Wading into the deep is worth it
Minor MusingsEditor's note: This column is being reprinted for Father's Day.
Published: June 20, 2010
Published: June 20, 2010
I'm always amazed when I see small children swimming confidently in deep water. These days that's not unusual because swim lessons are considered one of the basics of children's activities.
My eldest daughter could swim before she could walk because I took her to Water Babies classes at just 7 months old. I was terrified the first time the instructor told me to blow in her face and dunk her. I thought she would gag, but she came up smiling and giggling. She absolutely loved it and has ever since.
I never had swim lessons when I was a kid. My parents couldn't have afforded them even if they had been available in our small town. What I did have was a Daddy who could swim and dive and who had infinite patience with a little daughter's fear of the water.
Daddy would hold my hand as we waded into the lake till the water reached my chin and I started to feel overwhelmed. Then he would hoist me onto his shoulders, and the water from my sodden hair and swim suit would "shoosh" away down his back, along with all my fear of the deep.
I would ride on his back as he swam and I'd holler, "Daddy, dunk me!" That was his cue to dive and glide under water till I patted his head to let him know I was out of breath. Then we'd pop to the surface, laughing and gasping and eager to do it all again. As long as Daddy held onto me, I was fearless.
Daddy's nickname for me was "Bum," because, in the water or out, I was always bumming a ride on his shoulders. One of my treasured photos of the two of us is of me riding on his back when I was about 5 years old. We had spent the whole day tramping around the St. Louis Zoo and were headed back to our car. I was tired and hot and the path was all uphill. Daddy was tired too, I'm sure, but not too tired to carry me. Because that's what Daddies do.
We used to travel to my grandmother's house, about 200 miles away, at least one weekend a month when I was young. I would always fall asleep in the car during the Sunday night drive home. Monday morning I'd wake in my own bed and have no memory of how I got there, but I would know that Daddy carried me.
Years later, I married and moved a thousand miles away to an apartment complex with a pool. It was there that I finally learned to relax in the water. And I discovered that that was all it took to float and eventually swim. Two months later, my Daddy died of a brain tumor.
I never got the chance to thank him for carrying me on his shoulders when the water was too deep or the path too steep or the night too long.
If you still have a Daddy, be grateful, and let him know it. He may not be perfect. All your memories of him may not be happy ones. Perhaps you haven't even spoken to him in years and there's an ocean of pain and misunderstanding between you. But you still have him in your life, and that's a blessing whether you recognize it or not.
Reach out. Take his hand and wade into the deep water. You won't regret it.