Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Do you think age 46 is a little late to learn to swim? How did I get this old without learning such a basic skill? I made sure all of my children were signed up for swimming lessons every summer. I loaded them into the family van on cold, rainy  mornings (ahh the Northwest in summertime!) and hustled them into the Camas pool for their  Red Cross Certified swim training. I spent the hour or so while the older ones were learning to swim, wrestling and chasing toddlers and babies on, under and around the benches outside the fence. It was a rare day that we went home without at least one scraped knee or bumped chin. But it was all for a worthy pusuit: the ability to swim. By the time we got to Shayla (#6!) we had our own swimming pool and she and Sam and Shane just learned by osmosis. They waded, then splashed and next thing we knew they were jumping off the diving board and paddling around like it was the most natural thing in the world.

I had my chance when I was a youngster--I was signed up for swimming lessons in Blanding, Utah. One summer I trudged the miles and miles  (or so it seemed to me) from my home to the town pool. I liked my teacher and really wanted to please her, but I couldn't seem to get the hang of it. Getting my face wet was a triumph but after that I spent most of my time in the pool swallowing water and choking and gagging. I finally decided it just wasn't for me. I was happy to splash around in the shallow end while my brother and cousins swam and dove off the diving board. Over the years, my non-swimming status didn't really get in the way of my fun. I canoed at Girls Camp with a life jacket and ran the rapids on our Youth Conference super activity with a life jacket. I quietly avoided any activities that would require actual swimming and got on with my life.
 One more chance presented itself when we moved to Ramah: The Middle of Nowhere, New Mexico. This place had no TV reception and was 50 miles from the nearest city. But there was a lake. A couple of the guys decided to see if I really meant it when I said I couldn't swim and they tossed me out into the lake. I thought it would be great revenge to just go ahead and drown and show them I wasn't kidding. But I realized that plan required my death and I  had some future goals and aspirations I wanted to live to accomplish, so I splashed and flailed and coughed and sputtered my way to shore. It didn't magically teach me to swim--instead it made me deathly afraid of the water.

The day came that we built a home with a lovely swimming pool. As I mentioned, the youngsters all swam like fish. We would have really fun Family Home Evenings with all of us in the pool, everyone swimming and diving and me hanging out in the shallow end. We lived there for 7 years and every year I would consider getting in there and really trying to learn to swim. The time just slipped away with out it happening. We moved to a cabin by a river and the nearest I came to swimming there was when I fell in.

So here we are. All this California sun seems to have affected my common sense and I am training for a half-marathon and the Iron Girl Triathalon. Why? Because I have very inspirational daughters and very inspirational Relief Society sisters. And I'm just a little crazy anyway.  It turns out that "Tri" means three--so there are three events in the Iron Girl Tri: running, biking and SWIMMING.

Which brings us back to the swimming. I figured that now is as good a time as any to finally learn to swim. I am clinging to the success story of someone a little older than I am, who just learned to swim last year AND did the Iron Girl. She has been very encouraging along with her daughter who wrought this miracle by teaching her to swim. Last week we all met at the local pool and they showed me how to kick and move forward. It was a great start and I was feeling pretty confident that with this group, I would feel comfortable enough to overcome my fears and get on with learning to swim.

This week I got to the pool and I was the only one there at first.  The lane markers were in and pretty soon the pool filled up with a whole lot of fast swimmers. I had inadvertantly crashed the "Master Swimmers" lap swim. 

Talk about a fish out of water!

 I was going to get my non-swimming self right out of there as quickly as possible, when a couple of gals from my ward showed up and as we chatted I told them I can't swim and I thought our group trainer was going to be there. Next thing I know, I'm getting guidance and training tips from some amazing swimmers. They helped me over my biggest  hurdle by teaching me how to breathe without swallowing half the pool. That's really going to make swimming much less awful for me.
Will I learn to swim?
I think I can.
I'll keep you posted.


Scott said…
I guess it never occured to me that my deep abiding fear of water & swimming was genetic. I know enough to stave off drowning for about 90 seconds. Any longer of a swim required to get to shore or the pool's edge and I'm dead weight.
mamagale said…
I didn't realize you got thru' all the lessons and family swimming w/o learning to swim. You were always out there diving in with the rest of them! I do remember you dreading putting your face in the water at swimming lessons. Maybe you can learn sometime before age 46 :)

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