Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Daughter, the Swimmer.

Casey begged to be on a swim team. I let her beg, turning a deaf ear for over a year, thinking "she's Casey, she'll move on to a new beg soon". Not. This one was a hard decision for me, because I was a competitive swimmer for the majority of my formative years. In those formative years I swore that when I grew up I would never:

Get up at ungodly hours of the morning to take my daughter to 5a.m. practices and watch her sneak out of the cold pool to stand in the hot locker room shower until her coach yells at her to get back in the (now colder, because of the hot shower) pool.

Buy a million pairs of goggles and swim caps, wash 9000 towels a year and invest in expensive chlorine removing shampoo.

Get up at ungodly hours (see the theme here?) to travel to swim meets far away and plant my ass on hard bleachers for hours on end waiting for her to swim a total of 5-10 minutes, max.

Buy bathing suits by the dozens. Smell the mildew on them when she forgets to take them out of her gear bag. Watch them fade and disintegrate before my eyes.

Be one of those parents in the stands who wears a stopwatch around their neck and can quote their kid's splits to the 100th of a second.

Get up at even earlier ungodly hours in Michigan winters to warm up the car for winter doubles.

Be on committees with overzealous parents who think their kid is the next Phelps.

But here I am folks. Ass firmly planted on the wooden chairs at the YMCA watching my daughter have the time of her life. Because she is Casey, the swimsuits, goggles and caps all match, and the kickboard is tye dye. Her gap tooth smile is constant as she learns butterfly and proper breathing technique. Soon she will understand that you can go a lot farther when you push off the starting blocks rather than collapse into the water like a stroke victim. It's coming. And it's sucking me in. Because this is the cutest time. Eight year olds in their tiny suits and hilarious attitudes having fun. Their feet pitter pattering in the family locker room as we beg them to "hurry, hurry, get dressed". They attend pleasant, short little 50 minute practices with lots of encouragement and no popping of their happy bubbles.

"I can do this", I think to myself.

Did I mention those were the best years of my life? My chlorinated, strong shouldered, eat what I wanted years. The medals, the trophies, the ribbons, the friends and the thousands of minutes in the pool made me a stronger, more committed person. My mom swears she had fun watching me, and I never understood that until just last week, as I sat, amazed at Casey's improvement in such a short time. She is looking more like a swimmer each practice.

Yes, I could have fun. Just not at 5 a.m. and NEVER with a stopwatch around my neck. Overzealous is not my thing. By the time she hits the age of required 5 a.m. practice, I had better have a laptop and a steady supply of Bigby coffee. I'll need something to broadcast my misery. And my pride.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Sad.

Travis and Leigh - October, 2009 Homecoming

When I was young I used to read that phrase "her heart was heavy" in books. I always thought it was strange. "How can a heart get fat?" I thought.

Well, with age brings knowledge. My heart is so heavy it hurts, which I made the mistake of announcing at work. My 2 nurse buddies jumped up, one heading for the EKG machine and the other grabbing my arm. Note to self: this is not a proper phrase to use in the ER.

My son has a dear friend. Her name is Leigh and I spend most of my time explaining how they are inseparable but do not date. They have been friends since they were five. Leigh is a ray of sunshine, happy, beautiful, smart and athletic. She is Trav's link to coolness at school, and the person that backs me up when I am ranting about what he should wear and how he should act. I adore Leigh, which speaks volumes. I don't adore many other people's kids besides my own.

Leigh's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She lost her fight Sunday. She was forty years old. Leigh and her Dad were at her side. My heart weighs a ton.

How is this beautiful girl going to make her way through life without her mom? Who helps with weddings, proms, first job interview? Leigh is not the first girl who asks these questions, the ones I cannot give a satisfying answer to. Of course I will be there for her, I will help her, I will hold her. She has always called me Mom but I am not the Mom she aches for. My heart weighs two tons.

Travis marvels at her strength. She got up the next morning and went to school, braving the typical teenage "Leigh is my best friend I can't believe her mom died" crap that will wane with time. I told Travis to stand back, that when the smoke clears, he will be the one she needs. He spent many nights over at her house when her dad was working and her mom was in the hospital. Yeah, I know, I have heard the "are you nuts, letting two teenagers spend the night". I can't help but to trust them. I believe in them. And in my heart I know they won't let me down. My son has grown through this as well.

Yesterday Leigh came over after school. She said, "Hi Mom, I just wanted to come in and hug you". I hugged her fiercely. Told her I loved her, that we all love her and we will always be here for her. I held it together until she left, when I broke and sobbed some really angry tears. I cried for Moms everywhere who have to leave their children behind. It was my son that hugged me, kissed my head and told me "It is going to be OK, Mom, she is really strong, she'll make it". My heart lightened up. A little. Life will continue. Leigh asked me to help her pick out shoes for homecoming. She chose her dress early, and got her Mom's approval. She asked me to do her hair and makeup and when I am done she will be a knockout. As you can see from the picture I added, she was.

Nancy, you rest now. I love your daughter and I will do my best to keep her the strong, beautiful woman you created. I'll help Leigh down here, and you shine down on her from above. Together we'll get her there.