Dad was never much of a swimmer. He’d edge gingerly into the water and finally, when it was inevitable, he’d plunge in – always keeping his head out of the water.
He had a style all his own, a sort of determined, modified dog paddle which changed little over the years and seemed to be relatively effective both in the chilly waters of the Atlantic or a Maine lake on a summer afternoon.
You can’t really blame him for his lack of swimming technique, since he grew up in London during World War II and was probably a lot more interested in dodging bombs and investigating downed enemy planes than he was in perfecting the breast stroke. And I imagine that swimming pools were harder to come by in that neighborhood than fresh eggs*, and less desirable, too.
Today, on the eleventh anniversary of his death, Megan and I are taking our next to last swimming lesson for the summer. As I wade into the warm water – like Dad, I tend to wade in. whereas Megan jumps in fearlessly, which pretty much sums up our approaches to life in general – I will think about the golden summer days when Dad took us swimming on our Maine island, long ago but still in my heart, the way he always is.
*Dad’s mother used to tell me how one day she was granted a ration of a fresh egg apiece for herself, her husband, and her two children, a delight after years of powdered eggs. She took the children with her to get them, and on the way home, they were bombed. My grandmother hid under a bus with her children by her side, clutching the precious eggs and praying, “Please don’t break my eggs!” They all survived – at least, until dinner time.