March and April were busy months: bookkeeping, tax time, story deadlines, jury duty, Paloma the curious puppy, our desert tortoise Lawrence’s emergence from hibernation, decluttering the garage, and keeping the house and office orderly along the way.
But I managed to break away for alone time at our health club. And I decided to start swimming again. Decades ago, I was a regular swimmer at the Pasadena Athletic Club (I swam during my entire pregnancy). Sadly, the family-owned club eventually closed. That’s when the Los Angeles Athletic Club in downtown offered PAC members a generous “SOS” discount to join their “family,” which we accepted with immense gratitude.
Good grief. Diving back into swimming a few weeks ago was a rude awakening. Power walks in my hilly neighborhood hardly got me ready for a different kind of workout. I’m embarrassed to say that it felt foreign.
After doing one lap (two lengths) with the kickboard, I was ready to call it a day. But didn’t. Instead, I set a goal: one more lap.
Back at home Louie (aka “Aqua Man,” the Masters swimmer) asked me, “How was swimming?”
“Nice…,” was my quick reply from the kitchen. “I did…hmm, a couple of laps.” I was so rusty, I confessed.
“That’s okay,” he reassured me. When I started swimming again, I remember gasping for air, I was so out of shape.
The following weekend Louie wanted to join me at the club. Oh no! The PROfessional is going to see how pathetic I am. But mind-over-matter, I knew I would have to step it up.
I got to the pool before he did and proceeded to put on my swimming cap. What a pain. I don’t know if I will ever master stretching the super tight, super thin latex rubber cap gracefully over my head at the same time trying to stuff my hair inside. I wonder if my attempts at this were providing entertainment for anyone who saw me.
Our swimming lanes were next to each other. I mustered up my best “stroke” using the kickboard.
Louie swam to meet me at the other end of the pool. “Your fast,” he said. “You have a good kick! Now, let’s see you swim some laps…”
I had to save face. Here goes nothing, I said silently. I visualized my swimming days at the Pasadena club. I pushed off the wall, took my first few freestyle strokes before tilting my head slightly to the right to take a breath. I felt a nice familiar rhythm.
I reached the end of the lane, then decided to keep the momentum and swam back.
“Your stroke looks great!” “And you’re very smooth,” he said excitedly.
“Really?” I replied in surprise. “But I’m so winded.”
Don’t worry, he responded encouragingly. “You’ll get stronger every week.”
He immediately taught me gliding techniques that use less energy to make my swim more enjoyable.
I couldn’t help reminiscing about the swim class I took at East Los Angeles College when we were newlyweds. It was Louie’s idea that I enroll in the course. After a near-drowning experience as a child, I was fearful of swimming in deep waters. At the end of our full workdays, Louie accompanied me to my night classes at the college down the street from our apartment. There, he watched from the bleachers as I learned strokes that would help me swim confidently across an Olympic-sized pool. My newly-acquired skills would, ahem, pay off in my future deep-sea escapades.
My first media trip was to Fiji in the South Pacific near New Zealand. The day came for water sports off one of its 300-plus islands. It was so tiny I could walk around it in 15 minutes, maybe 10. I chose snorkeling. On board the boat to the reef, a fellow journalist gave me a pep talk. The moment had come. One by one, each guest climbed down off the boat. I was the last. Then the boat disappeared. The advanced group was already a good distance away. So, breathing through my snorkel, I swam calmly but quickly in the crystal clear sea to catch up with our guide and the couple with their five-year-old child. “You can do this. You WILL do this,” I repeated to myself. It was time to redirect any looming fear. I practically slapped myself. “Look at the colorful sea life!” That royal blue starfish did look otherworldly. But I had to keep moving. Are we done yet? It seemed like an eternity before the boat returned to pick us up. I gave myself a pat on the back for not losing it.
On a trip to Cancun with Louie, we couldn’t wait to snorkel upon our late afternoon arrival at the hotel. We bee-lined to the beach and hired a guide to take us three miles out to the coral reef. I was giddy floating with the buoyancy of the saltwater. Within a few minutes, I watched Louie and the guide dive deeper into the reef. Treading gleefully, I turned my attention to the colorful sea life far below me. I also noticed that the waters were quite choppy. Then it dawned on me that I was ALONE. Water started collecting in my mask. Uh oh. I treaded as calmly as I could, then dipped my face underwater looking for the guys. When they surfaced, I climbed on top of Louie’s head, as he colorfully describes it. It got worse. The choppy waters prevented us from getting back into the motorboat. The guide had to throw ropes out to us to drag us towards shore and calmer waters. Back in the boat, I was as green as Kermit the Frog. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
How nostalgic it is that we have come full circle. Me, dreadfully out of practice in a sport that I once loved and Louie (Aqua Man) in the best shape he has been in years still cheering me on.
Aqua Man? I’m saving this for another tale.