Reflections from the Swamp
I missed writing about Father’s Day on time for The Millstone. Asked to recall one experience we had with our father at church last week, I remembered a story about swimming lessons. This article is for all fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and male role models. Children are a gift that adults need to see beyond themselves. Children learn to master social rules that guide them throughout their lives and relationships. None of us are fully prepared for this role when our first child arrives.
Parents are the most significant part of this life learning process.
I almost drowned when I was six and became fiercely afraid of deep water. My father insisted that I take swimming lessons at the “Y.” I took the bus after school to downtown Calgary, and my father picked me up after he finished work. He’d stare at me through the window at the pool and encourage me on the way home.
To pass Beginners, you had to swim the width of the pool. I passed by walking across the bottom of the pool. To complete Juniors, you had to swim the pool length, including the deep end. I failed Juniors because I couldn’t walk across the deep end. I thought of Jesus walking on water. Maybe he never learned to swim either.
On the way home, my father told me his secret. He almost drowned as a child and never learned to swim. A cousin dared him to walk on the water of a canal with his wooden shoes. He fell in and sank like a stone. Even when he joined the navy, he still couldn’t swim. I told him to take swimming lessons like me so he could swim. He said we must overcome our fear of deep water before swimming. He also said he would take swimming lessons if I passed Juniors. I eventually completed Juniors and overcame my fear of deep water. It was a gradual process.
The following summer, my father surprised all of us by swimming in deep water. He had secretly taken swimming lessons at the “Y!”
There is a point in one’s life when one discovers that your father can’t do everything. Hearing that my father couldn’t swim was a complete shock to me. I felt a special bond with my father. I could offer him some of the encouragement he always gave me. We had faced our fears and came out as swimmers. We had things in common. We loved and cared for each other.
Life is about embracing relationships with wide-open arms. It’s about living and giving with no strings attached. I can’t think of anything that makes this more possible than children. Kids don’t know about what we believe is essential in Life. They learn through our actions.
“Instead, they insist that we see the world through their eyes, get down on the floor, and behave like them. This frees us, however briefly, from the confines of our overly-complex adult lives.” (Murray Angus)
Most of us have our own stories and memories of our fathers and mothers. I’m watching the robins care for their young, still in a nest in the garage. The parents are like the young bird’s wings, bringing them food that helps them grow. Soon they will be out of the nest and forced to face the dangers of life out in the world. They will soon have to depend on their own wings. Many parents and grandparents continue to be wings in a child’s life. Someday our children may become our wings as we age in the cycle of life. It’s love that keeps this cycle going.