Monday, October 08, 2007

Kismet at the Pool

“Dora? Is that you?” PP approached the pretty bubbly middle-aged (PP hates that descriptor; but hell, guess it's their reality now) woman with the perky bob, chatting in the center of a large group of teenage swimmers and what looked like their parents.

Tentative, shy, PP smiled. She knew that her dear friend from undergrad days at UCSC was going to be here at the Swim a Mile with her swimming daughter, Callie. They’d emailed back and forth the week before the swim. Dora had pledged PP an enormous amount for this all-important event, and then, they’d discovered they’d both be at the swim on the same day at the same time.

It was Fate!

But it’d been such a long time. PP couldn’t even remember when last she’d seen Dora and her husband, Tim, another friend from undergrad whom Dora had married. 15 years? 20 years? 25 years?

Could be.

Would they recognize each other after all this time? Yet this woman, so animated and in the center of it all, felt like her. PP couldn’t say exactly why. Same hairstyle? (A cute brown straight-haired bob, with a touch of gray about the sides) Same pretty round face? (Yes, a few wrinkles round the eyes and mouth, but hell, 25 years! That was a long time!)

Glancing up from her conversation now, Dora jumped up, beaming and bright. “CAROL!!!!” (PP is gonna use her real name in the dialogue here for simplicity’s sake. Why not? It’s not like you don’t know her name anyway, right? Dora and and daughter’s name have been changed cuz….oh, hell, cuz you’re supposed to!)

Bouncing over to PP, Dora gave her a big hug and kiss. “OHMYGOD! You look exactly the same!”

PP blushed shyly, knowing this couldn’t possibly be, but it was nice to hear. And after all, Dora must look pretty close to the same since PP did spy her in all this crowd of several hundred swimmers, family and friends at the Mills Swim a Mile Event. Though PP wondered if she woulda recognized her old friend if she hadn’t known she’d be here?

Maybe not. But hell, this didn’t matter as she hugged Dora close, feeling her familiar warmth even after so long. “Wow! You too! I wondered if we’d recognize each other. Where’s your daughter?”
“Oh, over there.” Dora gave a cheerful, dismissive wave behind her. “She’s here with her high school swim team and a new Boyfriend. You know how that goes,” she giggled, her other arm still slung round PP’s shoulder in friendly welcome.

“We’re over on the other side of the pool,” PP pointed across the water, the tables, tarps and swarms of swimmers milling about. “My boyfriend came to cheer me on. Is Tim here?”
“Nah, he had work to do,” Dora grinned.

PP nodded, of course. Tim was the only one of them that had gone into ‘business’—Dora and he had lived in Hong Kong even, wheeling and dealing with the Asian bigwigs. But that was a long time ago. Now here they were, settled in SF, with 3 teenage daughters, one of whom was a swimmer, which to PP was, of course, an added bonus of Delight!

“Here's my boyfriend!” PP exclaimed. DHBF had ambled over, his tall good looks and easy smile giving PP a moment of pride. At least after all these years, PP could still snag a winningly wonderful BF. “This is Ian,” (Name not changed, K honey?) “And, Ian, this is Dora!”
Shaking hands and exchanging their ‘nice to meet you’s PP stood grinning at the wonder of it all. Here she was, at this amazing swim to raise money for women with cancer, and in the midst of it, or yes, because of it, she’d reconnected with her dear friend, who was chatting amiably with her DHBF.

“Ian?” Dora was asking, her eyes twinkling.
“Yes, Dora, right?”
“That’s right,”
”I didn’t know if we’d recognize each other,” PP interrupted, “but we did.”
”Of course we did!” Dora laughed. “We haven’t changed that much.”
“Well….you haven’t,” PP shook her head, thinking just how much has changed since she last saw Dora.
“Besides, we’re here!” Dora chuckled again, draping her arm round PP again and hugging her close.
“That’s right,” Ian agreed, “it’s certainly better than the alternative.”

They all laughed as PP remembered how Dora’s mom had died when she was still at UCSC. PP couldn’t remember what she’d died from. Maybe it’d been cancer. Brain tumor stuck in her memory. But whatever the cause, Dora had lost her mom at a very young age. Probably her mom was about the age that Dora was now, and in spite of all the vibrant energy and life surrounding them at the pool today, this swim was still all about those who had passed on because of cancer.

But also those who had survived. PP being one of those lucky ones!

“Here’s Callie,” Dora grabbed one of the teenagers. A pretty bronzed girl with shinning brown eyes and dimples—it was Dora as PP remembered her. Only not.

