Floating a relationship

What’s the best thing that’s happened to your relationship?

Don’t say kids.

While they’re the best thing to happen to us, they can glue and unglue a relationship. 

My husband, Mark, and I used to have deep and meaningful conversations about The X-Files, the best configuration for a Star Trek tricorder (bullet-shaped), and advanced alien form (fewer legs, more evolved). Now we agonize over who has the energy to start laundry.  

Thankfully, 10 years ago, our daughter, then five, did us a huge favor by failing – three times – Level One swimming, which, apparently, was a record of sorts.

Instead of seeing it for what it was – she couldn’t float, and didn’t care – we saw a slippery path of progressive developmental delay leading to physical then mental atrophy to … who knows?    

Not to single her out for this fatal developmental flaw (her eight-year-old brother swam just fine), we signed up for family swim lessons in solidarity. To be fair, Mark and I didn’t know how to swim, either. Our collective athletic trophy: his two capped front teeth, acquired after he’d encountered the flying end of an ice hockey stick at age 8. 

After a month, as the girl continued to defy the law of buoyancy, Mark and I learned to float. Our instructor piled on praise. We decided to drop the kids from the lessons (they just wanted to play). After a year, we could swim a few laps; breathing air, not water. Swimming became “our thing.”

“Join the O*H*I*O Masters Swim Club,” our instructor kindly suggested. “O*H*I*O stands for ‘Old Hearts Inspiring Others.’ Practices are coached. All levels of swimmers welcomed.”  

Best marriage advice.

But it took another year before we netted enough mettle for the free week trial. Our first day with the Lakewood Masters coincided with the last outdoor pool practice, a glorious September morning with muffin clouds, soaring gulls, blue sky on blue lake, and Coach Bob. At 60, his streamlined figure, close-cropped hair and a “200 FLY” license plate were exactly what we aspired to, at any age.

We signed on and joined a league of competitive and fitness swimmers. We see each other first thing on Saturday mornings and last thing on Monday nights, with bed hair and runny mascara, pajamas and flip-flops, short on caffeine and high on stress. Usually I swim with three other women: a math teacher, a CPA and a cardiologist. We’re prone to hellacious giggles when the coach yells at us for not kicking harder.

Three years ago, Mark and I did a 5K lake swim. Sighting for and drafting each other, we finished in second-to-last place (we came in minutes before a friend, 70, who'd suffered a dizzy spell). Coming out of the water, we smelled like the front lawn after the first spring thaw; my right shoulder muscle twitched uncontrollably. Mark held my elbow, and we couldn’t be happier.

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Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 10:13 AM, 01.10.2017