One of those ads for health care coverage came on TV recently, and it transported me right back to my childhood.
Perhaps you’ve seen it — a beefy, bearded adult man has “waited too long” and is taking swimming lessons with half a dozen or so cheerful youngsters.
He looks miserable, and I feel his pain.
Fear of the Water runs w-a-a-y back in my family tree — my grandfather, my mom, and others too numerous to count.
I was no different. Growing up in land-locked Illinois, I didn’t feel any compulsion to spend ridiculous amounts of time in the water (other than bathing, of course).
I mean, if God had wanted me to swim, He’d have given me fins, right?
But my dad, who grew up on a river, thought otherwise. Swimming, he said, might save my life some day, should I ever be foolish enough to go boating or something.
So one summer, a handful of us kids signed up for Red Cross swimming lessons. Dutifully, we lined up on the concrete bank of our local pool, shivering in still-cold June weather, while our high school-aged instructors — bundled in blankets, sweatshirts, and towels — postponed their inevitable entrance into icy waters.
We students weren’t so lucky.
Once dunked (and still shivering), we were taught to stick our faces into the chlorine and blow bubbles; to hold our breath and descend for plastic toys, and to float on our backs.
Have you ever seen a skinny kid floating? No, only kids with some heft to them are able to float; the rest of us sink in the midsection but manage to stick our appendages out of the water enough to pretend to float.
By the end of the session, we were tested on our ability to dive into deep water, swim to a certain marker, and return to the bank. Those who succeeded got a little card with their name on it, telling the world they were swimmers. Those who didn’t? Well, they had to repeat the class.
Somehow, I managed to succeed, through sheer grit.
But I didn’t like it.
And I’ll never forget the sight of another skinny kid, shivering on the bank at testing time, afraid to dive in. That is, until one of the instructors got tired of waiting and gave him a push!