I've been swimming ever since I can remember. Literally.
I took my first plunge at age two, kicking my legs (I'm told) but forgetting to move my arms.
At age four I jumped off the high board at the public pool where I grew up. It was high, I was little and I hit the water so hard I got the wind knocked out of me and a bloody nose. My love of the pool and swimming was not deterred by a little body busting.
And the public pool became my home away from home during the summer.
And I kept on swimming... through elementary school, high school, and college.
It became something I just did...like brushing my teeth or going to sleep.
It became part of who I was...like the rich Midwestern corn fields and my strong German heritage.
I was (and still am) exhilarated by the smell of chlorine, by the sight of that blue water on a hot sunny day, by the feel of diving into the deep end.
And last weekend I was exhilarated by Dara Torres, the quintessential swimmer, who came of age swimming in the same era as I.
All these years later, when it's all I can do to pull on a suit and swim for half and hour without stopping, she's setting world records at age 41.
(Does anyone else marvel at her body? Anyone? Anyone? Let's hear it for the swimming cougars!)
It's been written that part of her inspiration for coming out of retirement and getting back into the pool was her daughter. She wanted to show her daughter that she was a swimmer. She wanted to show her daughter a part of who she was.
Though I can't swim like her, I can relate to the swimmer in her.
I can relate to the laps, the turns at the wall, the time clock, and the marks the goggles leave behind.
Last summer when my son was just a year old - in one of those "it happened in a split second" moments - he slipped off the step at the pool and went under. I was sitting right beside him, just an arm's length away.
His blond hair floated above him as he sank.
And my first reaction was not to grab him... to save him.
My first reaction was to let him go under...to let him get his first real taste of swimming.
And so that's what I did.
And when I did pull my precious boy up out of the water, he sputtered and opened his eyes and then he smiled. He loved it!
"You did that boy a favor," the lifeguard said. "You didn't over-react and make him scared by the fact that he went under. Swimming comes naturally to little kids like that."
I smiled at him, but didn't say anything. I'd selfishly let him go under not as a favor to him but to me. I wanted someone who was so much a part of me to experience something that was so much a part of me.
I'm certain there is a large sparkling pool in heaven where you can swim laps or float or dive to your heart's content. There is no sunburn around heaven's pool. Water doesn't get up your nose or down your throat.
And, most importantly, everyone who goes under comes back up again. Smiling.