The grinning and innocent George Washington gracefully sailed over my head and slowly sunk to his demise at the bottom of the Trench of Suffocating Doom, better known as the Arlington Apartments swimming pool. Franklin D. Roosevelt came flying after his comrade - which would have been a heroic act - if he wasn’t being involuntarily dislodged from the cannon of cruel and unusual punishment ... my grandmother’s gnarly but quite aggressive left hand.
“Melinda, get your clodhoppers off the baby step, get in the water, and save those men!”, my grandmother yelled with more intensity than Bobby Knight on the losing end of a basketball game.
The thought of gaining a quarter and dime was not nearly enough motivation to make me step any further into the trench, but the thought of my grandmother once again making me put on infant arm floaters so that I would drift away from the first step was enough to make me slowly step down to the second step, also known as the sissy step. The sissy step was named by my brother, who had learned to swim the summer before and thought it was humorous that I still couldn’t get past the same step that had terrified him the summer before, when he was still wearing baby floats.
I knew I had to be a disappointment to my grandmother who was an avid swimmer and swim coach, and who also swore on our grandpa’s life - which could have easily meant she was fibbing - that she had trained infants as young as four months old to swim.
However, truth or lie I knew at the age of seven I should be able to at least walk to the bottom step and hold my breath long enough to save George and Franklin, and thus spare my grandma the doom of being forever labeled as the “Granny Who Couldn’t Convince Her Sissy Granddaughter To Step Into The Pool”.
I should have been comforted in the fact that Grandma had been forced to become CPR certified, but knowing her tendency to talk to anyone with ears, including the neighborhood dogs, I knew I would be doomed if I happened to drown during one of her conversations with Libby the perky and promiscuous Labrador. I could picture myself flailing and gasping for air while Grandma lectured Libby on the virtue of limiting procreation activities.
I decided it was now or never, after all Grandma said she was going to teach me to swim this summer, and nothing got in the way when she set her mind on a task. I squeezed my eyes as tightly as I could and stepped down to the third step, my head was still above water so I bravely began to dip my left foot into the actual trench ... I was almost at the bottom when suddenly....
I felt myself being heaved through the air by some force, for a moment I thought perhaps the rapture had occurred which would have been fine by me, I would have been spared the humiliation of learning to swim with Grandma - the baby arm floats, the duck shaped float, the oversized flippers that made me sink, it would all be over. However, as my body arrived at its destination, which was in no way heavenly, I felt a pain circulate throughout my entire body. My loving, dear, and impatient grandmother had decided to speed up our swim lessons. She had thrown me into the middle of the pool, and had retreated to the side to coach me to safety.
“Kick your feet Mel ... that’s it ... but keep them straight”, my grandmother screamed. I wasn’t thinking about keeping anything straight, I was struggling to keep my head above the water while blowing chlorine bubbles out of my nose. My grandmother was yelling for me to swim to the side of the pool and grab on. “Your doing fine, that’s it, your almost there” she announced unaware of the crowd that had accumulated at the side of the pool. I had no idea if I was swimming, but whatever I was doing it was successfully propelling me to the side of the pool one inch at a time. When the crowd realized it was Grandma yelling they began to giggle. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, Grandma has used this same method to teach my brother to swim the year before. I made it to the side of the pool, disillusioned and breathing heavily. The crowd erupted in loud applause.
Now, you might be thinking Grandma was crazy and your'e probably right. However, despite the initial pains: a chlorine aftertaste that lasted two weeks, a water burn across my legs, and a recurring dream that included me, a labrador, and lots of water ... I did learn to swim.
The most important lesson I learned that day was not to swim, but to have faith. We all know the popular Bible story where Jesus teaches Peter to walk on water. The day Grandma asked me to wade into the deep pool I felt as if she was asking me to walk on water. Little did I know that she knew how little faith I had in myself and her, thus she had to give me a push. Do you have enough faith to walk on water? Can you trust Jesus that no matter what he asks you to do he will keep you safe throughout the whole ordeal, no matter how much you struggle or how alone you feel? In my crazy life I sometimes feel like God has thrown me into a pool of water and left me to drown. But he always coach’s me to safety and I come out of each situation more knowledgeable then before. Don’t make Jesus push you into the places you need to be, it’s much easier if you will trust and obey. After all, there is no other way!
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