I go swimming with the dog. I have to. She’s not allowed to go swimming alone.
Lola is my daughter’s dog. My daughter had begged for years for us to get her a dog and, finally, when she returned from college to move back in with us while studying for her Master’s degree, we gave in. Well, I’m sure you know that Lola has taken over our lives and moved into our hearts. What can I say? We are hopelessly devoted to her. When our daughter finally moves out again, she may have to leave the dog with us. Just sayin’.
Lola loves to swim. She has learned to recognize my bathing suit, and as soon as she sees me in it, her entire caboose wags ecstatically. She willingly stands still to be dressed up in her fashionable polka-dot swim vest, and trots out to the lake with a big smile on her face. I head out to the lake with a big smile on my face too. Lola and I both have some joint issues, and the water is one place we can enjoy ourselves and forget about them.
I used to go swimming with my kids. We’d jump in the lake on a hot day, and the kids would all hang off me like remoras hanging off a shark. I could barely move but they loved it. Then they’d put on a show for me, their favorite act being “Walk Off the Pier Like A…” The idea was to walk off the pier as if you didn’t know you’d come to the end of it, in different characters. And, of course, fall in. Favorite skits included The Old Lady, The Business Man, The Kid on a Bike, and The Three-Legged Dog. As time went by, they developed higher-concept characters. The Fat Old Lady with Droopy Drawers. The Near-Sighted Business Man Running to Catch a Bus. The Wobbly Kid on a Bike Throwing Newspapers to Front Porches, The Three-Legged Dog. (You really can’t improve on a three-legged dog.)
Now, Lola and I have the lake to ourselves. The kids are all grown up and they have to work all day (nana nana boo-boo). I get up in the morning, check my email, have breakfast, write for a couple of hours, and then go for a swim. AFTER that, I begin my workday. It doesn’t suck to be me, eh? I do exercises under the water, and swim a few laps alongside the pier, while Lola paddles away with an intense look on her face, looking both wise and mystical. Every so often, she’ll circle back to me and I’ll hold her for a moment so she gets a rest. Then she goes exploring along shore, and I float on my back, looking at mountain-high cumulo-nimbus clouds against that blue, blue North Carolina sky. The lake is quiet on these weekday mornings. Few boats go by, and they are far away, emitting a mosquito-like whine as they streak across the lake, sending a few gentle waves my way. The sun warms my face and shoulders, while the rest of me stays cool underwater. I can hear all kinds of birds, and occasionally see a fish jump out of the water. Lola does her rounds, from boat dock to neighbor’s boat dock, roaming back to me for a minute’s rest and to watch a dragonfly hover above the water, and then paddling off again. I listen to the creak of the boat’s tethers, the waves lapping against the pier. I muse upon the morning’s writings and what I’ll cook for dinner. I close my eyes and float.
So, why am I writing this? I want to remember the good stuff. I want to remember my kids splashing in the lake, I want to think about these good moments that I get to experience several times a week, and I want to impress them into my mind to carry me through the bad days which come along once in a while. We all have to do this. We all have to store up the good, because it’s impossible to get through life without experiencing some bad. Maybe, unfortunately, a lot of bad. This week, there’s been much bad news – on TV, on the Internet, among our friends. A not-very-original truth is that Life turns on a dime, and a good, ordinary day can become something quite different with the ring of a telephone.
Therefore, today and every day possible, I’m saying Thank You, Whoever, for the sun. I’m saying Thank You for the water. And I’m especially saying Thanks for being able to go swimming with the dog.