“Nice to meet you,” she took PP’s hand warmly and gave it a firm shake, her voice echoing her mom’s.
“Yes, you too! You look just like your mom and…..”
Dora started to laugh.
Suddenly shy, PP smiled at Callie in amazement. Guess this is one of the reasons people have kids? To keep themselves alive and swimming? In another form that’s more youthful and energetic, granted, but all the same, it was a little eerie in a miraculous sort of way.

“Well, I should get ready to swim,” Callie glanced behind her at the group of teenagers milling about. Putting on swim caps. Rubbing on sunscreen. Giggling in anticipation.
“Yeah, me too.” PP grinned. “Have a great swim,”
”Yes, you too!” Callie called back as she skipped over to her friends.
Dora sighed, smiling tiredly for a moment. “Teenagers!” she sighed, glancing over at Ian. “You got kids?”
”Oh, yeah, two boys.”
”How old?”
“Well, I have a stepson who’s over 30 and then my two boys are 15 and 22.”
Dora nodded, “Well, then, you know what I mean!”
“Oh, yeah.”
And they began some parental exchange that PP zoned out on. So much not a part of her world as she glanced around at the other parents seated comfortably on the white plastic lounge chairs, sipping Diet Pepsi’s and munching on chips. This was Dora’s world. And PP had to think that because of this, they’d lost touch. She had so little in common with the parental paradigm. Yet. DHBF was a parent. Some of the friends were parents. Hell, her parents were parents.

So, just because Dora was a parent didn’t mean that they couldn’t reconnect.

“Guess I better get changed too,” PP glanced over at the clock. 2:55. She was scheduled to swim at 3. Yikes! She better get going, especially given her slow poke changing routine.

“We’ll watch and cheer you on!” Ian hollered after her as she gathered up her stuff and headed for the locker room.
“Yeah! Go CAROL!!!” Dora called after her, eyes bright and excited.

And PP had to wonder as she weaved her way across the deck, covering her ears slightly as she passed the blasting DJ music of Donna Summer’s “I WILL SUURRVIIVE!!!!” how strange a thing it was the passage of time. On the one hand, it was like Dora had never been absent from her life. That they were just right back to the place they were 25 years ago, studying, playing and hanging out in the dorms of Stevenson College. All that warm camaraderie of spirit was still there.

Yet, on the other hand, over 20 years had passed and they were not the same young women they’d been back in Santa Cruz, with so much passion and hope and fun. Now, opening the locker room door for shy 6-year-old girl, hugging a plate full of food to her tiny chest, PP smiled down at her, watching as she toddled off to find her family.

But here they were. And they were swimming. And Dora’s daughter was swimming. And the swimming was going to carry them through the years and decades and be the line that holds them altogether.

Okay, maybe that’s laying it on a bit thick, but PP has to wonder, once again, how the magic of swimming has the power to accomplish the impossible so often.

Like bringing together two dear friends, who for whatever myriad of reasons may have never seen each other again if it hadn’t been for swimming.

Go Swimming! Go Callie! Go PP!

And yes, Go Dora!

A light tap on the shoulder woke PP from her waiting for her turn to swim reverie. “CC! I didn’t know you were gonna be here!”
“Yeah. I was really hankerin’ for a swim,” CC beamed shyly, clutching her Swim-a-mile Tote Bag and cap.
“Wow! That is so cool!” PP continued in amazement. What a day. First her friend Dora and her daughter, now CC, who, as far as PP knew, had never swum a mile before.

“Yeah, I don’t know if I can swim a Mile though….” CC admitted, reading PP’s mind.
“Oh, sure you can,” PP went into Swim Coach mode. “Just go get the LONG cheating fins and kick a lot with those. You’ll make it and you’ll make it super fast!”
“Really? You sure?” CC was dubious, glancing around at the hundreds of swimmers, timers, counters, families and food booths that filled the pool deck.
“Yes. I’m absolutely sure! When do you swim?”
”3. …. Guess I better go get dressed.”
Laughing, PP glanced up at the clock. “Yeah, since it’s 3:15 now.”
“Running late as usual,” CC joked as she headed over to the pile of long fins in the giant plastic basket next to the front gate

“What’s your name again?” PP’s lane mate asked, a petite (can a man be petite?) pleasant guy who turned out to swim at the Y too.
“Carol,” PP answered. “I’m no EVE for your Adam!” she joked. (Actually she didn’t really say that, thank goodness. Though it did occur to her. But the connotations involved in such a joke, well, PP did not want to go there. This Adam, while cute in a sweet hairy sort of way, was simply not her type.)
“Nice to meet you and have a great swim,” Adam grinned before hopping into the lane ahead of PP who still had to wait for her turn. Eyeing his mighty splashing, PP shook her head. Would she be able to breathe without swallowing all his whitewater? Oh, who cares today! She thought to herself as the woman who she was waiting on finally finished her mile and the Cute Counter Girl with the blonde ponytail and big yawn told her she could start her swim.
“Do you want me to time you?” CCG asked.
“Nah, that’s ok,” PP answered. Hell, she didn’t need to know how goddamn slow she was even though Dora still thought she looked the same as 20 years ago. PP knew she sure as hell wasn’t as fast a swimmer as she was even a year ago, let alone 20.

