTMAS. It was a holiday miracle

I figured I should do something to keep the momentum going. And, as my antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications were starting to make me feel better, I appealed to my penny pinching husband for the fee for a lap swim pass at Welles Park Pool.

Tuesday, at 12:00 I went to the pool for the first time in two years. I pulled on the maternity swim suit I bought two years ago and tried to swallow back tears. It hung on me, oddly, making me look a bit like a little old lady. But it was what I had for the moment… The swimsuit became irrelevant as I dipped into the pool. I put myself in the “slow” lane, because I didn’t think I’d be able to swim fast enough after two years not to irritate the swimmers in the fast lane, or even the medium lane. And, from 12:15 to 1:00pm I swam 50 laps of the breaststroke. Down and back counts as a lap, so -really- I swam 100 lengths of the pool. At the end I felt cheeky, so I was doing pull ups using the starting block at the deep end, like we used to have to do in swim class in high school and college. When I got out of the pool, my legs had the familiar rubber band feeling and I felt pretty great.

Me and my Mom (hubba hubba) at Priggie’s Lake Resort — 1979-ish?

When I got home, I dug through my clothes and found two athletic bikini tops I used to swim in when I was waaaayyy skinnier. I went to Target and bought a pair of swim shorts. I was set for my next time at the pool.

Wednesday, I had other obligations (and to be fair, my muscles were pretty sore) so I couldn’t go, but Thursday I woke up excited and I was anxious to get my other errands out of the way so I could get to the pool by 12:15. Lap swim, lap swim, lap swim, lap swim!

I wore a coverup into the pool, but took it off to slide into the water. I decided I was going to swim in the medium lane that day, as I felt more confident in my body.

Things started off fine, another swimmer — an older lady, was in the lane with me and we passed each other as we both swam back and forth. I was focused on swimming faster than I had on Tuesday. Swim down, chin ups, swim back, flip around and start again. My goggles started to fog up, it was annoying, no matter what I did I couldn’t get them to unfog. So I asked one of the swimmers in the fast lane next to me (who happened to be stopping for a brief rest at the same time as I was,) if he had any tricks I could use to help with this problem.

“Spit,” he said, “Spit in your goggles before you put them on. Also wash them with shampoo in the shower after you swim.”

Huh. Things you learn. I spit in my goggles and started again.

I swam a lap to the deep end, the lady I’d been swimming along said, “Yup — spit is the way to go. Watch out, we have a mid-lane swimmer who has joined us, make sure you stay on your lap line.”

Wells Park Pool

I’d like to say that this was when I noticed Paul swimming up to me and that he had joined me at lap swim because he was proud of how I was trying to take charge of my life. Wouldn’t that be romantic?

Sadly, Paul was not the mid-lane lap swimmer — it was a middle aged, heavy set, hairy guy who was (actually) swimming really fast.

He kept lapping me and every time he did, he made a little snort and gave me a side eye look that made me feel like trash.

After about 10 more lengths of the pool, we ended up at the shallow end at the same time. He snorted, and rolled his eyes at me.

“What?” I stammered, as the swimmer who gave me the spit advice pulled up on the other side of our lane divider.

“You swim too slow for this lane. You are a terrible swimmer and you’re too fat to wear that,” He indicated my sport bikini.

Normally, this would have reduced me to tears and I would have fled the pool. But, something about this fat, hairy man pissed me off so badly that I lashed out.

“For your information, I swim slow because I haven’t swam in two years. I haven’t swam in two years because I have been crippled with depression after my infant daughter died and barely been able to get off the couch. I am here because I would like to lose the weight I gained in the 24 months I have been mourning the death of my child. I may swim slow now, but I will get faster. I may be fat now, but I will lose weight. However, you will ALWAYS be an asshole.”

The guy shrugged and swam off. I looked at the time and decided I had done enough laps (100 lengths in 45 minutes) and started to pull myself out of the pool. Spit man looked at me and said, “Would you mind if I gave you a fatherly hug? You look like you could use one.”

Normally, this would skeeve me out, but I accepted the hug. It was very un-creepy and father like.

He then said, “I hope that if my daughter ever encountered a creep like that she’d know to stand up for herself like you just did.”

“Well,” I said, “You need to teach her how to do that. I know that my Dad taught me not to take shit from people, especially gross lecherous men like that guy.”

I don’t know the moral to the story, except that I’ll be back at the pool tomorrow, swimming my laps, in my bikini, flaws and all hanging out for the world to see — swimming like the little fishy I am. And, I won’t let ANYONE wreck that for me. Two years is a long time for a water baby like me to be on dry land.