Swimming success

At the age of 4 1/2 Cayden is proving that he can fight the pool’s great pull beneath the surface. The Boy is learning to swim.

Which is astonishing considering the fact that I flop around like a wounded fish.

“What is that?” Martin asked, the first time that he saw me in the water.

“What’s what?”

“That thing you’re doing.”

“What, swimming?”

“No sane person would call that swimming,” he said.

It’s true, I’m not very fluid. I tread water while progressing forward in a herky-jerky fashion.

It’s not your fault, my mom told me many years ago. Mom grew up in California, a land dotted with backyards of chlorinated blue. But my dad was born in Hungary. “That means your-half Hungarian,” she explained. “And Hungarians are lousy swimmers. What do you expect — they live in a land locked country.”

As a kid my California grandmother would place a few quarters on the bottom stair of the pool, to lure me into putting my face in the water. “If you can get those quarters, you can keep them,” she’d say.

I’d pick up the quarters with my toes.

So I’d written off the kids aside from the most basic swimming survival skills.

But Martin jumped in. He worked as a lifeguard at the ripe age of XX, and competitively swam for years. Who cares what countries border Hungary he said. By golly, his kids are going to learn to swim.

To his credit, he hasn’t pushed them. Just incremental steps and short sessions without a life vest. No surprise, the Barbarian is undaunted and doesn’t care when she sinks like a stone. We fish her out and she sputters and keeps going. But she’s too young to stay afloat on her own. Cayden has been more reticent about going under. Until recently. At the same time, he’s been propelling himself across the pool and keeping his head above water.

I was playing softball the night that he made these great strides, so he’s going to show off his skills this evening. I told him that we’ll put some quarters on the stairs and he can keep them if he can reach them.

With his hands. Not his toes.