Today, though, PP wasn’t gonna get down on herself for being slow or old or any of those negative thought patterns that usually ran through her water soaked brain. Today was all about the Swim and raising money for this important cause and hell, getting CC to swim a mile!

Now, that would be an accomplishment. And as PP easily swam her mile, (DHBF spinning insanely loud and obnoxious noise makers in her watery ear with every lap in between taking pics of her on her mile long journey) she marveled at the wonder of it all again. Swimming. It was the reason for living and the celebration for surviving.

Okay, that’s pretty hokey, but you know what she means.

Donning her Angels visor and sunglasses, PP slipped on her long cheating fins and kicked a few easy laps, the CCG laughing at her and snapping pics on her phone. Pleased, PP hammed it up a bit. Waving and grinning. Hell, maybe she’d get on the Women’s Cancer Resource Center’s Website. Maybe those cell phones are good for something after all!

Glancing around, PP noticed that swimmers were finishing; Adam was out. Now PP had the lane all to herself and relished in its buoyant embrace. Finishing her mile, she ducked under backwards, floating for a moment, before surfacing to head off to the hot tub to warm up, Ian and Dora cheering her on as the announcer read her finishing card: “Carol Swimkitty Jameson is outta the water swimming in honor of Samantha Archer, a breast cancer survivor.”

Grinning, PP had a pang of worry. She hadn’t actually heard from SA for a long time and while she felt, intuitively, that she was a ‘survivor’ knowing her all these years (another friend from UCSC), she had a nagging worry that what if she hadn’t? (Note: PP got an email from SA this morn sounding very much alive and kicking! Go SA! And what a relief!) Another happy result of this swim---PP’s getting this email, full of sassy tales of cancer treatment. Leave it to SA to be able to make a joke out of it. But PP knew that everyone must have their own way of dealing with cancer. Hers had been to keep swimming. SA’s was to joke. Whatever worked was what they all had to do. Otherwise, well, PP didn’t want to think about the Otherwise. Esp. today!

Hanging out in the hot tub now, PP hears the announcer, “AND the LAST Swimmer is getting out of the pool and it’s CC –of course pronouncing CC’s last name wrong—but no matter, CC gets out of the pool, takes a long dramatic bow in her cute Hawaiian sporty two piecer before heading over to the hot tub to join PP.

“You made it!” PP exclaimed.
“Yup. You were right about those long fins. No prob.”
“That is so awesome.”
CC giggled.
“I’m starving,” PP whined. “Ian’s getting me some food. You want anything?”
”Nah, K made me a big breakfast.”
“What’d she make ya?”
”Bagels and lox and coffee and fruit and….”
”Don’t let that one get away!” PP joked as Ian arrived with plates full of shiskabobs, rice, fruit and ice cream.
“YUM! I’m so hungry!” PP grabbed at a shish kabob and started to chew off a piece of delicious grilled chicken as CC giggled in relaxed delight.
Ian stood by, taking more pics and eating little cups of Hagen Daz. Yum. “They have lots of these if you girls want me to go get more?”
“Nah” PP chewed happily on the chicken as she spooned up a piece of fruit. “We’re already breaking all the rules here eating in the HOT TUB!”
CC giggled again as she pulled herself out of the tub and lay down on the warm cement.
“You sure you don’t want any ice cream?” PP teased.
“Ok, I’ll have a bite,” CC climbed back into the tub as they shared the cup, Ian taking a pic for posterity. (And proof that Rules can be broken if it’s for a Good Cause!)

But the packing up had begun. The food tables dismantled, the DJ’s breaking down the music stand in process, the pool manager giving CC and PP the You-Better-Hurry-Up Eye. “We’re going!” PP called out to her, sneaking a last mouthful of rice and chicken before packing up and heading for the locker room.

Hugging Dora and her daughter once more before leaving, they all made promises to keep in touch. Or, if not, PP thought, there was always next year’s Swim a Mile for Cancer Women.

Though, secretly, she hoped that it wouldn’t be that long before she saw Dora again, or CC swam a Mile, or….she

broke all the rules, by EATING in the HOT TUB!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Swimkitty!

What a great swim. I know I love being in the water and I love the connections that we can all make by enjoying our sport, be it swimming, tennis, cycling. That you got to share your passion for a good cause and got to reconnect with a dear friend makes it all the better. Truly, moving around in the outside world on a beautiful day is what all is kitties really live for!

Talk to you soon,

Love Lauriecat

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