Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Deep Water


Philip Koch, Deep Forest Pool, oil on panel, 16 x 20", 2012

My father died just as I was turning thirteen. It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.  I remember him as tall and quiet, physically very strong, thoughtful, and always kind to me. When he was around I felt OK. My mother sadly had enough of her own struggles that she just didn't have it in her to be very supportive. But in his own way my father made up for that. In his presence I felt held up and safe, and after he died my family moved into painful new territory.  I hung onto that memory of how my dad made me feel as if it was a life raft. 

Where I live we have a pool and for the last half dozen years I've been taking my granddaughter Nora and now her younger sister Maya swimming with me. When she was two and three, Nora would cling tightly to me as I carried her around the 3' depth of the pool's shallows. Bit by bit she learned to dog paddle and tread water.  Still much of our pool time consisted of me carrying her around on my back like I was some kind of over sized seahorse. We made a game of it we both enjoyed  Now she swims better than I do and races around the pool's deep waters. To see her grow like this is a wonderful feeling. So is her justifiable pride in what she's learned.

Her sister Maya, two years younger, naturally is a more modest swimmer. Up until now she has had me carry her as I would stand in the waist deep end of the pool. Two weeks ago she managed to dog paddle her way to pass the pivotal "Deep Water Test" administered by our Life Guard and has joined her big sister in the pool's deep end.

But Maya tires quickly and reverts to clinging to my shoulders like we did in previous seasons. Back then I held her up effortlessly while sanding upright with my feet firmly planted on bottom. But now we're in deep water and I have to vigorously tread water to keep us above the surface. Not the strongest swimmer in the world, it's a bit of a stretch for me to hold her up.

Honestly I don't think Maya has noticed the difference- she just knows I do the same old job of supporting her as I always did. I've thought about telling her that sometimes she inadvertently comes close to pulling me under, but I haven't said anything to her.

I think I like too much the illusion that there's always going to be someone there to hold her up. She'll find out for herself how at best this can only be a sometimes thing. I just want to keep that "everything is safe" feeling playing in her head a little longer. If I'm honest I think really it's my need I'm trying to meet.




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