Seeing the image of my dad swimming the side stroke is the first thing that comes to mind and I wonder why. We are at Robert Treman State Park where a waterfall flows into a natural deep swimming pool. It is where I learned how to swim. I see myself practicing with my hands pushing the ground while saying, “Watch me!” to my parents, “See me swimming?”
During the summer, my mother prepared a picnic basket of sandwiches and fruit and cookies, my favorite being chocolate chip with walnuts, the kind I buy each day at the local Wegmans, on my way to work. I’m leaving for there now.
It’s later now as I write imagining my father driving our one car to work, while my mom chooses to shuttle her three children onto the Bethel Grove Community bus that drove us each summer Monday morning to Robert Treman’s swimming hole. It’s funny to remember how we had to wait an hour after our lunch to return to swimming for the fear of cramping, which was thought back then might cause us to drown. Actually, it’s not so funny and I think to myself how so many times we laugh at seriously sad or fearful things. I’m sure I was swimming in tears growing up but learned early on, like most everyone, not to show them. Still, seeing myself boarding the bus at the end of our day licking a Sugar Daddy makes me smile. Walking ahead of my mother, as she would say, “a mile.”
My mind floats to swimming in my mother’s amniotic fluid where I was unwanted because I am a child of rape. She was five months pregnant so the doctor would not grant her an abortion…thank god!! (the DOU, Design Of the Universe I’m wont to say) When my parents drove to Tarrytown, NY to give me up for adoption, my father asked my mother to keep me and he signed my birth certificate when I was born. I felt that he loved me just as much as my brother and sister who were born after me. (a “side stroke” of luck?)
Unlike my mother’s initial fear to keep me, she volunteered as a registered nurse during WWII in Europe and met my dad as a patient on their return to America on the ship Huddleston. When I asked her why she would risk her life to go to war, she said, “Somebody needs to take care of the soldiers,” as tears glistened in her gray-blue eyes.
When mom died in 2002, I cried like a baby as I spoke at her memorial service about the deep hurt of her not loving me for 50 years and how it had been transformed into hearing, “I love you,” a few months before her death. I had learned to wash away my anger and was able to cry with my mother. My memorial eulogy ended with the image of her diving off Robert Treman’s (tears now) high diving board at age 65…like a swan…so gracefully, did she leave our earth plane life together, something I still attempt each summer to get over my fear to spring dive off that board…so far I can only jump with Love.