“So, Carol, (This is PP’s real name. She thinks she’ll use it for this particular blog.) “You remember Janice Gilles, don’t you? She coached our team way back when at Temescal.”
I nod to my former swim team member, Brian, who now coaches the Mills Masters Team. “Of course.”
Brian shakes his head sadly, “ She passed away.”
I gasp even in my shivering wet get in the pool state. “Oh, no," I murmur.
Whatever are we supposed to say at such news? I knew her, it’s true, but not well. And I suppose the most upsetting thing about not knowing her now, is that I remember her 20 years ago. Bright, funny, passionate, enthusiastic. She was such fun as a coach. And that team! Lefkowitz and Oppenheimer,(Yes she was related somehow to That Oppenheimer), Jennifer and David and Brian, of course. Janice playfully yelling at me, “Let’s see ya put some hustle into it Jameson!” And Lefkowitz and Oppenheimer cracking up. “She has the purrfect stroke, but it slows her down!”
Sometimes, Janice would don a suit, dive into the water, swim a quick few laps with the fast lane, the Barracudas. Graceful and sleek, she cut through the water effortlessly.
And now….she’s gone? It’s just so strange. Where does all that energy and vitality and sheer water talent go? Is there a Big Pool in the sky for us swimmers?
But I guess it's all part of the aging process. People you know start dying...But I was shocked. And asked Brian, “What happened to her?”
”She had a heart condition.”
“Wow…she seemed so healthy." I shake my head, not asking the detail of this, then venture the obvious question, "How old was she? Like our age?”
Brian nods, “A little younger actually, 48.”
I nod. Assume Brian was talking about himself. Janice was exactly my age. Very eerie, particularly since I was on my way to Kaiser today to get my melanoma skin checked.
“Yeah,” Brian continued, “She was my mentor. She’s the reason I began coaching. She really showed us all how it could be FUN!”
I nod, still stunned.
“She had a son too, a nine year old and her husband……” He begins to choke up, but then pulls himself up.
I nod sympathetically, ‘Her poor family…..” My voice trails off, as Brian turns and starts collecting kickboards to begin wrapping up his team's workout.
Yet, I truly don’t know what to say. Of course her family must be devasated. She was so young. Gingerly, I climb into the cool water, with the gray drizzle it seems even less inviting, and begin my laps, shuddering at the cold. Or is it something else? The Grim Reaper? He’s there. Right around the corner or so it seems lately what with Janice dying and Wendy’s friend, K, in the car accident, and William Talcott earlier this summer.
But yet, as I turn and head back down the lane my heart pounding, my skin in goosbumples, I think hell, at least I’m alive. I may be cold and I may be worried about cancer and jobs and traffic and weather, but I’m not dead. Wow that felt very weird to type. But my senses or, sensitivities, do keep my heart pumping and remind me that it’s all part of moving through the water so to speak.
Turning at the end again, I watch as Cute Polka Dot Bikini Girl gets into the lane next to me and proceeds to do the head outta the water breaststroke. I follow in my lane and we end up at the opposite wall at about the same time. She turns. Gives me a dazzling shy smile.
Grinning, I nod and make my turn.
Yes, I do know I’m alive. And thanks to CPKBG, I’m beguiled into continuing even though the water is a little on the cold side.
The air around me certainly isn’t!
So take that, Grim Reaper!
And to Janice, may you have found your own beguiling smiles in the Big Purrfect Pool up in the blue blue sky!