It’s What We Do

Today my daughters and I drove seven hours to my hometown where 84% of my relatives still live. We weren’t in town but an hour before everyone started gathering at the swimming pool.

It’s what we do. We’re a family of swimmers.

My mother is partly to blame. She did synchronized swimming at some point in her younger years. And when I was a kid she used to have my siblings and me swim around an island every time we were out for a day at the lake. My dad contributed, too, with comments, while we were young, like “Go play on the highway” and “Go play in the riptide.” Later, it was, “We didn’t come all the way out here for nothing! I don’t care if it’s 55 degrees and raining, you will water ski!” as he picked us up and threw us overboard.

My sister and I ended up on the high school swim team by default. We couldn’t run, but man, we could swim in anything and do it for forever. And I lifeguarded back in the day, the most coveted summer job in town. My sister’s three children all grew up with USA Swimming and were outstanding high school swimmers. My girls were raised at the pool, too—USA Swimming for many years, high school swimming and diving, and now lifeguarding during the summer. My brothers’ boys, who are about the same age as my kids, were excellent on USA Swimming, too, as well as on their high school team. And they also lifeguard.

Often times we’ll meet at the pool to swim laps or just visit while treading water in the deep end, but this time it was mostly about the next generation. My sister’s kids are all grown and married now (and all three have returned to the hometown) and are starting families of their own. There are three young ones so far with another due in a couple of weeks. The main purpose for being at the pool this time was to play with the kids and ooo and ahhh at their nascent swimming skills.

I went to the pool a bit early to swim some laps before the relatives arrived. I thought my sister might appear and do the same and that we’d meet in a lane, totally unplanned. It wouldn’t be a coincidence if she had; it’s just what we do.

Owen again

Holding my great-nephew, three-month-old Own Daniel, in the locker room after swimming.

Owen 1

Owen’s tired after an hour and a half in the water. He’ll get used to it. It’s what we do.

Soon my niece was there with her two little ones, the youngest of whom—Owen Daniel—I met for the first time tonight. Then everyone else trickled in. 14 of us. (A few stayed home.)

I was in the water for two hours, swimming laps, playing with the little girls, treading and visiting with my nieces and nephews, and then holding my easy-going, mellow grand-nephew for about 45 minutes in the baby pool. He was fascinated with the lady with the purple head (I had a cap on) and four eyes (goggles up on my forehead ).

We stayed not until the kids got tired but until closing time, catching up on everyone’s lives while hanging out in the water.

It’s just what we do.

6:07 p.m.

I pulled into the driveway. It would be dark soon, right around 5:00. I was not yet used to the time change, not accustomed to so little remaining daylight after getting home from work. Amy’s bedroom door was closed, no crack of light shining beneath it. I knocked lightly, then peeked in. She stirred in her bed, waking from an after-school nap.

“Hi, hon. Are you planning on going to swim practice?” Practice officially started tomorrow, but there was a pre-season practice tonight and she had said earlier that she wanted to go.

“Yeah, yeah I am.”

I left her alone to snooze a bit longer. I ate an early dinner, leftovers, and decided to read for a while.

Ten minutes later, I returned to tap on Amy’s door again. “Swim practice or not?” I asked through the door. I didn’t care one way or the other if she went; I just needed to know what I was doing with my evening, driving her back and forth, or settling in for a few hours of writing. “You don’t have to.”

“You mean tonight? Yeah, I’m going.”

“Well, you better get ready. It’s 6:07.”images

“I will tonight. I’m getting ready for school.” She sounded slightly annoyed, put off that I kept asking her about practice tonight.

“School?”

A memory hit me then. Amy was about eleven and we were living in the green house. The sound of running water awoke me one night, around midnight, and I got up out of bed, stepped from my room, cautious and concerned about what I might find. The sound led me to the girls’ side of the house, just across the living room to their two bedrooms and bathroom. The shower was running, the curtain closed. I was terrified to pull the curtain, knew I should go back and get a weapon—a knife, scissors, pepper spray, anything—but my curiosity, and in a way, my terror, too, would not allow for that. I drew the curtain aside, just a few inches, peered into the dark, realizing just then that the bathroom light wasn’t on, that I had used a light in the kitchen to guide me to this point.

There she was. Amy. Standing perfectly still, hot water running over her body.

“Amy!” I whisper yelled. “What are you doing?”

“Taking a shower.”

“Why?”

“I’m getting ready for school.”

“It’s midnight.”

“No. It’s morning.”

“Did your alarm go off?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, it’s nighttime, honey. Come on. Look. It’s dark. Come on out of there.” I turned the water off and gathered her up with a towel. She moved slowly, nonfluently, as if she had a stiff neck or a sore back. Her eyes were open and she made eye contact with me, but she wasn’t exactly present. Could she be sleepwalking?

I led her to her room and slipped a t-shirt over her head and tucked her under her covers. In the morning, she did not mention the event, and when I did, she had no recollection of it. Perhaps this was what was happening now.

“Ams, do you think it’s morning?” I recalled how it was getting dark as I came home, that what she saw out her window right now was probably similar to what she saw when she awoke in the morning around 5:00 a.m. Maybe she thought it was 6:07 a.m., not p.m.

“Yeah. I’m getting ready for school.”

“Ams, it’s evening. It’s 6:07 in the evening. If you want to go to swimming, you need to get ready for swimming, not school.”

“Oh. I just took a shower.”

“Well, you don’t have to go. Maybe you shouldn’t. You sound pretty out of it.”

“Okay, yeah, maybe I’ll wait and just go tomorrow.”

I return to my room, slip out of my clothes and into my jammies, open my laptop, and start thinking about what I want to write, thankful to have one last uninterrupted evening before swim season officially starts tomorrow.

As I finish up the sleepwalking story, Amy comes wandering into my room. “Hey, want to hear my story? It’s about you.” She’s usually pretty good about listening to something I wrote.

“Sure,” she says and plops down on my bed, starts scrolling through her phone.

That’s okay with me; I’ll take half-listening. I read the story and as I near the end, she asks, “Aren’t you going to put in the other time I did it? In Wyoming?”

“What? When?”

“I don’t know. I was pretty little. You had already put me to bed and were watching TV downstairs with Roxy. I came down and you said, ‘What are you doing, Amy?’ and I said, ‘Going to the bathroom.’ And I went in to that little bathroom of theirs and started taking a shower. I remember you saying I was in there for, like, 15 minutes before you remembered I went in there and came to see what I was doing.”

“What were you doing? I barely remember this.”

“Taking a shower!”

“Were you sleepwalking?”

“Yes!”

“Well, I guess I’ll go back now and add that in to my blog. Then we’ll always know that you have sleepwalked three times and every time  you got into the shower.”

I look at her. A confused look on my face.

“What?” she asks.

“Is it sleepwalked or slept walked? I’m going to have to look that up. Or is it slept walk?”